The People’s Republic of China launched it’s first indigenous aircraft carrier and has declared that it plans to develop and field six aircraft carriers, two of them being nuclear-powered. India on the other hand has been working on ‘carrier-killer’ missiles which could potentially disable or sink aircraft carriers. The Defence Ministry of India has already set the ball rolling and has initiated the research and development of multiple anti-ship missile projects to ensure that the Chinese aircraft carrier does not dominate over the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
However, there’s a difference between fantasy and reality. The Indian Navy standing up to the might of the Chinese Navy seems the former. Defence acquisitions have been neglected for years by the Indian Government. The Ministry of Defence, India is run by civilian bureaucrats who have no idea about the requirements of the Indian military. Inking of contracts take years if not decades. Every major defence acquisition deal is smeared by allegations of massive corruption. Even after everything is done and dusted, production takes a long time, with the delivery time being changed repeatedly and hence the modernization of the Indian military delayed inevitably.
India’s first and only one of two Field Marshals Sam Manekshaw once said “I wonder whether those of our political masters who have been put in charge of the defence of the country can distinguish a mortar from a motor ; a gun from a howitzer ; a guerrilla from a gorilla, although a great many resemble the latter.” One cannot disagree with his remarks given the track record of the Ministry of Defence, India.
The defence industry in India suffers from several problems, be it policy, structural, or cultural challenges. These challenges hinder the growth of a military-industrial complex that continues to struggle in delivering modern defence hardware. Several military experts across the world see a number of fundamental flaws in the Indian defence establishment and civil-military relations, leading to major hindrances for India’s military modernization programs.
India’s defence industry has failed to manage the workload of India’s defence requirements till now. India is the largest arms importers in the world as the indigenous production of technology is one area where India continues to struggle harshly. India’s defence preparedness remains a question mark as some of the most crucial requirements in various services of the Armed Forces have not been fulfilled because of severe deficiencies in the defence industry in the country.
The Indian Army lacks sophisticated weapons and armory, the navy’s submarine fleet has diminished to barely 40 percent of the minimum requirements and the fighter squadrons in the air force are at the level of 60 percent of the mandatory need which is a cause for grave concern considering the slow pace of India’s defence modernization.
There is a severe need for the Indian government to focus on the indigenous defence production by carefully developing long-term strategic plans to augment India’s military capabilities. India is a rising power with a massive economy and needs to look beyond the buyer-seller relationship that has almost become a feature of its defence policy.