An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 25 December 2001

From the Defence point of view the year 2001 was one of turbulence but there were no major military upheavals in India except the Government’s entering 2002 with threats of going to war. IDC are convinced that most of it is emotional rhetoric which needs to be controlled lest it should turn into real war if some one goofs up. But  then except in 1971 when FM Manekshaw cautioned Indira Gandhi and then went to war secretly, there have never been thought out decisions of war in India and this has been highlighted several times in the past. Ranjit Rai's book “Indians Why We are What we Are” cites many instances especially in chapters on Wars India has fought, Sri Lanka Foray 1987 and the Gung Ho Chiefs who almost took India  to war in 1988 in Brass Tacks. 

Kargil was a delayed action war, which India fought with sheer bravery and the politicians wanted early victory at any cost of lives as a political necessity because India is conventionally superior to Pakistan. Talk of war is now on the PM,  RM and EAM's lips and the Finance Minister has stated it will not affect the economy too much. Hope he is right though IDC could argue otherwise. Tourists are already cancelling visits, exports are down, rupee and stock markets are hit and may be we want to squeeze Pakistan, but then we will be squeezed too. And we do not want USA to help or talk to Musharraf.

Hence on New Year’s Eve, IDC are convinced that if the Chief of the Army Staff Gen S Padmanabhan who is now the Chairman Chiefs of Staff and de facto CDS and a responsible thinker is consulted, he will tell the the leaders who matter in the Government i.e.  the PM, RM, FM  and NSA, that should the Army be ordered to hit terrorist bases in POK by land -- then he will have to wage war in POK and grab territory to succeed. Pakistan may well retaliate and grab a chunk of India and the world powers will definitely react with restraining voices and the Army will have to go into Pakistan to be in the  bargaining position. The Navy can  blockade Pakistan but 60 coalition  ships are off the Makran coast and will not allow it easily. No wonder every one including India’s best friend Russia’s Putin is cautioning India, but the UP elections need a boost so the rhetoric is normal in India. Troops are moving and nobody is noting the cost to the nation. The Navy Chief on retiring did say the Navy is in advanced positions and ready if asked to go to war.

Hence except for the above, 2001 could be called the year of consolidation for the Navy, Air Force and the Army in that order after going nuclear in 1998 and the Kargil war in 1999 that took the Army by surprise. The politico-military situation with Pakistan over Kashmir remained tense keeping the Army engaged along with the Para Military and Police forces in fighting terrorists, with losses of over two thousand civilian and uniformed lives. An average of two uniformed personnel  including some officers die every day and life seems to have become cheap. Even an IAF base and the Assembly were attacked in Kashmir and the Parliament was attacked in Delhi by Pakistani terrorists. Despite the September 11 terrorist attacks in USA there was little let up by Pakistan who have kept cross-border terrorism alive under the guise of Freedom Fighters. 

The annual Defence budget was enhanced to over $13 billion and the long term procurement programme, especially from Russia took swift steps forward with USA, Japan and Germany suddenly lifting the sanctions placed on India in October 1998. The South Asian equations have altered after the 11 September attacks. India’s orders on Russia for defence equipment crossed $ 5 billion and are underpinned by confidential written and verbal understandings of strategic cooperation between India and Russia and include supply of a Nuclear submarine and SU 30s. The Phalcon AWACS system from Israel has also been cleared by USA for fitment in a Russian IL-8. These are big steps of consolidation. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) India’s oil major has invested $1.5 billion in the Sakhalin 1 oil fields in some quid pro quo agreements with Rosenfelt while two large nuclear power plants are also to be set up by Russia in Southern India. Russia also shipped nuclear fuel to the Tarapur nuclear plant near Mumbai despite US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld’s objections. India’s nuclear dilemma deserves appreciation as the war cry is in the air.

