Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to initiate his Lok Sabha Election 2024 campaign in West Bengal from the first of next month
India’s endeavour to bolster its military might unfolds as a complex and nuanced narrative. The recent strides made by the Narendra Modi government in remaking India’s military apparatus reflect not only a response to the rising spectre of Chinese power but also an intricate weeding out of ghosts of the past. The Tejas fighter jet saga, emblematic of India’s struggle with indigenous defence production, paints a picture of ambition entangled in a web of challenges. While the jet is hailed as a symbol of self-reliance, its two-decade delay and lukewarm reception from Indian pilots underscore the pitfalls of such aspirations. This, however, is not a tale of unmitigated failure. Amidst the Tejas debacle, there are underappreciated pockets of progress that merit attention. One pivotal shift is the recalibration of focus prompted by the violent clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan valley in 2020.
The swift redeployment of troops and resources to the northern border signals a pragmatic response to the evolving threat landscape. The decision to prioritise the China-facing units over those dual-tasked with China and Pakistan reflects a strategic realignment, acknowledging the gravity of the challenge from the northern neighbour. Equally significant is the overhaul of India’s military command structure, a move not witnessed since the country’s independence in 1947. The creation of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) position and the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) underscores an attempt to foster synergy among the Army, Navy, and Air Force. While General Bipin Rawat’s untimely demise impacted the momentum, the reforms are hailed as game-changing, giving the military a more assertive role in national security decision-making. In the realm of technology, India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) prowess in missile development stands out amidst its broader struggles. The private sector, once alienated, is finding a newfound embrace within the military ecosystem.
Smaller private firms, often start-ups, are contributing to cutting-edge innovations. The shift towards quicker procurement through single-vendor contracts for emergent technologies, post-Galwan, signals a departure from bureaucratic rigidity. Yet, as India surges forward, it grapples with age-old dilemmas and introduces novel controversies. The Agnipath scheme, designed to recruit shortterm military personnel, is mired in a debate between its proponents and sceptics. While supporters tout its potential to reduce pension costs and rejuvenate the armed forces, sceptics fear it might serve as a guise for social engineering, aligned with the ruling party’s agenda.
The overarching concern, however, looms in the gaping disparity with China. Despite a budget increase, India finds itself trailing in critical areas. The Indian Air Force’s shortfall in squadrons, the Navy’s distant pursuit of a 175- ship fleet, and the Army grappling with obsolete equipment all point to a significant lag. The palpable technological gap, especially in the air domain, underscores the monumental challenge India faces in bridging the chasm with its formidable neighbour. In essence, India’s journey towards military modernisation is a story of simultaneous triumphs and tribulations, where each step forward is accompanied by a sobering reality check.