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AUGUST 2013 ISSUE


Not A Good Solution
The go-ahead for an army strike corps is not the solution to fight the Chinese
 


The Cold Start doctrine or the pro-active strategy being practised during an exercise The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has cleared the formation of an army strike corps, a few independent formations including an artillery division for mountains (about 50,000 troops) and certain air force assets ( for airlift). According to reports, the raisings will be done over the next five to seven years at a cost of over Rs 80,000 crores in Panagarh in West Bengal. Meant for Arunachal Pradesh against China, these forces will have their permanent locations in the states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

All stake-holders are satisfied with this development. The army is happy; it believes that it can fight the Chinese better. Moreover, the army will now have many more vacancies to accommodate officers of all ranks. Never mind the global trend which is towards lean, mean and proficient armed forces. Also, never mind that the army will now spend more on salaries and upkeep of officers and men at the cost of equipment and capabilities. The government is equally pleased on two counts: it has kept its promise of not letting the slow national economy come in the way of defence services’ modernisation; it has given what the army wanted. It has also made the point that the recent Chinese April 15 Ladakh incursions has strengthened its resolve to improve war preparedness. The Chinese, on the other hand, cannot complain about these raisings as these troops will not be in Arunachal Pradesh, which it calls its territory as South Tibet.

But, has India’s defence strengthened with these raisings? Three issues are worth considering: One, recall the letter written by the chief of army staff, General V.K. Singh in April 2012 to the Prime Minister which got leaked to the media. He had clearly said that the army was not fit for war; he was referring to the Pakistani front alone. According to him, the stocks of missiles, artillery and anti-tank ammunitions were critically low for maximum five days of war. Mission reliability of mechanised vehicles was poor; the artillery was obsolete and inadequate; air defence was antiquated; armour was unreliable; night fighting devices were insufficient to name a few glaring shortfalls.

A year on, the situation has not changed much. Unlike the other two services, the army with the largest annual capital budget meant for acquisitions has not procured even single major equipment in decades. There are numerous reasons for this, the important being the excruciatingly long procurement procedures, and cancellation of various tenders. Now if the army is not equipped well to fight Pakistan, what good is adding more numbers, which will not have requisite fighting wherewithal anytime soon? The priority obviously should have been to arm and equip the service for credible punch.
 
 
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