 Looking back it is the same BJP Government in power that successfully steered India into the exclusive nuclear club uninvited soon after taking over in May 1998 but without undertaking homework or study of how it would operationalise this newly acquired power. The leaders lacked strategic experience of application of nuclear weaponry and that position remains unchanged. IDC have done some reviews of Ashley Tellis, George Perkowitch, Sanjay Bahaduri and Chengappa’s  books to substantiate along with K Subrahmanyan’s writings who are the best researchers on the subject.  The Armed Forces were not consulted and therefore it took time for realization to set in, that massive changes would be essential in the basic structure of the Armed Forces as left behind by the British.  

Reeling under the heat of internal debate, the Government was caught on the back foot by Pakistan’s aggressiveness in the form of Kargil war.  The conventional Army was found fighting a war without the available force multipliers of technology like infrared devices, weapon locating radars, EW equipment, satellite photography and modern small arms.  Thermal imaging devices, grenade launchers, ammunition, rifles and 180 ELTA EL/M2140  battlefield Surveillance Radars worth 100 million dollars have had to be acquired since. The RM told the Parliament that 129 contracts were hastily signed and as an example Israel supplied 26,000 rounds of T 72 Ammunition worth $30 million. Then Tehelka and the US$2500 per coffin case have revealed that many haphazard purchases followed. 

Losses of lives were heavy and committees were set up under Defence and Home Ministries to recommend changes in the Armed Forces and Intelligence set ups. The changes now under implementation are mainly in the higher control of defence, procurement procedures, creation of a separate strategic force and revamping of the intelligence and paramilitary set up.  However, their pace has been slow and turf battles between Services and bureaucrats’ interests have not been absent. All we have is the skeleton apparatus and the Services are thrilled as many promotions have taken place. IDC will follow the restructuring and continue to report further happenings.

Higher Defence Management and Procurement

 A National Security Council and a National Security Advisory Board were set up in 1998 but the working of the former serviced by the erstwhile Joint Intelligence Committee was ad hoc and the NSAB had  lapsed and has been recently reconstituted under a former Ambassador. Only the template for a CDS, a VCDS and three DCDS has just moved in. A three star General, Lt Gen PS Joshi was appointed in October as the interim Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (CIDS) and IDC presume he will become the VCDS.  

The proposed four star CDS when appointed will be equal but just above the other three Chiefs and  become the permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He will be the single point Adviser to the Government and have administrative control of the strategic and nuclear forces as well as the newly formed India’s first tri-service Command in Andaman and Nicobar Islands at Port Blair.  

A Special Secretary has been appointed for procurement in the MOD and three-tier political and professional committees announced for joint selection, negotiation and   induction of equipment for the three Armed Forces  which was previously being handled individually by the Services and controlled by the Joint Secretary of each Service.  It is hoped that  lobbying and corruption will reduce and greater harmonization between the Services will be achieved as the term 'jointness' has entered Indian Armed Forces' thinking.  

The Government has also stated via media and has legalised and reintroduced the system of  Defence Agents after a thirteen-year ban. However IDC has not been able to get hold of any notification on the Foreign Direct Investment in Defence which is anxiously awaited from the Commerce and Industry Ministries. However the rush to appoint agents has begun. IDC learnt the applicants would be permitted to take commissions in Indian rupees and the figures will have to be spelt out in the contracts and they will be required to disclose all details of their bank accounts and assets and be cleared by the MOD, Tax authorities and Intelligence Agencies.

The purse strings of the Government are open wide and there is anticipation that the $1.3 billion deal for the 66 Advanced Jet Trainers, the 4 TU 22M Bombers under the pretext of Maritime Recce offered to the Navy and the large 40,000 ton Carrier Gorshkov with MIG 29Ks with N 10 Radar, will be signed soon as the home work is well advanced.

