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Does our politico-military-bureaucratic leadership have the wisdom to grasp the opportunity and overcome the challenge?




Economists told me that I was making fundamental sense in my article, “Chinese and Indian Defence Budgets: Comparative Hype and Reality”. People with experience in handling defence budgets said that I presented a very unique perspective. I got a left-handed compliment for creating a positive narrative, even out of a not-so-positive situation. It was pointed out that urgent capability development needs, clearing backlog of AONs, carry over liabilities, etc, have not been met. That is exactly the point I was making when I ended the article by stating: “It is not as much about the budget allocation for defence, but it is more about how we spend it. We are not getting the bang for the buck. The window of opportunity is there now due to our projected growth rates…Such windows will open very rarely. In our case, it opened once earlier at the turn of the century. We looked the gift horse in its mouth to squander it. It is appearing again now. It should not be a case that a fool and his money are soon parted.” Let me take things further. 


Everyone knows that the Chinese system is opaque and corrupt. However, the corrupt Chinese system which spends only 1.87 times our defence budget embarks on a long-term programme to build 10 aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, stealth fighters and effect complete mechanisation by 2025. In future, the expenditure ratio will reduce to 1.42 times. (see tables below). On the other hand, despite such relatively large expenditure, India does not dare to dream of the third aircraft carrier. There is only one answer. We have been more corrupt than the Chinese, or more inefficient or both. This multiple whammy over years, has left us with a huge capacity deficit vis a vis China. The necessity to reform and rectify the situation is universally acknowledged. However, our reforms are as pedantic as malignant cancer being left unattended. 

While it was great news that India’s arms import dropped by 33%, there is a dark cloud over the thin silver lining. As per SIPRI, “The overall drop in India’s arms imports between 2011–15 and 2016–20 seems to be mainly due to its complex and lengthy procurement processes, combined with its attempts to reduce its dependence on Russian arms by diversifying its network of arms suppliers. As India perceives increasing threats from Pakistan and China and as its ambitious plans to produce its own major arms have been significantly delayed, it is planning large-scale programmes for arms imports. Based on its outstanding deliveries of combat aircraft, air defence systems, ships and submarines, India’s arms imports are expected to increase over the coming five years”. Tells us a lot. 


Notwithstanding the caution I have sounded, If India allows its defence budget to grow with its GDP without limiting it by value, then the opportunities are as under:

The trend-line of reducing defence imports, if sustained, will enables us to cap imports in the next 5-year period as factored in the tables above. More importantly, if our defence export regime is reformed and  streamlined, we could be ‘value neutral’ in the next five – ten years.   

Our defence budget can potentially grow from $70billion to $billiom. That is a 50 % increase. Over a five year period we could be spending an accumulated  90 bn USD more on defence. If our manpower and import costs remain capped, then all this expenditure will go into capability enhancement.

If the current trend of expanding private participation in defence production / acquisition continues, then the Indian Defence Industry is in for a sunshine period. 

This significant bump in defence budget (potentially) can kick start a Civil Military Fusion cycle which is a sore necessity. 

Here are some ideas for change and realising the opportunity.  


I understand  that for every Apple smartphone sold , the revenue share of Apple Inc is 60- 65%, Japanese and South Korean  component suppliers get 25 – 30 %  and Chinese factories get 5-10%. Additionally, the investment is completely done by Chinese, Japanese and Korean companies! They, in turn,  garner funds from the market. Overall Apple earns without any investment. However, it makes long term commitments to its manufacturing base, has a huge turn over and still comes up with new models through latest design and inventiveness to stay ahead of the loop. This ‘Apple Aggregation Model’ based on intellectual capital can be adopted in acquisition of indigenous weapon systems. Economy of scale through long term forecasts, aggregation and adopting market principles will pay handsome dividends. Scope for such a system exists in Artillery. It can be adopted elsewhere. It needs imagination to think differently. The government must wield an axe to cut through ‘life threatening bureaucratic thinking’. Procrastination in reform has resulted in, budget overruns, wasteful expenditure and suboptimal capability.


Aatmanirbharta in defence is critical. It should go beyond the restricted / negative import lists. In fact, it has been one year since the list has been published. What are the outcomes? What next? Is an expanded list on the anvil? There is great scope for import substitution in the revenue stream also. The MGO and logistics branches of all Services, need to get together and establish import substitution portals where MSMEs can participate extensively. The largely ineffective, Department of Indigenisation needs energisation. Import substitution and indigenisation should progress on a benchmarked road map. Another important part of Aatmanirbharta is to achieve technology self-sufficiency. I understand that there is a move to indigenise processor technology at national level. This must be extended to other technologies related to AI, special material, GIS, surveillance and so on. There is a strong case for a defence technology mission through Start-ups. 


