By Manali Joshi
According to the report submitted by Minister of State for Defence, Subhash Bhamre, Indian armed forces are grappling with the shortage of state-of-the-art weapons. The NDA government’s ambitious project of expanding the defence-procurement system has gone in vain due to the various issues faced by the project. The report states that India’s entire weapons acquisitions process is badly broken and plagued with huge delays, pointing out that only 8-10% of 144 proposed deals in the last three financial years fructified within the stipulated time periods. The defence projects under Make in India have failed to materialise due to the lack of political push, accountability, multiple decision-making heads, delayed execution, long procedures, no real time-monitoring and differences between the government and the companies regarding technical details of the project.
The report comes at a time when the Indian Air Force (IAF) is in a desperate need to procure fighter jets to bolster its depleting regiment strength and the navy urgently requires more submarines and warships to replace its ageing fleet. The army too is facing a critical shortage of ammunition and long-range artillery guns.
Delay at every stage
Significantly, the internal MoD presentation points out the crippling delays at every stage of the process of ordering machinery. The presentation points out that the delays in execution—which begins right from the formulation of technical requirements in the tenders, through the SQRs, (staff qualitative requirements) to the final approval by the competent financial authority like the Cabinet Committee on Security—amounts to 2.6 to 15.4 times the laid down deadlines for the same projects. It takes around 120 weeks on an average to clear files after a tender or RFP (request for proposal) is finalised, which is six-times the laid-down norm by the MoD in 2016. In one particular case, it took almost eight years for this to happen. Similarly, the contract negotiation committee (CNC) stage witnesses delays about 10 times more than what is allowed. The lack of synergy among the army, navy, IAF and Coast Guard, who often pull in different directions, also causes difficulty in prioritising and executing different projects.
For example, in 2001, the IAF projected its requirement under the Medium Range Combat Aircraft (MRCA) deal for single-engine jet fighters. The scope of the deal changed dramatically when the government said that they wanted to include twin-engine fighters in the IAF’s fighter-fly off. Since twin-engine jets are heavier and more capable, “MRCA” warped into “MMRCA,” or Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft, a deal which was ultimately scrapped altogether in 2016, after an incredible 15-year process. Finally, in 2016, realising that the Indian Air Force was desperate, the government agreed, controversially, to buy 36 rifle fighters from France in an off-the-shelf purchase worth more than Rs 58,000 crores.
Need to buckle up
India is one of the largest importers of arms. India’s arms import between 2012 and 2016 constituted for 13%of global arms imports. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on several occasions emphasised upon the need for the reduction of arms imports to India. The cabinet has reiterated also the need for manufacturing of more defence equipment locally for the Indian military. Hence this keenness of the government, according to resent urgency, should not just be on paper but should actually be brought to execution. The Modi government needs to ensure that the upcoming projects do not collapse and Make in India project supplants the existing inefficient procurement system.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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