Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Sep 2017 11:43:59

THE decision of the Government to undertake major reforms in the Indian Army, though long overdue, is welcome. The decision is significant because reforms on a massive scale are being undertaken for the first time after Independence. With a total strength of over 12 lakh personnel, Indian Army is rated among the world’s biggest Armed Forces.

In order to enhance its combat capability and better utilisation of resources, it had become essential to cut flab to make it a lean and mean fighting machine. Successive Governments, however, did not pay attention to undertaking reforms in the Army even as security scenario in the region kept changing. Some of the units started during the British Raj continued to operate, though they were of not much help to the defence establishment. Hiving off such units as proposed in the reforms, is a prudent decision.

The Government deserves kudos for taking a speedy decision on the recommendations submitted by the Lt Gen (retd) D. B. Shekatkar committee. The panel was appointed in May last year. The report was submitted in December. Within eight months, the Government took the decision to accept 65 of the 99 recommendations made and set the deadline of December 31, 2019, to carry out the reforms. This is a welcome departure from the past.

Because, the past experience had been that the panel would take years with extended deadlines to submit a report. And then the Government would take its own sweet time to accept or reject the recommendations. The alacrity shown by the Government in accepting most of the recommendations is, therefore, praiseworthy. Though the reforms were in the pipeline and had nothing to do with the recent stand-off with China on Doka La issue, as stressed by Defence Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley, the timing of the decision can’t be missed altogether.

Earlier, defence planning was done mostly keeping in view security threat from Pakistan alone and not China also. Lack of all-weather road, rail network and other infrastructure facilities in States sharing border with China is a testimony to this. However, China has embarked upon encircling India by building naval bases in Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, besides building roads and laying rail lines in Tibet and Pakistan occupied Kashmir. India, therefore, has no option but to enhance its capability to meet the new challenges. The situation in Afghanistan is also in a flux.

Besides, as India’s economic and military stature grows, it will have to share greater global responsibilities in the future rather than just responding to the UN call of sending troops on peace keeping missions. Restructuring of the Armed Forces, therefore, was badly needed. Application of prudent management practices are vital for the defence forces also, which have requirements on a massive scale because of its sheer size and the Budget. Every penny saved by making judicious use of resources would naturally make a huge difference.

Therefore, having own animal farms, separate postal and signals departments at a time when latest technology is easily available makes no sense. Men and material engaged in running these departments can be easily redeployed where they are needed the most. Thankfully, the reforms would now take care of these aspects.

The Make in India campaign of the Government in defence sector is paying rich dividends to the domestic industry with global arms manufacturing companies agreeing to transfer technology and set up units here. Undertaking major reforms in the Army as a next step would also go a long way in improving the efficiency of the Armed Forces.