Posted by : Shoumik Das Monday, January 23, 2017

By Priyadarshi Dutta
Stephen P Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta, in their book ‘Arming without Aiming: India’s Military Modernization’ (2010) have focused on the dilemmas of India’s militarisation. The core problem is that India is culturally and socially not a militarised state. While the armed forces are praised and are popular, they are not the fulcrum of the nation. India’s diplomatic and military policies are marked by restraint rather than aggression. They are reflective of Indian mind.

Military mindset : Nehru versus Subhash

Nehru might be blamed in isolation for ruining India’s defence production. But he was conditioned by the matrix of historical-cultural-economic forces. Should a newly independent nation, not self-sufficient in food production, invest in weapons ? Without building up heavy industries (problem addressed in the Second Five Year plan) self-sufficiency in defence production was a chimera. India had achieved its independence by civilian methods – not warfare or Revolution. The armed forces had played no role in shaping of India’s republican polity. Those soldiers who had joined Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Faujj were discredited as traitors. On this issue Nehru and India’s iron man Sardar Patel were one. These were the challenges of stepping up indigenous defence production.
It is purely conjectural what would have happened if Netaji Subhas Bose had been triumphant in his mission. Perhaps he, like George Washington, would have commanded the nation. One can imagine the India of Subhash Bose would have been mentally tougher than India of Nehru. India could have transformed itself into a robust state despite its perennial mindset. Bose himself had been a Khadi clad Congressman before he became the Supreme Commander of Azad Hind Fauj.
The issue of India becoming self-reliant in defence matters was not lost on Subhash Bose. NG Ganpuley in his book Netaji in Germany : A Little Known Chapter tells how Netaji had met President of Skoda (originally a Czech arms manufacturing company) in Prague. He had promised to help Indians set up arms manufacturing facilities and train its staff when India became independent.

Still a lightweight in air

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, formed by merger to two aviation companies in 1964, is running in its 50th year. The original company Hindustan Aircraft Limited was set up in Mysore State in 1940. But its long product line is about light aircraft and light helicopters. India cannot produce Advanced Light Helicopters, Medium Lift Helicopters let alone heavy lift helicopters like Chinuk. Thus for purchasing military aircraft and helicopters we need to be dependent on likes of Agusta Westland, Boeing, Eurocopter etc.

The Tatra Trucks case

Building trucks is no rocket science. But we need to import trucks even while excelling in rocket science. Close to 8000 Tatra Trucks are being used by the Indian Army in various modifications. The number is less than five per cent of authorized motorised vehicles used by the Army. Bharat Earth Movers Limited (established 1964) now known by acronym BEML is the authorised importer of those trucks. Since 1997, these trucks have not been purchased directly from the company but through a vendor Tatra Siphox UK. For the last 24 years, it has not been able to achieve full indigenisation of Tatra as originally envisaged. The BEML had converted the currency of payment from dollars to euros causing a loss of Rs 4 crores and did not levy Liquidated Damages charges resulting in loss of another Rs 9.27 crores. The BEML chief VRS Natarjan was suspended, and later retired. Ravi Rishi, CEO of Tatra Siphox UK is behind the bars. The CBI claims under Natarajan the BEML had partially surrendered indigenisation rights.

Scientists leaving DRDO

The DRDO (Defence Research Defence Organisation) is the backbone of India’s R&D in military matters. The DRDO has developed missiles, aeronautical systems, radars, sonars, torpedoes, combat vehicles, bridges etc. This organisation is of critical importance for indigenisation of defence manufacturing. But for the last few years, it has been in news for scientists quitting it. In the last five years, 443 scientists at various levels have resigned from the organisation. This information came from Defence Minister AK Antony to the Rajya Sabha on March 20, 2013 in response to a question put by BJP’s Piyush Goyal.

 Scientists resigned from DRDO
Scientist ‘B’
Scientist ‘C’
Scientist ‘D’
Scientist ‘E’
Scientist ‘F’
Total      162

Though the resigned scientists have indicated personal / domestic grounds for leaving DRDO, it is assumed they have secured lucrative opportunities elsewhere. The Government has now declared a slew of incentives to retain the scientists.

A middleman with Congress background

The challenges of indigenous production are no less than importing weapons and equipments. Though we perceivably have an honest Defence Minister, the UPA Government seems to have become a playground for middlemen. The most pronounced case is that of Abhishek Verma, who is now lodged in Tihar jail along with his Romanian wife Anca Neascu. He is charged with trying to bribe a Defence Ministry official on behalf of American small gun manufacturer Sig Sauer. Interestingly Abhishek Verma, a proclaimed con man, is the son of late Hindi poet Shrikant Verma. Shrikant Verma (1933-1986) was national spokesperson of the Congress (I) and Rajya Sabha member on Congress ticket. Abhishek’s mother Veena Verma was also a Rajya Sabha member from the Congress. His political connections helped him until he overreached.

A leader with a vision

Much depends upon who leads India. Wars are won and lost in the mind. The same applies to preparation for war. I had concluded an earlier article by saying we need a strong political leader like Narendra Modi to ensure India’s indigenous defence production base expanded. I am not surprised that he is thinking along the right lines. 
Source: Niti Central

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