Indian Army soldiers take position atop an armored vehicle at the scene of a shooting incident on the National Highway in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Army is struggling with a complex bureaucracy to obtain new armored vehicles, howitzers and other equipment (Agence France-Presse)
NEW DELHI — Bureaucratic hurdles and government indecision continue to cripple India’s Army modernization plans, and planners say with no major acquisitions in the past five years, the Army must fight a domestic low-intensity conflict with outdated, ineffective weaponry.
The Army faces a weapons shortfall with an inventory about 40 percent to nearly 65 percent outdated, the planners added.
The planners warned that unless US $50 billion in new acquisitions are put on a fast track, the Army’s defense preparedness will be pushed back by at least 10 years.
One senior Army official said infantry, mechanized and armored forces, artillery, logistics, ordnance, air defense and aviation all face vast equipment shortfalls, and major purchases are 10 years behind schedule.
“We are even not prepared for basic war with our hostile neighbor Pakistan,” the Army official said.
Land forces will continue to be of prime importance, given the geopolitical situation, said most analysts.
“With over 15,000 kilometers of land boundary, almost one-third of which is disputed, a continental war will continue to be relevant both in the conventional and subconventional paradigm,” said Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst. “The Indian Army will have to sustain the present capabilities while upgrading these to fight in a mobile, network-centric environment in the deserts, plains and the mountains.
“For this, focus on upgradation of weapons and equipment, as well as human resources, would be necessary to cope with future challenges.”
Budget allocations have not been a major problem; complex Defence Ministry bureaucratic processes have largely been responsible for delays in procurement of essential weapons and equipment, several Army officials said.
For 2013-14, the Army received $3.3 billion out of $37.71 billion in total defense allocations, to buy new weapons and equipment, about the same amount it received for 2012-13. And yet, the Army returned nearly $259 million from fiscal 2012 because several defense programs could not be finalized.
Army purchase plans include replacing air defense systems, buying quick-reaction surface-to-air missiles, medium-range surface-to-air missiles, ultralight howitzers, military vehicles, light utility helicopters, UAVs, assault rifles and tactical communication radios.
The Army has to prepare to fight China and Pakistan simultaneously, an Army official said. But military planners privately say the pace of preparedness is slow.
“I see the defense preparedness only worsening as we go by and our mighty forces will still continue to operate and fight in the most inhospitable terrain and against a better equipped enemy, albeit for the motherland; and in return, the land responds with scanty respect for the heroes who are prepared to lay down their lives without even blinking an eye,” said K.V. Kuber, retired Indian Army colonel and defense analyst.
Defense planners also said there is little progress in replacing obsolete Army weapons and equipment. India needs to upgrade its rudimentary command, control, communication, intelligence and surveillance capabilities and improve its ability to launch offensive operations in the mountains, said Gurmeet Kanwal, retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst.