sabato, Maggio 8

A leaner military for India field_506ffb1d3dbe2

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In the last 20 years, all major armed forces of the world have made deep cuts in manpower. Way back in 2003, China decided to trim down its then 2.5 million-strong force. In 2012, Great Britain announced a 20 percent cut, reducing its strength of the Army to 82,000 combatants by the end of the decade. Under President Vladimir Putin, a once-moribund Russian military has been turning into a lean and quick-strike force.  Now-a-days, Russian soldiers fight out of brigades, not large divisions. Similarly, the United States has decided to have smaller and leaner armed forces, given the financial constraints that the country is facing right now. The Pentagon has been asked to massively cut its budget running into several hundred billion dollars, and this, in turn, has forced the Department of Defence to come out with a new strategic review document that would shape its defence policy with smaller and leaner forces for the years to come.

Significantly, the countries that I have mentioned above happen to be the world’s four foremost military powers, though not in the same order. Should India, another elite military power of the world avoid the trend of having a leaner and meaner force? No.

It may be mentioned here that military trimming is mostly being done in the Armies in China, the US, Russia and Britain. In my considered view, the same should be done in case of the Indian Army, as the Navy and the Air Force do have optimal manpower.   As it is, Indian Army is the second largest in the World with 38000 officers and 11.38 lakh soldiers. A detailed review, both in terms of manpower as well as infrastructure, to ensure a cost-effective and leaner Army is therefore overdue.

Significantly, Defence minister Manohar Parrikar seems to be in favour of such a review.  In a recent newspaper interview, he has said that there is “an urgent need for some downsizing in areas which are not of operational importance” due to budgetary constraints. “The flab will be reviewed and removed… there is a requirement to re-think all aspects for a drawdown. The money saved can go towards the new mountain strike corps (MSC),” said Parrikar to the Times of India while explaining why the government has temporarily frozen the raising of 17 Mountain Striking Corps with 90,274 soldiers at the cost of Rs.64,678 crore over 7 years. “Manpower costs are also eating into the capital allocation of the armed forces to cover revenue demand”, he lamented.

It must be mentioned that a leaner Army does not mean a weaker Army. The reduced manpower will leave more resources for the capital expenditure so as to have new technologies and  smarter systems such as ISR(Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) and unmanned systems, in space and, in particular, in cyberspace capabilities. With better hardware, the Army can be more agile, flexible, lethal, innovative and creative. Similarly, restructuring the Army does not mean weakening it. There are no reasons why nonessential functions such as military farms and Army postal service cannot be outsourced. There are no reasons why medical, intelligence, pay& accts and supplies personnel in our three Services should not be merged. There are no reasons why we should not induct more short service recruits (say 5 years), thus reducing the pension bill. All this will make our armed forces stronger, not otherwise.

India should aim for a leaner military.

 

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