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Islamabad

August 24, 2017

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The state of Indian armed forces

India currently imports more than 90 per cent of its defence equipment from foreign countries but still dreams of indigenization in near future. 

Keeping the Indian government’s lofty and sinister regional ambitions aside, India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in a report on ammunition management, recently revealed that the Indian Army has some significantly disturbing shortcomings. 

The CAG stated the Indian Army was suffering from a drastic shortfall of necessary ammunition, mostly because the ordnance factories had not improved their output or quality and the procurement process continued to run on the aged inefficient pattern. He said of the 170 kinds of ammunition in 2013, just 27pc was ready for 20 days of intense fighting, while in September 2016, 80pc ammunition was below the required levels.

After the Uri fiasco, the Indian Army was given financial powers for three months by the government to purchase critical ammunition and spares of major military platforms to maintain combat readiness for short duration "intense wars", which was extended for another three months till March 31, 2017. During that six-month period, the Indian Army signed 19 contracts worth Rs12,000 crores, including 11 deals for different types of ammunition.

The chief of Indian Army, General Bipin Rawat, has already admitted that level of "hollowness" in the Indian Army, a military term to describe both lack of stocks of critical items and obsolescence in weapon platforms, "in case of a two-front war is of concern." That perhaps was an understatement.

Meanwhile, much to the embarrassment of New Delhi, the Indian Army was eliminated from a multi-nation tank competition in Russia when both its T-90 main battle tanks developed technical problems at the Alabino ranges in the Moscow region. 

Reports said the Indian Army had sent two T-90s and a 21-man crew for the tank biathlon at the 2017 International Army Games in Russia. But the service was disqualified from the competition after both its Russian-origin tanks – a main tank and a reserve one – broke down during the penultimate round. The main tank’s fan belt broke, while the other failed to perform after its engine oil leaked. On the other hand, China with its Type-96B tank and Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan with different T-72 variants raced to the last round of the competition in which 19 countries including Azerbaijan, Angola, Armenia, Belarus, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Iran and Mongolia took part. Reports say T-90s, the mainstay of India’s tank fleet, are unable to operate for sustained periods in high temperatures due to radiator problems. 

With regard to the Indian Navy, the CAG revealed that shocking lapses led to two of the worst Indian naval accidents involving submarines in which 20 personnel lost their lives. The Russian-built submarine INS Sindhurakshak sank after an explosion killing 18 sailors in August 2013 and the following year two officers were killed in a fire on INS Sindhuratna, an accident that led to the then navy chief Admiral DK Joshi’s resignation. 

Quoting a naval inquiry, the CAG said the operational deployment of INS Sindhurakshak was simply not justified. “Submarine authorities concerned did not properly assess the crew fatigue, besides, the submarine was holding ammunition nearing life expiry,” the report quoted the naval Board of Inquiry (BoI) findings. The submarine was disposed of in June 2017, its final resting point being 3,000 metres under the Arabian Sea.

One may conclude that the level of readiness of Indian armed forces in current regional dynamics may not exactly raise confidence of policy makers in New Delhi.

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