India must embark on a Civil Military Fusion as an extension to Aatmanirbharta,. All great nations have done it. USA did it in the last century. Presently, China is doing it in a big way, often adopting illegal and questionable methods. The US and Chinese models can be studied and adopted to our conditions based on our requirements and strengths. At the heart of it, Civil Military Fusion is all about dual use technologies and exploiting their civil use for military purposes and vice versa. The main focuses must be disruptive technologies like quantum computing, AI, big data, semiconductors, 5G, advanced nuclear technology, aerospace technology, new materials, energy, communication, and nuclear power. The vision and approach have to be beyond MoD as part of national interdisciplinary missions. We have the talent but are unable to harness it. Microsoft and Google are better at harnessing our talent and selling back to us! We need to learn from them.  


The fact that 71% of Bangladeshi arms imports come from China tells a tale of our defence exports. Knowledgeable people in the industry and government feel that the intent is strong but the methodology of export is weak. If defence exports have to bump up to 5 billion USD, India needs more professionalism than bureaucracy. I have dwelt extensively on this in my article last year @ There is a requirement for a capability and requirement analysis based on an incentivised export architecture. This needs to plug in with our military and diplomatic framework. Defence exports need not be only about big ticket items it could be spares, MRO and services also. It should encompass public and private sector. Most importantly it should function at arm’s length from the MOD. 


Manpower is a festering sore. The need to be more platform centric rather than manpower centric is well known. Everyone knows that the simple act of lateral transfer of defence personnel to paramilitary forces after their terms of engagement with the armed forces or transfer of RR battalions to home ministry will result in huge savings. Yet the political will to tread this route is missing. Our politicians seem to be baulking at this low hanging fruit. Vested interests within the system are hijacking the issue. It is  national profligacy to send fully trained personnel on pension when they can be utilised for another two decades as paramilitary forces. Take another facet. Public sector defence industry is over staffed, inefficient, produces low quality  and is costlier than imports. Yet we do not carry out internal reform. Corporatisation of OFB seems to have bitten the dust. If  OFB cannot be corporatised do not give them orders and stop recruitment. Dry them out. The Services must evolve a road map for alternate procurement from private industry through open competition. The Armed Forces need to be more vocal about it. I did not see such issues being highlighted in the Combined Commanders Conferences. If the other departments can nudge the political leadership, why cannot the Armed Forces do so? The CDS needs a hard look at all these issues.


Our ability to enhance capacity is also crippled by an inability to spend. It is often published with much fanfare that financial powers have been delegated to VCOAS / DCOAS. How has this ‘delegated powers’ mechanism functioned? What are the results of delegation? Why has it not worked? How to make it work better? Is it just a mechanism to shift blame to services or is it shifting failure down the line? Look at any old time Hindi movie. The real villain is often the ‘Munshiji’. He always stays in the background, instigates the villain, stutters shifty eyed, manipulates, schemes and tricks the ‘hero’ into a ‘zero’! To quote an example. How does the Defence Finance explain a 100% cost inflation in a product when produced indigenously as against a 10-12% cost inflation in a similar product when imported in the same time period. Our defence finance specialists pass such inflated costs routinely. The defence finance has to be populated by defence professionals and not ‘Munshijis’. I can quote and embarrass people in this regard but will refrain from doing so for the present. This is one cancerous lot which has escaped scrutiny. Needs REFORM!


In the past year I have been one of the staunchest of supporters of our Armed Forces and the defence establishment—Right or Wrong. At a point of crisis there was no other way. However even a person totally unacquainted with the principles of our defence economy will agree that over a period of time, dishonest politicians, self-serving bureaucrats and a largely ignorant and insulated Armed Forces have deprived this nation of the security it deserves. This is despite the fact the regular tax payers have paid through their noses for security. Our politico-bureaucratic-military leadership has consistently under performed. However, that is in the past. The ‘challenge’ now is that do we have the intellectual honesty, to rectify the situation for the future?  If the government wants India to be strategically independent, then it is time to walk the talk. 

The armed forces have come to a point where they could cope with our enemies with what they had up till now. In an era of multi-domain warfare they need capabilities which are over the horizon. Their well of capabilities is drying. To acquire futuristic capabilities, we need to grasp the moment. Otherwise we will remain where we are – never respected, never to realise our dreams but always to make big promises of our  un utilised potential.   

Does our politico-military-bureaucratic leadership have the wisdom to grasp the opportunity and overcome the challenge? History will judge people of today whether they have been able to grasp the opportunity or squandered it by talking big.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit



The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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