Saturday, March 28, 2015

Restructure and reform the armed forces before buying hardware

The 2015-2016 budget shows a provision of Rs 310,079 crore for the defence services. If this looks different from what you read in the papers, it is because it contains a sum of Rs 54,500 crore which is paid out by way of pensions for the defence services, and Rs 8,852 crore which are listed for the MoD secretariat.
By a sleight of hand, these are excluded from defence expenditure - but that does not mean they don’t come out of the central exchequer.

Buying defence equipment without a plan, won't help our armed forces, writes Manoj Joshi 
Of this, just Rs 94,588 crore is for capital acquisitions or new equipment for the services. 
Therein lies the dilemma: Too much is being spent on pay, allowances, and maintenance of existing forces, and not enough is left over for the ever-increasing costs of modernisation. 
And this will increase as the Indian Army expands by another 90,000 personnel in the coming five years, and the Navy and Air Force grow. 
With the Services demanding top-of-the-line equipment, the question is: Can the economy can safely absorb the burden of defence expenditure? 

In 1978, China’s leader, Deng Xiaoping proposed “Four Modernisations” – in agriculture, industry, defence and science and technology – aimed at making China a great power by the early 21st century. 
We now know that they have succeeded spectacularly. What we may not be aware of is that defence was assigned the lowest priority. 
The Chinese made sure they became an economic power before undertaking military modernisation which has gotten underway in the last decade. 
India’s challenge is somewhat similar. Should it commit valuable resources to modernise its armed forces first, or should it get on the path of sustained high economic growth before doing so? 
India’s predicaments are somewhat different. We need manpower intensive forces to police our borders with China and Pakistan, we also need modern forces to deter a rising China whose nexus with Pakistan is only intensifying. 
How do we factor all this towards a defence policy that is successful and sustainable? Ideally, the Government’s national security goals should lead to a formulation of defence objectives which then yield a policy which is implemented. 
The first challenge is to have a national security doctrine prepared through interaction between the PMO, Ministry of Defence, Home, External Affairs and Finance. 
This would yield a strategy paper which prioritise our responses, identify the military capabilities required, as well pinpoint the industrial, scientific, technological and fiscal capacities required to meet the challenges. 
The problem is that if you ask five Indians what their national security strategies are, you will get five answers. 
What we need, instead, is an authoritative, official, assessment around which we can make our plans and policies. 
Take, for example, external threats. The one area which gets little attention is the Persian Gulf area from which we get 65 per cent of our oil and where 7 million Indians work and send back some $40billion worth of remittances. 
Yet, for the security of sea lanes from the Gulf and its littoral, we simply depend on Uncle Sam. 

The second is to integrate defence planning with national plans – in other words, get the military and civilian Make in India programmes to synergise each other. 
Associated with this is the need to link plans with budgets. The way things happen right now are illustrated by the Government authorisation for the Mountain Strike Corps last year. 
The Corps were not in the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) 2012-2017 and hence not budgeted for. 
The result is the Corps are up, by drawing personnel from existing Army units, and raiding the war wastage reserves for their equipment. 
The third big issue is the need for restructuring the apex level management of the armed forces by a) appointing a Chief of Defence Staff and b) creating an expert civilian bureaucracy for managing the MOD. 
Only then will we get realistic defence plans with proper inter-service prioritisation and which can be synchronised with the defence needs of the country, as well as its resources. 
Minus this, we get landed in situations where each Service pushes its maximal demand simultaneously, and not having an expert civilian bureaucracy to adjudicate them, these either block each other, or force the Government to take ad hoc decisions. 
The fourth challenge is to restructure our armed forces by integrating their functioning. There is no logic in having the eastern command of the IAF in Shillong, that of the Army in Kolkata and the Navy in Vizag. 

The Lanzhou Military Region commander, one of seven commands in China, faces five Indian commands—the Northern, Western and Central Commands of the Army in addition to two Indian Air Force Commands. 
The Services also need to look into their own structures and forces and cut unnecessary manpower and organisations which may have served a function in the past, but are no longer needed. 
The Services need to look into their own structures and forces and cut unnecessary manpower and organisations which may have served a function in the past, but are no longer needed, writes Manoj Joshi

The phased reduction of the Rashtriya Rifles is one case in point. The fifth is to leave behind the colonial heritage of our defence R&D and industry and progressively corporatize privatise ordnance factories and field workshops. 
They were needed in 19th and 20th century India but are not required now. In the coming years, budgets and acquisitions should be viewed in the perspective of longer term aims, rather than through bogeys of short-term demands. 
Indeed, the Government should hold off making big acquisitions till it can sort out some of the more basic issues. 
India is a nuclear weapons power and we do not face an existential threat from any state large or small, or for that matter from any non-state actor. 
Before the Government plunges into the physical modernisation of the armed forces, it needs to put in place the much needed modernisation of the way we think about, plan and manage our national security system. 
Buying or making shiny new hardware for the sake of looking modern neither enhances our security, nor helps our economy. 
Mail Today March 2, 2015

