The Centre’s nod to defence acquisitions worth Rs 80,000 crore in one go recommended by the Defence Acquisitions Council, chaired by the defence minister with the three service chiefs among its members, reflects the NDA government’s resolve to fast-track the long-neglected area of defence preparedness against possible misadventures by China and Pakistan. Dragging its feet on vital defence acquisitions can be suicidal for the country. The erstwhile Congress government with A K Antony as defence minister had made an utter mess of defence readiness by the inexcusable dithering on vital deals. The NDA government on the other hand has demonstrated rare decisiveness and the required sense of urgency on this front.
The bulk of the money earmarked is for the Navy that is in dire need of upgrade and capability enhancement. It is heartening that the government has decided to make indigenously the six submarines that account for Rs 50,000 crore worth of expenditure. Ensuring strict quality control would be a challenge that the decision-makers would have to grapple with. The submarines will be Air Independent Propulsion capable that will enable them to stay underwater for longer than conventional submarines besides having enhanced stealth features. The other major move was to purchase 8,356 anti-tank guided missile of Israel worth Rs 3,200 crore rather than the US’ Javelin missile for the Indian Army. The Army will also purchase 321 launchers for the missile. Another 12 Dornier surveillance aircraft with enhanced sensors will also be bought from the HAL at a cost of Rs 1,850 crore. The DAC also decided to buy 362 infantry fighting vehicle from the Ordinance Factory Board, Medak, in West Bengal for Rs 662 crore.
For over five decades, India has been largely dependent on Russia for military preparedness. But the fast changing geopolitical matrix has pressed New Delhi to cement its relationship with Washington and the West. At the same time, the impetus to indigenisation is welcome.