Nau Saal Bemisaal Modi Government modernised, strengthened Indian Armed Forces

Brig Anil Gupta
When the UPA 2 government was voted out of power in 2014, it had left the Indian Armed Forces in a state of “Hollowness”. The Armed Forces’ capabilities were severely limited due to shortages, obsoletism, voids, aging equipment, critical deficiencies, archaic procedure and processes aggravated by a recalcitrant bureaucracy and policy paralysis. The things had reached such a stage that the then Chief of the Army Staff Gen VK Singh had to write a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to “pass suitable directions to enhance the Army’s preparedness”. Leave alone the much- needed modernization of the armed forces, the forces were facing shortage and deficiencies of spare parts and equipment to remain operationally fit and prepared to meet the threat posed by our twin hostile neighbours coupled with the cross – border terror and hybrid war. In nutshell, what to talk of augmenting the combat capability of our armed forces, they in fact were struggling to even maintain their existing capability. Year after year, the then defence minister kept postponing the critical acquisitions needed by the defence forces.
Then came the Modi government that believed in Nation First and the national security to be paramount. The new government without wasting much time set about the task of stemming the rot and give the much-needed boost. Modi government was also faced with the additional challenge of rapid and extensive buildup of border infrastructure by the PLA and its strong relationship with ours another adversary Pakistan.
Under the Modi government, several initiatives were undertaken to strengthen the Indian Armed Forces. These initiatives aimed to modernize the armed forces, improve their operational capabilities, and address various challenges and requirements. Some key steps taken included; increased defence budget, revision and amendment of defence procurement procedure to expedite procurements, fast-tracking the acquisition of critical defence equipment, including fighter jets, submarines, artillery, helicopters both combat and logistics, and surveillance systems, night fighting equipment enabling the forces to operate effectively by day as well as night and during adverse weather conditions, delegation of financial powers to armed forces to enhance operational readiness and improve infrastructure.
In addition, the Make in India campaign aimed to promote indigenous defence manufacturing and reduce dependence on foreign imports was launched by the government. The government encouraged domestic production of defence equipment, which would not only enhance self-sufficiency but also create job opportunities and boost the economy. Emphasis was also placed on research and development in defence technology. Collaboration with the private sector, academia, and research institutions was encouraged to foster innovation, develop cutting-edge technologies, and strengthen India’s defence capabilities. Modi government’s push for Aatmanirbharta is based on twin objectives of Development and National Security. The government believes that the both go hand-in-hand. The government also laid unparalleled thrust on the development of border infrastructure. This decision of the government was diametrically opposite to its predecessor governments. In 2013, the then Defence Minister told the House that “independent India had a policy for many years that best defence is not to develop the border. Undeveloped border is safer than the developed border. This was despite his acknowledgement in the same breath that “China on the other had improved it’s infrastructure on the border.” The reversal in the policy by Modi sarkar proved a boon for the nation and prevented another 1962 like debacle when China unilaterally threw to wind all agreements and protocols and carried out multi-pronged transgressions across LAC in Eastern Ladakh in 2020 . The positive effect of the same was seen during the border clash with the Chinese when the Indian Army and Airforce deployed rapidly to counter the PLA in Eastern Ladakh including the Galwan stand-off where the PLA troops were given a bloody nose by the brave Indian soldiers. The thrust on border infrastructure development continues.
Modi government also sent a strong signal to the global community of the growing professionalism and might of the Indian Armed Forces and its zero-tolerance policy towards jihadi terrorism by launching two successful cross-LOC operations namely the surgical strikes and the Balakote air strikes. These actions also sent a strong signal that with change of leadership, India can no longer be perceived as a soft state. The free hand given to the Army deployed on the LOC and the BSF to retaliate effectively and strongly to the unprovoked cross border firings, led to Pakistan ultimately seeking for a cease fire. The agreement is holding good till date.
