2019 has come to a close. No other year in India’s recent history has been as momentous as this one.
It started with the proverbial bang, with air strikes in February. Enough has been written about its unprecedented nature and consequences. In August, the government took another history-altering decision by revoking the symbolic special status that the state of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed under the Indian Constitution.
Till the time of FORCE December issue going to press, there was one more definitive event to record. The Supreme Court of India pronounced its verdict on the decades-old Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid case. While acknowledging the criminality of the demolition, it decided to ignore the issue of punishment. Instead it sought closure by appeasing the majority.
Of course, there is a month to go before we can safely turn our back to this year, who knows what may happen yet. In the backdrop of all this the economy continues to struggle from month to month setting back the process of military modernisation. In the last three years, the government has signed several agreements and cleared numerous programmes. Yet no firm orders have been placed. And in several cases even the stipulated advanced payments have not been made. The reason is simple. We have no money. Funnily enough, the people and the government of India are on the same page on this one. None have any money!
All of this will have long-term consequences for India. Future chroniclers recording history would be better judges to the nature of these consequences. Whether they helped India, its national security, its citizenry, its economy, its global standing or its moral capital. Since we are too close to these events, our prognostications run the risk of being labelled as premature or partisan. But some risks are worth taking.
And so here is how we view the year going by. We have opened far too many fronts, exposing ourselves. By doing this we have made ourselves more vulnerable, externally and internally, at a time when we don’t have the resources, hence capabilities, to plug the gaps we have cleaved open.
That said, like every other year, this issue is a special on the Indian Navy. Despite its ambitious plans for a tech-advanced, modern navy, budgetary constraints have forced it to cut its cloth accordingly. With several procurement plans still in the works; its pipeline has only got longer. Our cover story looks at both what it must and what it can do to remain a force to reckon with in the Indian Ocean Region. The Indian Navy, over the years, has assumed the role of a benedictory force for the Indian Ocean littoral states. This is one role that has become its calling card in the region. It’s a saviour not a threat. We look at the evolution and the growth of this role.
In November, FORCE was invited for two international events – launch of a new defence entity in the UAE and Trade Media Briefing of Airbus Defence and Space. Both promise something worth looking forward to. In addition to that are our regular stories.
Finally, 2019 couldn’t have gone sooner. Here’s to a happier and more promising 2020!