Mooring in foreign shores

In the second week of this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to visit Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles. This is another version of his South Asian neighbourhood diplomacy, only the neighbours here are long neglected oceanic ones. Modi will be the first Indian PM to visit Sri Lanka in 28 years, and first to visit Seychelles since Indira Gandhi, the last prime ministerial visit to Mauritius was in 2005 and to Maldives in 2011.
Concern mounted in India in 2007 when Chinese President Hu Jintao rounded off his eight-nation trip to Africa with a stop at Seychelles. Last year, they reached a crescendo with the berthing of Chinese submarines in Colombo, and the visits of President Xi Jinping to Sri Lanka and Maldives, as part of his South Asian tour that brought him to India.
China is using economic, military and diplomatic tools to gain influence over coastal states and small islands in the IOR and is using its investments and aid to consolidate its strategic positions. In addition, there is the reality of China’s steadily growing influence in the littoral through military and economic ties with our immediate neighbours, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Just how intense the competition is, became evident last month when Male’s main water desalination plant collapsed. Just a day after India sent five aircraft and two ships on an emergency mission to aid Maldives to overcome its water crisis, China pointedly sent a military vessel carrying 960 ton of fresh water and donated $500,000 for the repairs of the plant. Maldives is a particular area of concern to India since it was the object of back to back visits by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September and Defence Minister Chang Wanquan in November 2014. There have been persistent reports about China’s desire to construct a naval facility in the archipelago.
Chinese trade in the IOR has steadily grown in recent years. Beijing has important ties with resource-rich nations of East Africa and the Persian Gulf. It has a major role in the Gwadar port in Pakistan, at the mouth of the strategic Persian Gulf. Last November, China gave a call for the creation of a maritime silk route to enhance connectivity and trade among the Asian nations, and it has now operationalised a $40 billion fund to assist in the building of port and infrastructure in relation to it.
India can hardly object to the growth of Chinese trade and commerce in the IOR and its efforts to enhance connectivity. Indeed, it is not difficult to see why regional countries welcome Chinese interest and investment. But this has been accompanied by a significant stepping up of military activity as well. Last year, the PLA Navy carried out a special exercise on breaching the Lombok Strait that leads into the IOR from the Java Sea. It also sent a nuclear propelled submarine on a patrol across the Indian Ocean, ostensibly on an anti-piracy mission. Indeed, China’s robust participation in the anti-piracy task force off Somalia have given it a great opportunity to maintain a presence in IOR and familiarise itself with the region. But what has gotten New Delhi’s goat were the visits made by two Chinese conventional submarines to Colombo harbour. One of them, was clearly timed to coincide with the visit on September 7, 2014, of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an important Indian ally, to Sri Lanka.
Geography and culture favour India in the IOR. The Indian peninsula juts out into the ocean and gives us unparalleled location astride important sea lanes. The Indian diaspora is scattered across the region from South Africa to Myanmar and the Persian Gulf. The Andaman & Nicobar Islands sit at the head of the Malacca Straits through which 30 per cent of the world trade passes which includes 50 per cent of oil being shipped. For this reason, China has been exploring the alternate routes via Lombok and Sunda Straits, as well as developing over-land pipelines to connect via Kyaukphyu (Sittwe) in Myanmar and Gwadar in Pakistan. There is an even grandiose talk of cutting a canal across the Isthmus of Kra.
The Indian Navy’s Maritime Doctrine describes its “primary areas of interest” to include our territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone out to 200 nautical miles, the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and their “littoral reaches”, the choke points at Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, Hormuz, Bab el Mandeb, and the Cape of Good Hope. The southern IOR, Red Sea and its littoral, South China Sea and the West Pacific are areas of secondary interest.
The long-term goal of the IN is to exercise sea control and have the ability of power projects ashore in its region of primary interest. But India’s present challenge is to step up its game to maintain its presence in the region in the face of stiff Chinese competition. It has developed relations through naval diplomacy, which includes the transfer of patrol craft and reconnaissance aircraft and helicopters. Now it needs to consolidate these through enhanced trade and investment aimed at integrating the region into India's economic sphere.
New Delhi cannot match Beijing in terms of resources, but what it does have is location, a great deal of goodwill and also friendly allies, especially the IOR’s hegemon-the US. Even so, India needs to up the ante by finding money to put into strategic investments and projects across the IOR-whether it is Myanmar, Iran, Sri Lanka or Mauritius. The way to do it is not governmental schemes which are all running late, but to draw strength from India’s entrepreneurial class and the private sector.
Mid Day March 3, 2015

