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Cover Story

The Indian Army: Then and Now
Major General G. D. Bakshi, Defence & Security Analyst
Issue Date - 16/02/2012
What started as a 10 division force is today comprised of 39 strong divisions, which can perform any task on any terrain. What has set the Indian army apart since independence is its involvement in not just fighting wars but also constantly fulfilling its duty in counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations. The Indian Army is one of the most combat tested since World War II. The strength of the Indian Armed Forces is more than 1.3 million men and officers. As per the need and assessment of the security environment and the threat perceptions, the policies have been changing. The most recent example is that of the Defence Procurement Policy. It has been constantly updated and has clauses like offset, which will help the local industry benefit from procurements, which the Indian defence forces will be making in coming times.

There has been tremendous improvement in the sophistication of arms and equipment. One can well gauge the difference from the fact that we started with 303 bolt action rifles and today, the main assault rifles are the 5.56 mm and the 7.62 mm fully automatic assault rifles. We started with the Sherman tanks of the World War vintage and today we have the most sophisticated T-90 as the main battle tank. However, amidst improvement of the weapon and equipment profile, we’ve missed out on indigenisation. It is binding upon us to begin a vehement endeavour supported with strong and clear policies to help our own defence industry. Otherwise, we might face a problem during times of external aggression as exporting countries might stop the supply or fleece us. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been entrusted with the ominous task of producing our own weapons and equipment but it has been hardly successful.

The policies of procurement have changed, but we still have the conspicuous problem of modernising artillery gun’s. Further, the helicopter issue is also nibbling the operational readiness. Aviation is becoming important with time but is still being neglected. Our policy planners had been warned long before that the Indian Air Force’s fighter squadrons have fell down from the sanctioned 39 to as low as 30 squadrons. 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) will be a much needed succor to the Air Force. Here also, we have to develop our own aviation complex. In terms of strategic weapons, we are catching up. The recent addition has been the Agni-IV – the most potent and technologically advanced in India’s arsenal – it adds a new dimension to the country’s capabilities in terms of strategic deterrence. The missile was successfully tested for the first time in November 2011. It was a quantum leap in indigenous technology with a target reach of 3,500 km.

There has been lot of erosion in the positioning of the army’s attractiveness. The kind of importance a Commanding Officer’s letter to the civil administration used to have is a story of the past. We have to be conscious that every nation’s Armed Force needs the best of manpower. This is true in the present context when there is more use of sophisticated technologies. Government has to be forthcoming on this issue as it is a matter of national security, which might hurt us during any contingency. It has to have an overhaul of the structure.

Whatever policies we make irrespective of the sophistication of arms and equipment, it is the man behind the machine who matters. The understanding of national security should be given its due importance and people must be sensitised on these issues as it affects the very concept of the nation and its security.


Mayank Singh           

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