India, sandwiched between two hostile neighbours, must maintain a high level of defense preparedness at all times. In a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan and China, the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Defence has suggested that the Army's capital budget be increased in order to strengthen its ability to counter threats from across the borders from both sides. Good amount of funding is one of the requirements for ensuring that projects related to defence modernization and indigenisation do not stall. Priority must also be given to the most efficient, time-bound use of these funds.
In its latest report, tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the PSC on Defence identified a slew of challenges they observed confronting India's armed forces. The panel has expressed concern about Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's ‘considerable delay' in delivering 40 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). Appreciating the urgency with alacrity, it has advised the government to consider purchasing cutting-edge fifth-generation fighter aircraft ‘over the counter without wasting time.'
The Tejas LCA, an all-weather, multi-role fighter aircraft capable of providing offensive air support, close combat, and ground attacks, is critical to the country's military readiness. Earlier, another parliamentary panel noted two years ago that a lack of coordination among stakeholders, as well as a casual approach by monitoring agencies to enforcing timelines, had caused delays in the Tejas program's implementation. It is inexcusable that issues concerning the design, systems, and weapons of the premier fighter jet have yet to be resolved which needs to be expedited urgently.
The geography of India is an important layer in its conflict landscape. The internal physical terrain contains resources that can be harvested for development, advancement, and security. Because all necessary resources are not available within India's geographical boundaries, trade – involving the exchange and movement of goods, services, and people – becomes a permanent requirement for development and security.
Another source of concern is the sizable import bill. The parliamentary panel has directed the Ministry of Defence to devise strategies for not only reducing imports but also promoting indigenous products for export. Incentives for indigenization can help reduce the military's reliance on foreign sources. The key here is to deliver aircraft, weapons, and other equipment on time. Indian vendors should be preferred if they can perform the necessary tasks. The emphasis in 21st-century warfare is on staying ahead of the game in terms of cutting-edge technology and ready-to-use weaponry. India must remember that laggards will always be losers in any armed conflict.