Building better connections

On Sunday, two newspapers ran reports that have a vital bearing on the geopolitical future of the country. Writing in the Indian Express, Praveen Swami lamented that a game-changer plan to link India with Afghanistan and Central Asia through the eastern Iranian port of Chah Bahar was in danger of being derailed because of New Delhi’s parsimonious attitude in putting up money at the scale that the ambitious schemes require. In the Times of India, Indrani Bagchi reported that India’s “Act East” slogan was being jeopardised by poor project management of its connectivity projects relating to Myanmar. India, she noted, had unilaterally shifted the deadline of completion of its projects from 2016 to 2019.

For Indian officials, these are really teething problems and New Delhi remains determined to pursue these schemes, if only for the fact that they are vital for India’s emerging geopolitical posture. New Delhi is also aware that should it falter, others, primarily China, are ready to take its place. The idea of developing Chah Bahar has been around ever since India and Iran collaborated in helping the Northern Alliance to take on the Taliban in the late 1990s.
However, the issue has also become entangled with the regional geopolitics as New Delhi has had to move carefully so as not to upset Uncle Sam. The Iranians, too, adept at hardball have sought to tap external investments for their infrastructure and development schemes. Many Indian players had, on the other hand, hoped to tap the Iranian oil riches which were being used by Teheran to subsidise fuel and food for its populace. In 2013, India came up with an offer of $ 100 million for the project, and the Chinese countered with a $75 million credit line to develop the port. This was somewhat strange since China runs the Gwadar port which is 76 kms down the coast, but across the border in Pakistan. Many observers believe that the effort was aimed at undercutting New Delhi.
It was only in October 2014 that New Delhi firmed up its offer and said that it would create a special purpose vehicle to invest $85.2 million to convert the existing berths at the port into a container and a multipurpose terminal. However, the Iranians say that the investments required to exploit the opportunity are much greater, perhaps something up to the tune of $ 500 million and more. This is because there are many vital missing links in the Iranian infrastructure in his region. For example, there is need to link Chah Bahar with Zahedan by a railway line which will then link up to the Iranian national railway system and the northern city of Mehshed. Railways between Iran and Afghanistan need to be built or upgraded along with better roads so that the region can play the role as a kind of an Indian Silk Route to Afghanistan and Central Asia
via Iran.
A major problem in developing connectivity projects has been the lack of higher direction. By virtue of being strategic, these tasks ought to be done in special quick time. But, more often than not, they end up mired in all kinds of problems. At the best of times inter-ministerial and centre-state coordination is poor. The Myanmar projects are led by the Ministry of External Affairs, but there are problems with this model since the Ministry is itself terribly under-manned and its diplomats are not really geared to be project managers.
This is compounded by the lack of specialised construction companies which can be used to run the projects. One would be tempted to call for revitalising companies like the Engineering Projects of India Ltd or the Engineers India Ltd for the job. But if the past is any guide, they end up functioning like typical public sector companies with low levels of efficiency and despatch. However, India does have good private sector engineering companies and the government can create special purpose vehicles by getting into joint ventures with them. As for running the directing the effort, there is no reason why a specialised ministry cannot be created, perhaps as part of the completely restructured MEA. Such imperatives have resulted in Canada’s foreign ministry being called the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development” and the Australian foreign ministry the “Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.”
To emerge as a powerhouse in its region, India will have to shape its politics as well as its infrastructure. A cursory look at a transportation or communications map will show the advantage that developed countries have in their first mover advantage in creating the world’s infrastructure undersea telegraph and fibre optic cables, pipelines, railroads, airline routes, maritime links all favour them. As a late comer, India needs to put in that extra effort to shape the connectivity paradigm in its neighbourhood. This requires both money and managerial skills. But more important, since the amounts are not significant considering India’s scale, it requires a vision, as well as higher direction.
This is what the Chinese are demonstrating with their Silk Road strategy. Last November, Xi Jinping put down $40 billion for furthering his goals in shaping the future communications and trading links of China with resource rich countries of Africa, as well as the markets of Europe. This is not a challenge where India can afford to fumble and falter.
Mid Day 17 February 2015
On Sunday, two newspapers ran reports that have a vital bearing on the geopolitical future of the country. Writing in the Indian Express, Praveen Swami lamented that a game-changer plan to link India with Afghanistan and Central Asia through the eastern Iranian port of Chah Bahar was in danger of being derailed because of New Delhi’s parsimonious attitude in putting up money at the scale that the ambitious schemes require. In the Times of India, Indrani Bagchi reported that India’s “Act East” slogan was being jeopardised by poor project management of its connectivity projects relating to Myanmar. India, she noted, had unilaterally shifted the deadline of completion of its projects from 2016 to 2019. - See more at:

