Home Contact Us  

Military & Defence - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#5322, 15 July 2017

Three Years of the Modi Government

Defence under the NDA Government
Abhijit Iyer Mitra
Senior Visiting Fellow, IPCS

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India has been seen to be very assertive on national security. On closer analysis, however, the BJP's track record over the last three years reveals continuity more than change. 

Procurement and Economics
For example, in the purchase of the Rafale fighter planes, the initial requirement for 126 aircraft was reduced to a mere 36, casting doubts on the combat efficacy of the type due to reduced numbers. No action seems forthcoming on the alarmingly depleting combat numbers of the fighter fleet. Other deals including the Apache and Chinook transport helicopters, and two different howitzer barrel types - the M777 and the K-9 - were done without retiring current equipment, causing both capacity duplication and complicating logistics. Surprisingly, the howitzers bypassed competent indigenous private sector vendors in favour of external vendors despite the on-paper commitment to indigenisation. The recapitalisation of the navy similarly continued on the path set by the previous government, based on indigenous hull designs but with the overwhelming majority of high-value-additions on board - the engine, weapons and electronics - coming from abroad. As before, there seems to be no standardisation of parts to create the economies of scale required for local production. 

What is surprising is that a government that touts its economic credentials has done nothing to rationalise the extraordinarily wasteful patterns of defence spending or enforce fiscal discipline on the military. It remains to be seen if the recently released ‘Strategic Partnership Policy’ will in fact be implemented unlike its predecessors.

Unlike the previous administration, both internal security forces and the military seem to feel a greater sense of confidence in their ability to carry out 'out-of-the-box' operations. The clearest example of this has been the logical and legally justified use of a human shield in Kashmir with both the army and government backing the officer who carried it out. This is both a morale booster and a sign that this government, unlike the previous dispensation, is willing to give local commanders much leeway so long as they act within the law. 

Similarly the government has also displayed greater confidence in making public cross-border punitive strikes into Pakistan. The previous administration, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), claims it too authorised such strikes but did not trumpet them openly. As several commentators noted, both announcing and not announcing such strikes come with a set of advantages and disadvantages. However the 'bold' BJP seem to have been just as unsuccessful as the previous UPA in being able to dissuade Pakistan from using terror as a tool of state policy, continuing to use staid force-on-force options, not being able to push the military to think out-of-the-box.

On the other hand, as several commentators have observed, India’s internal security is not getting attention. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) - the country's primary counterinsurgency force, was without a director for months, getting one only after the 2017 Sukma attack by Maoist terrorists on CRPF personnel in a repeat of the previous Dantewada and Darbha massacres, continuing a pattern where internal security forces seem to go in blind without proper equipment, planning or intelligence. While the prime minister has called for greater intelligence cooperation between agencies, movement on the ground is hard to see.

Public Diplomacy 
The public diplomacy angle of security operations - both internal and external - has been severely lacking. The frequently justifiable use of force has been eroded by the lack of articulation by both the home and defence ministries as well as by the military. For example, the use of pellet guns - critical in crowd control in Kashmir - faced a serious public opinion challenge in the Indian press. The government though, instead of laying out the tactical and legal case for the usage of such weapons, seems to have retreated into a shell with the home minister counselling avoidance of the use of these weapons, providing no alternatives.

Defence Diplomacy
Defence diplomacy has seen continuity with the UPA. There has been no progress on the communication and logistics agreement with the US. This means at least three things: 70 to 80 per cent of the combat effectiveness of the equipment purchased from the West remains unavailable to the Indian armed forces despite high premiums paid on them. Equally, it severely limits the learning to be gained in joint exercises with the West as restrictions on data and intelligence-sharing limit joint-ness. Moreover, the more sensitive electronic warfare algorithms developed from an extensive surveillance programme of common adversaries remain out of India’s reach.  

What is worrying is there is not one single factually argued rationale against the signing of these agreements or a cost-benefit analysis that has emerged in the Indian public sphere where the BJP seems to have picked up the worst strains of the UPA's reflexive ‘anti-Americanism’, talking about 'strategic autonomy' and 'mistrust' in obstructive, goal-post shifting, esoteric terms without bothering to propose a tangible path forward. 

Similarly the cross border "surgical strikes" by the army in September 2016 were ridiculed mostly because the effects of said strike were not made public in order to gauge their effectiveness. This repeats a pattern seen with the sinking of a "terror boat" in 2015 - which was also characterised as hype. Clearly then the NDA is either relatively immune to a negative news cycle, or does not seem to learn from mistakes. Sadly this conveys the message, perhaps incorrectly, that it is spin-doctoring failures.

Human Resources
The general pool of human resources available to security forces in the country remains abysmal. The BJP has shown no more interest in reversing this situation than past governments. There seems to be no willingness to shift from quantity to quality - investing instead on training and transforming the military into a 21st century fighting force, with the military remaining a lumbering 1940s-style beast. The government does not seem to comprehend that it is human investment that leads to technological advances and not the other way round. 

Clearly, three years of the NDA government have been a disappointment for the security management of the country. Defence planning is a sphere where India's capacity deficit is acute, and the BJP's capacity deficit on this score seems worse than the national average. While it is not performing worse than the previous government by any stretch of the imagination, it is certainly not performing any better either, carrying on the same pathologies. This is despite the BJP's legislative majority and the fact that none of the course corrections require any form of legislation. Clearly then the 'strong on security' tag is much undeserved.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Indian Foreign Policy and the Hafiz Saeed Problem

India's Rohingya Policy: Is it Legally Sound?

India and the NSG: Are the Outliers Justified in their Opposition?

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February  March
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.