Private companies are jostling to get a piece of military action. As many as 20 agreements were signed between Indian and foreign firms during the recent Defence Expo in New Delhi.
Tata Advanced Systems has signed deals with big firms such as Boeing, Sikorsky, and the European Defence and Aerospace Consortium. And Mahindra Defence Systems expects revenues of $3 billion (Rs12,060 crore) over the next 10 years. The government policy of opening up defence?production to the private sector seems to be paying off.
These deals focus on battlefield communication systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and radars among other technologies. The emphasis is not on weapon systems alone. This is important, as it’s time to look beyond weapons and see what can give an edge to our soldiers.
This may also mark the beginning of the long-overdue “capital deepening” of India’s Armed Forces.
For long, India’s Armed Forces (the army specially) have lagged technologically. Since independence, this has been due to technology denial regimes, themselves the products of India’s political choices. Getting over this problem is vital now. The Armed Forces face massive manpower shortages that are unlikely to be overcome. These shortages are not a function of poor pay and service conditions alone. The truth is the Indian economy is short of manpower. The Armed Forces are no exception. In this context, the present efforts along “higher pay, better service conditions” line are unlikely to pay.
The way out of these problems, and it’s in this connection that technological advances spearheaded by the private sector will help, is to reduce manpower dependence. No army can do without soldiers, but advanced weapons and arms can certainly reduce over-reliance on them. To this end, the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), which emphasizes a seamless military organization, is a model to copy. Though India is some distance away from an RMA, the efforts of Indian firms are pushing the Armed Forces in that direction.
The way out of these problems is to reduce manpower dependence—and it’s in this connection that technological advances spearheaded by the private sector will help. In many military theatres such “empowered” soldiers represent a much better alternative than mere bigger numbers. It’s time our army is equipped with the future in mind.
Manpower or technology, what’s the way forward for the Indian Armed Forces? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org