The importance of the budget for the country's defence

The Modi Government’s first real annual Budget is perhaps its most important test after flunking the Delhi Assembly examination. 
Businessmen will be watching it to gauge the intentions and determination of the Government to create a pro-business atmosphere in the country. But equally it will be eagerly watched by the armed forces community. 

Acquisitions are important, but there is equal need for reorganising the command and control of the armed forces to emphasise integrated functioning 

This is because it will provide the signal as to the extent to which the Government is committed towards accelerating their delayed modernisation. 
The three services have their big-ticket wish list – Rafale for the IAF, seed money for the Army’s mountain corps, the helicopters, missiles and submarines for the Navy. 
But they also have equally urgent requirements for plugging gaps and consolidating existing holdings. 
The problem as the Rs 2,29,000 crore interim defence budget of July 2014 reveals is that – 39 per cent is spent on pay and allowances, 11 per cent on maintaining existing holdings, another 9 per cent on miscellaneous things like housing and transportation. 
Only Rs 94,588 crore (41 per cent) is available for new acquisitions. Even this is misleading as the capital budget contains money that must be paid out for past acquisitions, besides the needs of the DRDO and ongoing constructions in Indian factories and yards such as the new INS Viraat, for whom a sum of Rs 1,200 crore were appropriated. 
The two big projects, going head to head as it were, are the Air Force’s Rafale multi-role fighter whose estimates are Rs 120,000 crore, and the Army’s mountain corps which also requires a like amount, if you take into account its ancillary requirement of a division worth of medical and engineering troops. 
These are heady sums, and even if broken up into yearly installments, they could distort defence acquisitions since they would leave little or no money for other equally critical needs such as artillery guns for the Army, the replacement of light utility helicopters, minesweepers for the Navy, and so on. 
The Government’s headaches will be compounded by the fact that the Army’s mountain corps has already been raised. 
The Army skimmed off personnel from its 300 plus battalions, which are usually about 900 strong, and whose pay and allowances have already been budgeted for. 
Their equipment came from the war wastage reserves (WWR). So while the WWR now stands at alarmingly low levels, the Indian Army does have an addition corps which has added an important element in the order of battle in the country’s northern border. 
In the past five years, the ITBP which polices the border has been reporting a sharp increase of Chinese patrolling and presence along 14 or so points on the LAC that defines the Sino-Indian border where Chinese claims and ours overlap. 

Tight budget: According to the latest figures only Rs 94,588 crore (41 per cent) is available for new defence acquisitions
Tight budget: According to the latest figures only Rs 94,588 crore (41 per cent) is available for new defence acquisitions

Further, the Chinese presence is not only more insistent, it is now often leavened by locals who demand that the Indian side go back to their side of the border. 
Two recent manifestations of changed behaviour were the Chinese encampment in the Depsang Plains which stoked off a crisis in April-May 2013 and the massing of troops in the Churmur area at the junction of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh during Xi Jinping’s official visit to India last September. 

Actually, the Army will increase its strength by nearly 90,000 in the coming years taking its strength up to 1.26 million. 
This is not a good sign since this will require a significant enhancement of the Army’s budget in the coming years, with a comparative pressure on the capital needs of the IAF and the Indian Navy, as well, indeed, on the modernisation requirements of the Army itself. 
Army leaders see this as inescapable since the two principal threats to the country come from over the land borders with Pakistan and China. 
In the past, the armed forces were told that they needed to maintain a deterrence posture with Pakistan, which included the possibility of launching a war into Pakistani territory. 
In the case of China, the instructions were to plan a purely defensive battle along the mountain frontier. 

With the PLA modernisation and force accretions in Tibet, the Indian Army cannot undertake its tasks in a purely defensive deployment. 
Equally important is the fact that over the years, coordination between Pakistan and China has, if anything, been intensifying. 
During the 1965 and 1971 wars, the Chinese did not intervene on Pakistan’s behalf. But they made some pretty scary threats to do so. 
The issue confronting military planners now is: What if the next time around, China does indeed intervene? 
The Chinese are masters of timing and it is difficult to forget their 1975 operation to eject the South Vietnamese forces and occupy the Paracel Islands during the closing phase of the war that unified Vietnam, ironically with Chinese help. 
The problem is not that the armed forces demands are excessive, but the challenge of meeting them in a manner which does not deflect India from its goal of long-term economic growth, which at the present juncture requires massive investments in infrastructure and manufacturing industries. 
The way to go is to sharply tighten the management of our armed forces, which means cutting waste and needless redundancies. 
The first step here is to enforce the concept of an integrated military where acquisitions planning can be standardised and prioritised. 