In order to keep pace with cutting edge technologies, Modi Sarkar is investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence (AI). The AI products are being developed in various domains such as Autonomous/Unmanned Robotics systems, Block Chain-based automation, Command, control, communications, computers and Intelligence systems; Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Cyber Security, Human Behavior Analysis, Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems, Supply Chain Management, Data Analysis and Monitoring systems.
The nuclear triad for strategic deterrence has been strengthened and consolidated. The government is now concentrating on producing both short- and long-range missiles for non-nuclear strikes and to counter the Chinese PLARF. The Integrated Rocket Force (IRF) boasts of short to medium range Pralay missiles, Long Range Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LR-LACMs), Submarine-Launched Cruise Missiles (SLCM), Brahmos Supersonic Cruise Missiles, Pinaka multi-launch rocket systems and few other stand-off weapons in its inventory.
Some of the path-breaking and long pending decisions taken to empower the armed forces and build a youthful and tech-savvy military to meet the future challenge are; Creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creation of a separate Department of Military Affairs in the MOD; indigenization of the armed forces, theatrisation, defence export, permanent commission for women officers, induction of women officers in combat arms, opening Sainik Schools and NDA to girl cadets and Agnipath.
The might of the Armed Forces has been strengthened by induction of multi-role Rafael, aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, Light Combat Helicopter Prachand, Tejas fighter aircraft, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), warships INS Surat and Udaygiri, stealth guided missile destroyer Mormugao, Swarm Drones, Dhanush Gun System, K-9 Vajra-T Gun system, S-400 anti-missile system, Arjun Tank Mk-1A, Spice smart bombs, High Altitude UAVs, Drones for sea-surveillance. In addition, the government has also signed multiple deals worth Rs. 37,000 crore for the armed forces to give boost to PM Modi’s Aatmnirbhar Bharat mission. Also, in March 2023, the Defence Acquisition Council cleared acquisition proposals amounting to over 70,000 crore for the Indian Armed Forces and the Coast Guard.
In the quest towards indigenization of battlefield capability, the IAF has been equipped with state-of-the-art indigenous Loitering Munitions (LM) ALS-50, a new generation of hybrid UAVs. LMs fall somewhere between the cruise missiles and UAVs. It will enhance the multi-domain lethality of the Armed Forces. Though it’s a munition, it has the capability of maneuverability/controllability like a missile/UAV. It can avoid enemy’s short-range air defence weapons and covertly loiter in the battlefield seeking targets for destruction and convert into a “kamikaze” drone to destroy an unsuspecting target, switch targets or abort the mission for re-use. It is a force-multiplier in the real sense. Soon to be inducted Zorawar light tank is another indigenous marvel. It will provide Indian Army the capability to operate in varied terrain including riverine and extreme high altitude.
While the Modi Sarkar has laid focus on increasing domestic defence manufacturing, increased participation of private sector, it has also given boost to defence exports. The value of defence production in FY 2022-23 crossed the figure of 1 lakh crore, accounting for a rise of 12% over FY 2021-22. It is ever increasing making the armed forces self-reliant to a great extent. In the 9 years of Modi Sarkar there has been 200% increase in the number of defence licences issued to the private industry. “Self-Reliance is actually another form of our confidence and strength,” as per the Defence Minister. PM Modi envisions that “confidence and pride of our defence forces will swell high when they have indigenous equipment.”
In next five years, India also desires to become the leading net exporter of arms. India’s defence exports have risen 23 times since 2014, surging from 686 crore in 2013-14 to 16,000 crore in 2022-23. The expenditure on defence procurement from foreign sources has reduced from 46% of overall expenditure in 2018-19 to over 36% in December 2022, a net decrease of 10%. From a leading importer of arms, India today can boast to be among top 25 exporters of arms, a marvelous achievement of Modi Sarkar.
To sum up, in 9 years of path-breaking reforms and initiatives, Modi Sarkar has developed India into a strong and confident nation and the defence forces into a modern, tech-savvy, strong combat force.
(The author is a Jammu based veteran, security and strategic analyst)