Are India’s defence acquisitions in a mess?

India needs a major cleanup 

Brahma
Chellaney

The Economic Times, July 31, 2009

From
castigating the government for frenetically importing weapons without any
long-term vision to pointing out that gaps in
India’s
defences remain unplugged, the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General
(CAG) of
India
have helped highlight the rot that has set in.
India is the only large country
that relies on imports to meet basic defence needs, to the extent that it has
become the world’s biggest arms buyer. But despite the ever-growing arms
imports — a money-spinning business for many Indian politicians, civil servants
and defence officers — India pursues an increasingly feckless policy towards
China and has seen its military edge against quasi-failed Pakistan erode to the
point that recurring cross-border terror strikes are met with terror-emboldening
inaction.

Instead of remaining
incorrigibly dependent on imports and serving as a dumping ground for
obsolescent weapons, shouldn’t
India
build a military with the strategic reach and combat edge to deter regional
adversaries? Consider some disturbing examples.

No sooner
had the first batch of the British Hawk jet trainers been inducted — an
antiquated system in which
India
invested $1.7 billion ostensibly to help minimize crashes — than a Hawk
crashes. The 2007 induction of a 1971-vintage amphibious transport ship junked
by the
US navy and sold to India for $50
million kills an Indian officer and five sailors due to a gas leak on board. The
CAG says the 2005 contract for six Scorpenes saddled
India with a questionable
submarine-design system and resulted in $72 million in “undue financial
advantage” to the French vendor, plus “other unquantifiable benefits”. Now, at
a price “60% more expensive than for a new one”, according to the CAG,
India is buying from Moscow a refurbished Soviet-era aircraft
carrier that had been rusting since a mid-1990s boiler-room explosion.

The defence of India is becoming an unremitting scandal.
Clearly,
India
needs a major cleanup. To facilitate that, a three-year import moratorium is a
must. In the process, without compromising
India’s defence, some $20 billion
will be saved in that period.

(c) Economic Times, 2009.

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