 Air Force. 50 SU MkI 30 aircraft were ordered from IAPO and two squadrons have been supplied and based at Pune. The delivery of the rest and the upgrading of the already supplied lot have been speeded up and 140 will by manufactured by HAL in India. This is the largest single deal signed and will cost the nation over $2.5 billion. Russia and India will also design a fifth generation fighter and transport planes jointly. The IAF is also finalizing IL-76 mid air refuellers and the IL- 8 AEW platform with the Israeli Phalcon AEW with Ku band side scanning radars, which now has US clearance as it has Lockheed inputs.

 Navy.   Three Krivack III-class, Project 1135, 6 guided missile frigates –– INS Talwar, Trishul and Tabar worth $600 million have progressed at St Petersburg and the keel for the Type 17A designed by the Naval Design Bureau on similar lines at Mazagon Docks has been laid. The third Krivack was launched in the presence of the Defence Secretary Yogendra Narain end May 2001 but the Russian demands for training costs were high and have been resolved recently, as it will involve testing the missiles with targets. These ships will have some Indian equipment and Wartsila diesel generators from Finland and the new Russian A-190 quick firing 100 mm gun and the Kashtan air defence system and vertical launched Klubs. The model was displayed by the Navy on Navy Day. Up to 200 Novator 3M54E Klub missiles are being supplied for two of the three Kilo class submarines being refitted in Russia and the future needs for the Type 17A and the three follow on improved stealth Delhi class ordered on Mazagoan docks. 4 Kamov Ka-31, air borne early warning helicopters worth $28 million, and six Ka-28 ASW helicopters worth $18 million are planned for early delivery and 6 Plus 1 Barak vertical launched SAM systems have been supplied by IAI and Rafael of Israel.  LOI for an air defence ship whose model testing is complete has been placed on Cochin Shipyard and Indian DRDO and NPO Mach will coproduce the Brahmos missile even for exports.

 Army: The Indian team completed inspection of T-90 MBTs with the Reflecks anti-tank missile and B 31 diesel engine worth $650 million at Nizhny Tagil. The supply for the first 120 has commenced and local production for the balance 190 has been finalized from  Uralgradwagon Zavod at the Avadi tank factory.

  • MRBLs. –– Unspecified batteries of BM 9A52 Smerch 300 mm multiple-barrel rocket launchers, which can land saturation fire up to 90 km to augment the GRAD M that were used with great effect in the Kargil war are in the pipeline. The DRDO’s 12-barreled Pinaka is under trials and is still low powered and slow in deployment.

  • Howitzers –– Up to 200 Bofors-type FH-77B 155 mm towed howitzers of 52 cal or equivalent vehicle mounted from France or South Africa to add to the 310 units bought off-the-shelf in 1986 is being examined as the requirement has been accepted. Some 250 million dollars   are budgeted for the first lot and Soltam of Israel has up gunned the first lot of the Russian supplied M46 130 mm guns to 155mm/45 cal at 240,000 dollars each and provided the kits to the Ordnance Factory Board for the rest in India.  Search for Weapon Locating Radars seems to have succeeded with media reporting USA having cleared Raytheon to supply the ANTPQ/37/38.

  • 150 new landmine-resistant armoured vehicles worth $14 million to augment 90 second hand Cassipir trucks already imported from South Africa were discussed and BEML may supply these. In early November when the Defence Secretary Yogendra Narain visited Moscow with PM Vajpayee he discussed supply from Russia. Ordnance factory at Medak has supplied armoured vehicles to Jharkand and Hyderabad police and has versions ready for the Army at lower costs.

  •   Four Zoopark 2 counter-battery S 300 PMU1 low to high altitude systems with radars from Russia to be married with the Green Pine Radar from Israel and christened India’s National Missile Defence with Russia’s support has made progress. 200 frequency-hopping radios worth $7 million and co production at BEL Bangalore is in progress.

  • IAI Malat built Searcher Mk II Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been  deployed in Kashmir by the Army with their  ground control units worth $46.5 million from Israel.