Priority: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley must make India's defence funding a priority in his Budget 
Priority: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley must make India's defence funding a priority in his Budget 

Acquisitions are important, but there is equal need for reorganising the command and control of the armed forces to emphasise integrated functioning. 
The second is to create an expert civilian bureaucracy which can undertake the task instead of the inexpert one at present which exercises power by emphasising procedure over subject specialisation. 
These are tasks that cannot be left to the armed forces leadership or the Ministry of Defence. It is something that Prime Minister Modi and his colleagues in the Cabinet Committee on Security need to sort out urgently. 
Mail Today Februrary 16, 2015

Delhi gives AAP a second chance

In Indian politics, you have heard of a simple majority, a two-third victory, or a three-fourth sweep. But surely you have never heard of a nine-tenths tsunami.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s victory in 67 out of 70 Delhi Assembly seats has simply blown the established parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress out of the water. 
It has inflicted by far the most crushing defeat to its opposition in independent India’s electoral history. 

AAP supporters celebrate the party's victory in the Delhi Assembly polls in New Delhi 
AAP supporters celebrate the party's victory in the Delhi Assembly polls in New Delhi 

At least when the Janata Party swept the Congress out from every seat in an arc from Gujarat to Orissa in the post-Emergency election of 1977, the Congress managed to retain some ‘izzat’ by sweeping the poll in Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala. 
But the BJP and Congress have been left with no comfort in the Delhi Assembly 2015 poll outcome. 
In terms of political geography, defeat in a state which returns just seven members of Parliament, may not appear too devastating. But Delhi is a slice of India, peopled as it is by lakhs of Punjabis, Biharis, Uttar Pradesh-wallahs, South Indians, Bengalis, North-easterners, Christians, Muslims and so on. And the victory in Delhi is comprehensive, it has cut across caste, class, religion and ethnic divides and incorporated every demographic — from the old to the first-time voter. 
The angst 
Remarkably, it has been done by turning Modi’s own formula against him. It was Modi and the BJP which was able to harness middle-class angst at the UPA’s non-performance to get a 7/7 verdict in the 2014 Lok Sabha election in Delhi. In 2009, Manmohan Singh’s UPA had written on the expectations of the same middle class to get a 7/7 victory. 
Modi’s strategy lay in harnessing the “neo” middle class — poor people, who aspired for middle class status in terms of income and assets. This time around, Kejriwal has ridden to his crushing victory, harnessing the aspirations of the “neo” and the continuing angst of the actual middle classes who thought that the BJP’s victory of 2014 would set a new course for the country. 
Instead, they found the party setting a backward course, characterised by anti-modernity and obscurantism. The venerable Indian Science Congress was made to hear a lecture on ancient flying machines; bizzare schemes of ‘ghar wapsi’ were unveiled to convert the country’s minorities. 
Attacks on churches, mean-minded efforts to unmake the Christmas holiday, and a suspicious rise in what appeared to be deliberate efforts to promote communal anger increased the apprehension of the people. 
Sometimes, distance lends clarity to the vision. Perhaps it was this that persuaded US President Barack Obama to observe that “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith… so long as it's not splintered along any lines.” 
If the BJP’s vanity is punctured, the Congress’s is confronted with oblivion. This was the party that ran the state for the past 15 years. The bustling Delhi of today is the Delhi of Sheila Dikshit. But the stench of corruption undid the Congress hold, beginning with the Commonwealth Games and 2G scandals. 
The clock begins ticking now for the AAP, whose cure could well be worse than the current disease of corruption and misgovernance that afflicts the city. 
The people of the city have given AAP a second chance. Now it is up to the party to build on this and reach out to its destiny, which could be national. 
But that same clock is also ticking for the BJP. It can take comfort from the fact that it has largely retained its vote share, and that the AAP vote-share gain was equal to the Congress’s loss. 
But the reality is that the result is a rebuke to Modi. What the people of Delhi have told him is that they are not interested in the politics of animus and hostility towards people of other faiths. That they are for modernity — education, good jobs and progress. 
They are determined to go forward, not be dragged back to the dark ages. 
Mail Today February 10, 2015