Gen Singh's diagnosis found defence machine in shambles

Lack of urgency is noticeable at all levels, finds Army Chief

Distressed that there is ‘lack of urgency at all levels’ on matters of national security, Army chief Gen V K Singh has spoken of shortcomings inIndia’s defence preparedness with its infantry lacking critical weapons and air defence turning ‘obsolete.’

The shocking status of the country’s security has been brought to the light by V K Singh in a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging him to pass ‘suitable directions’ to enhance the preparedness of the army, according to a report published in national daily.

While the Indian army’s entire tank fleet is devoid of ‘critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks,’ the air defence is ‘97 per cent obsolete’ and it does not give the ‘deemed confidence’ to protect the country from the air, Gen Singh noted.

The infantry is ‘crippled’ with deficiencies of ‘crew served weapon’ and lacks night fighting capabilities.  The Elite Special Forces are ‘woefully’ short of ‘essential weapons’ and there are ‘large-scale voids’ in critical surveillance.

Alarming

“The state of the major (fighting) arms i.e. Mechanised Forces, Artillery, Air Defence, Infantry and Special Forces, as well as the Engineers and Signals, is indeed alarming,” he said in his letter to the prime minister.

Gen Singh urged the prime minister to ‘urgently mitigate’ the critical deficiencies in view of two ‘inimical neighbours’ and the ‘reality of large land borders.’ These deficiencies were ‘impacting’ the operational capability of a 1.3 million-strong army.

China was ‘unabashedly’ going ahead with developing infrastructure on the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) but the Indian Army’s presence is ‘far from satisfactory,’ he underlined.

Gen Singh blamed the ‘hollowness’ in the system and the bureaucracy for the situation. The government might want to believe all was well on the eastern front but the Army, aware of the ground reality, had been trying hard to get the Centre to sanction Rs 12,000 crore so that India’s borders with China could be strengthened and a Mountain Strike Corps set up, he said.

But, a ‘stubborn bureaucracy’ has continually thwarted the Army’s modernisation attempts, he charged. He also noted a lack of urgency ‘at all levels’ on matters of national security, saying the work quality of ordnance factories in the country was also poor.

While the Defence ministry’s finance wing and the Finance ministry had rejected the idea of a new corp, the Environment and Forests ministry had rejected a proposal to create an alternate all-weather route from Siliguri to North Sikkim to rush troops to the Indo-China border during an emergency.

“There is therefore a need to accord approval on priority for the force and infrastructure accretions for the northern borders,” Gen Singh said.

He also sought to draw the attention of the prime minister towards a long-pending proposal of give operational control over Indo-Tibetan Border Police to Army, saying that there had been no progress in this regard to the ‘stringent stance’ of the Home ministry despite the proposal was accepted ‘at all forums.’

Gen Singh also urged the prime minister to ensure that land is acquired for developing roads to mobilise and deploy forces effectively on the Indo-China border.

The Army chief suggested that the Border Roads Organisation should be given powers to overcome needless bureaucratic hassles and modern equipments. He also sought allocation of funds for developing strategically important railway lines.

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