  • 155 VY-72 B ARVs from ZTS Tees Martin of Slovakia for $ 723,000 each and 42 WZT-3 ARVs, built by Bumar –Labedy, from CENZIN of Poland for $723,000 each are being supplied. The State owned Bharat Earth Movers Ltd would build another lot.

Ministry of Defence and Service Headquarters

The year 2001 was full of administrative challenges for MOD as the Tehelka expose of politicians and uniformed personnel receiving money from arms peddlers was broadcast on TV, in early 2001. It stunned the nation.  Defence Minister George Fernandes resigned on 15 March but was reinstated on October 15. The MOD was at a loss how to handle the media and appointed experts and attempted to get engaged in all aspects of Media and Information Warfare without success. A senior journalist G Verghese was taken on as consultant and toured the world including MOD UK and has tendered a report. A one star Army officer was appointed in the Ministry of External affairs soon after the 11 September attacks. Most procurements were perforce contracted from  Russia because of sanctions by USA, Japan and Germany which are all selectively lifted now. This saw MOD interacting closely with Russia’s Rosboronexport and signed many MOUs, which were monitored by the National Security Adviser Brajesh Misra for most of the acquisition programme. Israel became the second largest Defence supplier and visits were exchanged. Jaswant Singh handled the Defence portfolio in addition to External Affairs for six months and got his associate and former Minister of State Arun Singh to assist and write out the many changes, which are now to be implemented. He had to leave as soon as George Fernandes returned.

Indian Armed Forces Brief

The Indian Army with a budget of $7.4 billion under Gen S Padmanabhan who IDC feel is  tipped to be the CDS, was deeply engaged in getting the Prithvi SSM batteries into operational state and prepare to induct the Agni-II ICBMs and understand the nuclear training and delivery challenges of the future. Seminars were held behind closed doors with scientists from BARC, DRDO and the Atomic Energy Commissions and the findings were  presented at the Commanders Conference. The duration of field postings for units in the forward areas were enhanced but there are man power shortages in the Army especially in the officer cadre -- a challenge the Army has to face and reorganize, besides bearing the brunt of terrorism as it enters the nuclear realm. The Navy successfully licked the stabilization problems of the Prithvi and Dhanush at sea and the 150 mile advanced Prithvi was fired successfully with a homing head.

The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sushil Kumar handed over on 29th to Admiral (Designate) Madhavendra Singh -- the UK and USA trained Vice Chief with prophetic words at an impressive ceremony in Delhi. He said it was a cold foggy morning but the vision of the Navy was clear and bright. A most professional officer in the Navy has taken over the reins. During the year the Navy conducted the International Fleet Review with élan, commissioned INS Mumbai (D63), INS Kirch  (P62) and Kulish (P63) the second and third Kora Class with 16 Kh 35 Uran SSMS, patrol craft Tarasa (T63) and Tilang Chang (T61) and survey ship INS Darshak leaving only the survey ship Sarveshak to be commissioned soon. The Navy with its $1.7 billion budget steered itself well and has consolidated its template for the next few years. The order book at the Naval Yards is full and another large LST (M) similar to INS Magar was ordered on Garden Reach Workshops. 

Naval aviation undertook challenges to keep the 100 aircraft strong force operational, as the aging IL 38s and TU 142 took on refurbishments in Russia and India. It suffered two fatal Sea Harrier and Ka-28 crashes off Goa but INS Viraat was made operational with no mishaps and is another record in naval aviation. There was a shortage of technical officers and short service commissions were resorted to. Ashore the Navy made progress with the permanent Naval Academy on the West coast at Ehzimala near Calicut and with the new Naval base, Seabird Phase 1, at Karwar near Goa . There were no VIP visits to India save the Chief of Myanmar Navy Vice Admiral Kyi Min in November to the training command in Cochin and the Western Fleet. 

