Today the South Asian Region ranks as one of
the three flashpoints in the world along with
the Middle East and North Korea. That the potential
adversaries are nuclear powers with missile capability
is a cause for even greater discomfort. It is,
on the other hand, also a region with enormous
possibilities, some of them unfolding right before
our eyes. Within this region lies a group of nations
in troubled transition to modernity, their external
discourse damned by internal contradictions. In
a world moving towards integration, many of these
nations remain torn by ethnic & religious
strife, economic disparities and political instability.
Undoubtedly, it is a new world order that is emerging
because of complex relationships, strategic interests
and influences. Asia is the happening place and
for a variety of factors. For obvious reasons,
it is full of turmoil and instabilities. Internal
dynamics and external influences have led to increase
in the degree of instability and uncertainty.
Last but not the least; it is the playground for
As a member of this region, India remains vulnerable
to the disturbances spilling over from her neighbours.
India herself is at a crossroads. We witness this
giant stirring into wakefulness into an
awareness of its power today. This rise in stature
brings with it greater responsibilities and a
larger role in regional as well as global affairs.
This demands not only a change in policy, internal
and external, but a fundamental change in our
very thinking, ethos and value system.
strategic perspectives are shaped
by her history, geography, geopolitical realities
and the demands of realpolitik. Our native culture,
our innate traditions of trust and tolerance,
and our vision of world peace shape our national
character, which, in turn, impacts on our international
relations. These vital parameters are as relevant
today as they have been earlier. India shares
borders with 11 neighbours. Our relations with
some are uneasy and with some, hostile. Any unrest
within this somewhat hostile neighbourhood spills
over into our borders in many forms; and with
depressing regularity. Unless these geo-political
cross currents affecting us are quietened, they
would continue to thwart our desire to move forward.
India is faced with a full spectrum of threats,
which emerge from all these issues. The spectrum
itself is increasing in complexity and technological
sophistication. So with the spectrum changing
as well as being unpredictable, we have to look
at full-spectrum dominance. This is equally applicable
to all domains, land, sea air, space, as well
as the Information domain. Since the focus of
this article is on Aerospace Power, suffice it
to say that Aerospace Power also will have to
look in the same direction.
It is, therefore, prudent that we move away from
a threat-based assessment to a capability-based
approach. A capability can then be tailored or
applied to meet the challenge. The capability
will allow us to apply the right force in any
form of conflict across the entire spectrum. This
will ensure effectiveness as well as efficacy.
What is of concern to us is that the whole focus
is on full-spectrum dominance. Yes, it will require
new technology, modernisation and replacement
of equipment. But just material-superiority and
technology is not enough. Of equal importance
is the development of doctrine, organisation,
training and education of leaders and people who
can effectively take advantage of the technology.
Defence modernisation comprises three disciplines.
MAINTAIN What you have UPGRADE
where there is useful residual life left. ACQUIRE
where there is no residual life. It is
a constant process and cannot be done in fits
and starts. India needs quantum improvement in
all three aspects.
Reasons are many. We missed out on the window
10 years ago because of poor economy. We suffer
the consequences now. More so because the world
economy has nosedived affecting FDI inflow. The
consequent adverse Rupee/Dollar ratio is bound
to affect our purchasing power. We depend on foreign
vendors for most spares, upgrades and acquisitions
because our indigenisation record is poor. We
continue to lose out on pricing and contracts
because of delayed decision making. The MMRCA
deal for 126+ aircraft is languishing for more
than four years. Utility choppers are just about
coming in. The need for 40 more Su-30s, mooted
four years ago, is being re-discussed now. Demand
for additional Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) aircraft
has been in limbo for four years now. The news
is that it might fructify soon. The 2014 General
Election will put paid to any new projects being
approved till formation of the new government.
Involvement, commitment and accountability of
the bureaucracy are lacking. The Defence Procurement
Procedure (DPP) needs refining which is being
done but needs expediting.
We are expected to spend approx $235 billion
on defence systems over the next 10 years. At
30 to 50 per cent the Offsets themselves
come to a staggering figure. Are our public and
private sectors capable of handling such astronomical
I am confident that Aero India 2015 will showcase
Indias primacy as a viable market. The rush
of fighter aircraft vendors may be a bit diluted
but helicopters and RPAs will be on flagrant display.
In addition, the US push will ensure large participation.
Such events must be addressed as opportunities
to be taken advantage of in our calculus. Many
deals are in the pipeline. The economy is likely
to take a turn for better since such events are
generally cyclic with their effects lasting a
year and a half to two years. The geopolitical
situation in our region would have changed after
the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and any new
Government is bound to be supportive. Today we
are at the cusp. The ramping up was expected to
start around 2015. Now it may be delayed by a
year or two.
If we want the defence modernisation to be successful,
we must get our act together now. All stakeholders
including the Public/Private Sectors, the DRDO
and the Bureaucracy must be committed, involved
and held accountable. They must share responsibility
equally with the armed forces. Only then will
we be able to take our rightful place in the comity
of nations as a secure country with strong and
modern armed forces.