Context:

The Union cabinet has approved major reforms for the Indian Army aimed at aimed at enhancing combat capabilities and rebalancing defence expenditure.

Introduction:

  • The number of soldiers available for active combat with the Army is set to dramatically go up by over 57,000 in the wake of the Union cabinet accepting a slew of military reforms.
  • The recommendations for military reform were made by a committee headed by Lieutenant General(Retd.) D.B.Shekatkar .
  • The committee had submitted around 99 recommendations.
  • The Government, in consultation with the Indian Army, has been going through the recommendations, and the first batches of 65 recommendations were accepted till now.
  • All these recommendations have to be operationalised by the end of 2019.
  • All these recommendations are related to the Army and the remaining 34 recommendations pertaining to the Navy, Air Force and Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) are likely to be taken up soon.

Background:

  • The 11 member committee headed by Lt. Gen. Shekatkar was appointed by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in May 2016 and the report was submitted to the Defence Ministry in December 2016.

What were the key recommendations of DB Shekatkar Committee?

Out of the 90 important recommendations of the Shekatkar Committee approved by Mr. Arun Jaitley, following are the prominent ones:

  • The committee considers National Cadet Corps (NCC) as a non-core area and has thus suggested that military should not be involved in its operations.
  • Coordination among three defence services should be enhanced in order to remove duplicity.
  • Institutions such as the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and ordnance factory boards must be made accountable through the mechanism of conducting project audits and by getting rid of outdated concepts.
  • Most important recommendation of the Shekatkar committee is that the defence budget should be in the range of 2.5% to 3% of the FDP. This recommendation was meant to address the nature of security challenges which India faces from its neighbourhood.
  • The committee called for redefining the revenue and capital heads in the budget. In context of defence budget, ‘revenue’ means funds required to sustain the military, whereas ‘capital’ is amount to be spent on acquiring new defence weapons/systems and modernising the existing ones
  • The committee had suggested that, if implemented over the next five years, the recommendations can result in savings of up to Rs. 25,000 crore in defence expenditure.
  • The savings can be utilized for overcoming deficiencies in combat arms, for officer especially for officer cadre.

 

Recommendations related to Navy reforms:

  • The first phase of the reforms involves redeployment and restructuring of approximately 57,000 posts of officers/Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO)/ Other Ranks (OR) and civilians
  • The various areas of reform include:
  1. optimization of signal establishments
  2. restructuring of repair echelons including base workshops, redeployment of ordnance depots
  3. better utilisation of supply and transport echelons and animal transport units
  4. Closure of military farms and Army postal establishments in peace locations, and improving efficiency of the National Cadet Corps (NCC).
  • Out of these, the order for the closure of 39 military farms was issued in the beginning of August and would be completed in three months.
  • The committee called for redefining the revenue and capital heads in the budget.

Why there is need for military reforms?

  • Restructuring the Indian Army is needed for enhancing combat capability in a manner that personnel will be used for improving operational preparedness and civilians will be redeployed in different wings of the Armed Forces for improving efficiency.
  • Border security has been the most pressing issue for military reforms.
  • Even in disaster management, the role of military is indispensable.
  • India is one of the largest arms importers in the world as the indigenous production of technology is one area where India continues to struggle.
  • Military reform is needed to build a comprehensive national capability to counter any threat that arises from China or the collusive threat of China and Pakistan.

What are the present challenges India is facing?

  • Major chunk of the budget.
  • India is facing more complex challenges in its defence modernization aspirations.
  • The Indian defence industry suffers from major policy, structural, and cultural challenges
  • India’s inability to meet its own defence needs through indigenous production (The two flagship programs Main Battle Tank Arjun and Light Combat Aircraft Tejas are examples where the Indian defence research organisations have gone through several production delays and cost-overruns.) is drawing wider concerns
  • Foreign companies are hesitant to invest in a defence industry without having full stakes in the defence production.
  • India’s offset policy is based on an inflexible doctrine of indigenisation, and India’s offset policy should be made compatible with the economic dynamism of the global defence industry.
  • There is a lack of the greater political will that has severely affected decision-making in terms of acquiring weapons on time as per the needs of the Armed Forces.

India’s National Security Concerns And Defence Preparedness:

  • India today faces the most complex threats and challenges that range from nuclear to sub-conventional spectrum of conflict.
  • Issues such as the unresolved territorial disputes with China and Pakistan, the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the North-Eastern states, the growing menace of left-wing extremism and the rising threat of urban terrorism has further exacerbated India’s security environment.
  • In the regional security milieu, it has clearly emerged that China poses the most potent military threat to India.
  • The China-Pakistan nexus and increased strategic engagements between the two have increased the probability that India might face a two-front war in the future.
  • The lack of military inputs in decision-making is considered to be the most significant lacuna,
  • The national security strategy of India suffers from flaws such as the absence of a National Security Doctrine and the absence of long-term defence planning.

What are the solutions?

  • There is need to promote Jointness across every level of our armed forces.
  • For many years defence analysts are suggesting that India should create the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
  • Following are the reasons for the need of CDS:

1)It will provide the three arms with a unity of purpose required in operations involving more than one form of military and establish a synergy between three forces.

2) It will act as the direct link between the defence ministry and the country’s military.

3) It will help the ministry in drafting better defence policies as the CDS would be able to provide a larger picture of the condition of military.

4) It will also help in fixing accountability as in multi-dimensional operations, CDS will be responsible for is success or failure.

  • A more integrated response will be need from the Indian armed forces.
  • There is need for adequate institutions and resources support
  • Joint training and organization is the need of present day.
  • Coordination with other elements in the security sector.
  • The MOD will have to increasing move towards joint organisatons for improving the performace of Indian forces on operations as well as for ratonalising the peacetime and wartime management of defence resources.
  • Theatre commands are seen as better for pooling resources and improving efficiency
  • The policy priority of Indian Defence establishment should be to ensure that it maximizes its indigenous production.
  • Taking into account the changing nature of threats in the emerging geopolitical scenario, India has to focus on building capacity for modernization of Indian Army.
  • The increase in defence spending has become possible not just because of the tensions in the immediate regional security environment but also because of its rapid economic growth over the years that has given it a solid economic base. This should play a major role in increasing India’s defence offset appetite, which would give it the necessary financial resources to promote indigenous defence production.
  • India needs to take urgent steps towards extensive naval modernisation so as to secure its security interests in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond.
  • India should look to augment its naval power by acquiring capabilities for maritime domain awareness in the area of responsibility, including space-based surveillance, maritime reconnaissance, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

What are the Government initiatives for military reforms?

  • The government on March 18 reviewed a presentation on a new strategic partner policy, plans to create a chief of defence staff(CDS) post, and restructuring of higher defence structures along with the Shekatkar Committee report.
  • Strategic Partner Policy, with an aim to boost the “Make in India” campaign in context of defence sector.
  • PM Modi has been very vocal about wanting greater ‘jointness’ across India’s armed force

Conclusion:

India is moving to become a global power, sooner or later it has to have off-shore military footprints. This requires jointness, rapid reaction capabilities, enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of the planning process through intra and inter-Service prioritization. Establishing a CDS is a logical step in this direction.

 

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