The Navy was very active soon after Op Enduring Freedom and USA has offered exercises off the West coast and further cooperation in the Arabian Sea and sought the use of Indian facilities, which the Government is likely to consider. If accepted it will be a  boost for the Navy. The challenge before the Navy will be to induct the new ships and equipment including the nuclear class submarine and speed up the building of ships at yards as funds are not constrained, and conclude the Type 75 Scorpene submarine, Air Defence Ship and Gorshkov contracts. IDC feels the Navy has done well as it is technologically adept and there has been team work at the top.

IAF.  With a $3.3 billion budget IAF had a lack luster year and  consolidated its assets.  Their plans to  induct  66 AJT Advanced Jet Trainers did not bear fruit and the outgoing Chief regretted it. The negotiations with BAE came to a halt and IDC hear it still breathes. The IAF was also in the process of evaluating other offers from Brazil, Russia (MIG AT) and Italy .The IAF’s main challenge has been to bring down the high annual accident rate which has always exceeded 20 per year and is no different this year with the latest one on 26 Dec causing the death of Sqn Ldr  Madhukar Seth near Jodhpur.  

The Air Marshal La Fountaine and Dr Abdul Kalam Committees had offered solutions but the MIG 21 series especially the older versions have been in the lead with accidents.  In 2001,  till October there had been 9 MIG 21s, one each MIG 23, MIG27, MIG29, Jaguar, Kiran trainer and four helicopters crashes with over twelve fatalities. The plan to upgrade the 123 MIG 21 Bis has begun at HAL on the lines of the two upgraded models flown in from Russia. At the year end Air Chief Marshal (Designate) S Krishnaswamy will succeed ACM A Y Tipnis.


 The DRDO with a $700 million budget under Dr Atre a Canada trained Sonar Scientist who took over from India’s Missile Scientist Dr Abdul Kalam has again witnessed criticisms for delays in projects.  It is top heavy with armchair scientists and widely spread laboratories with responsibility for production also.  Most of its projects guzzled money but were yet to deliver. The Light Combat Aircraft flew the first set of trial sorties but progress has been slow, and the IAF is skeptical whether the fighter would be operational in this decade. The ATV nuclear submarine project’s hull modules design and the ship building facility at Vishakapatnam, where the 7700 ton boat will be assembled, moved ahead and it was reported that Russians have recently arrived to assist in commissioning the reactor that will be placed inside the boat.

The missile programme of DRDO saw the 3000 km ICBM AGNI II go in for series production at Bharat Dynamics and Prithvi SSMs were pressed into service.  However the SAM Trishul even after 55 flight trials could not be operationalised and would be obsolescent for the Navy at least, as the Israeli Barak, IAI / Rafael has been inducted.  DRDO continued good work in other minor fields including high altitude clothing and its Samyukta, Sangrha and Samvahak EW surveillance equipment, Tranquil radar warner and Tempest IAF sensors and Sarvadrishta system for satellite imagery made progress.  The Navy also received support for its series of sonars which are offshoots of the original APSOH and the Panchatandriya was fitted in INS Karanj for trials.  The bane of the DRDO has been the lack of coordination and control by the Services so essential for the coordination of a project.  

It was hoped the CDS would have some control to audit the DRDO but that is unlikely. In the Intelligence field ISRO launched the Technical Experimental satellite (TES) with a one meter resolution panchromatic camera and this should be of great support to the Armed Forces which has the DIPAC imagery facility for analysis.


IDCs’ conclusion is that the Armed Forces have done well under the turbulence in the MOD and the political parties but then the whole apparatus has to pull together. The challenges therefore before the Indian security makers is how to make three separate Armed Forces come together and into the decision making process as the September 11 events have led to USA supporting India’s arch enemy Pakistan to overwhelm the Taliban. USA wishes to come closer to India and that needs to be supported.  The Armed Forces have to implement the new CDS system in the New Year and carve out the Strategic Force with least upheaval while it remains alert on the borders and hope that it does not have to go to war unless the strategic objectives of the Government are made clear and the Armed Forces are convinced they are achievable.

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