Modi 2.0: Military factor and road ahead

With the Balakot air raid 2016 cross-border surgical strike contributing immensely to his incredible win, Modi in his second innings is likely to further strengthen the defence forces by adding more aircraft, artillery guns and warships besides making the army a lean, mean and modern one. (Reuters Photo)

The 2019 Lok Sabha election is the first Parliamentary election in two decades where national security issues played a key role in shaping a prime minister's persona as a decisive leader, who can take the crucial decision of sending troops across the border to avenge the killing of Indians.

The seeds were sown with the successful implementation of the one-rank-one-pension scheme at a cost of more than Rs 11,000 crore that benefited close to 20 lakh armed forces personnel and their families.

The NDA government also completed the long-delayed National War Memorial, which was an emotional issue for families that lost someone in the wars.

But what appears to have influenced millions of voters is the Modi government's decision on cross-border raids on terrorists who bled India for decades from their safe havens inside Pakistan. Two successful campaigns by the Indian Army in 2016 and Indian Air Force swung the public mood.

With the Balakot air raid 2016 cross-border surgical strike contributing immensely to his incredible win, Modi in his second innings is likely to further strengthen the defence forces by adding more aircraft, artillery guns and warships besides making the army a lean, mean and modern one.

Irrespective of its success on weathering the Rafale storm, the new government would have to find out a quick route to equip the IAF with modern fighter jets as the force struggles with its ageing inventory of Russian-origin MiG fighters that live on borrowed lives.

The same is true for Indian Navy that functions with a depleted under water arm as the second assembly line for submarines is nowhere on the horizon nearly three decades after it was approved by the government.

The third aircraft carrier is also stuck on the drawing board due to paucity of funds, leaving the Indian Navy with inadequate wherewithal to counter China that rapidly expands its footprint in the strategic Indian Ocean region.

In its first term, the Modi government initiated a policy overhaul to encourage participation of big private players in defence manufacturing.

While five years were spent in creating the policy foundation for the “Strategic Partnership”, the new defence minister is likely to go full steam with the ambitious programme that can also generate employment to some extent.

Another pressing problem for the government is to find out ways to reduce the salary bill that consumes bulk of the defence budget leaving barely anything for modernisation.

The process to overhaul the Army has begun with the twin objective of the improving the teeth-to-tail ratio and reducing the revenue budget, but much needs to be done for a visible impact. Security issues, in all likelihood, would continue to be at the core of Modi 2.0.

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