An Interactive Discussion on “The Armed Forces of India in 21st Century” was held on 25th October, 2006 at 6.00 PM at Bangalore International Centre. Air Mshl. P K Dey, (Retd) led the Discussion.
Shri C G Somiah, IAS(Retd), Former Comptroller & Auditor General of India presided over the discussion.
Mr P R Dasgupta, Director of the Centre introduced Air Mshl. P K Dey and Shri C G Somiah.
Various retired officers from Navy, Army and Air force, and invitees participated in the Discussion apart from the members from the Bangalore International Centre. Invitees from several leading newspapers were also present.
Air Mshl Dey in his hour long lucid presentation talked about the situation of Armed Forces of India in 21st Century.
At the outset, he raised some basic issues:
How open can the Indian Defence Forces be?
What is the role of the Defence forces?
Is the huge amount of money spent on arming and equipping the armed forces well spent?
Is the process of procurement open, transparent and within the gamut of law?
Whether it was necessary for the country’s Defence Research Laboratories to try and re-invent the wheel?
Are the country’s defence forces equipped and ready for the 21st Century?
And, how justified is the establishment’s obsession with secrecy when it comes to matters of defence or past wars?
These and related topics were tackled with skill by a gathering that included a number of retired Defence personnel who had held key positions in the past. Lerading the discussion, P K Dey, said it was time the public at large had a better understanding of the armed forces.
Calling for a global nuclear disarmament, he said India’s decision to explode a nuclear device in 1998 cost the country dear negating in one move the country’s overwhelming military superiority over its neighbour. He cautioned that if the huge nuclear stockpiles with US and Russia fall into wrong hands, they could make 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy look insignificant.
Urging for a more cohesive Defence force not just notionally but practically as well, Air Marshal Dey advocated a system similar to that prevalent in the US where a Joint Chief of Staff or Chairman planned the military operations while the respective chiefs of Army, Air Force or Navy administrative heads. The armed forces could be efficient only when they are a joint cohesive force.
About controversies over Defence deals he wondered why the long-pending suggestion of appointing an Ombudsman for the Defence deals was yet to be implemented.
Calling for a larger involvement in understanding military studies and its implications, he said the think-tanks such as the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis and the Centre for Policy Research were wishy-washy balloons used to float ideas of the Government.
On the subject of indigenizing Defence equipment and the unhappiness in the armed forces over the “dismally late and short of performance” and research and development effort from the Defence laboratories, he cited the example of Airborne Warning And Control System.
He told that the country appointed a person with no aviation background to set up a centre to develop AWACS. Nothing came out of it, and now it has been decided to buy AWACS from America.
He stressed that the Army or Navy or Air force cannot win in isolation. Hence he deliberated on the role of Armed Forces of India as a whole. The responsibility of Armed Forces is to defend the Country from external threats. The threats can be of various types. Militant Threats, Economic Threats, Political Threats etc. There are threats from inside also in a country like ours where we are having different religions, cultures, languages etc. The role of Armed Forces in these areas are very sensitive. The Armed Forces have an important role during national calamities to save people and rescue them and the property.
Air Marshal Dey was very clear about the need to have transparency and proper accountability in defence expenditure in view of the huge amounts involved. He was also critical about the way nuclear proliferation was going on in different parts of the world without any regard to the holocause that might be caused due to a single misadventure.
Regarding secrecy to be maintained by Armed Forces, he informed that other than critical areas, there must be transparency in the dealings.
On the efficiency of our Armed Forces, he lauded that they are most efficient and they defend in all situations as a team without any differentiation of caste, creed or religion.
Summing up the discussion, the former Comptroller and Auditor General C G Somiah said geographic location of a country determined its security aspects and concerns. Given that we have six neighbours, it is important that we take a good look at our foreign policy to minimize external threats.
The presentation was followed by a lively discussion in which there was a general endorsement to the propositions suggested by Air Mshl. Dey. The meeting ended with a vote of thanks by the Director of BIC, Shri P R Dasgupta.