Delays, Corruption Mar Indiaâ€™s Weapons Procurement.
Indiaâ€™s armed forces are woefully short of arms and ammunition, thanks to a cumbersome and unrealistic weapons-buying process, experts say.
The Indian Army is the worldâ€™s biggest arms importer and third-largest by manpower, with 1.3 million men in uniform. While self-reliance has been Indiaâ€™s long stated goal for defense purchases, the country still imports about 70 percent of its weapons and domestic production facilities are still very basic.
Government officials say Indiaâ€™s weaponâ€™s procurement system is marred by bureaucratic delays, corruption and poor long-term planning. In a recent report, Indiaâ€™s comptroller and auditor general found that the army had failed to decide on what features it wanted in its artillery for four years. In another report from 2007, the auditor found that the army had created a set of unrealistic and inconsistent requirements that could not be met by the technology available at the time.
Last month, none other than the chief of Indian army, Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh, decried the shortage of arms and ammunition in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The letter, which was leaked to the Indian newspaper DNA, said that the army did not have sufficient ammunition for its tanks; that 97 percent of the countryâ€™s air defense systems were obsolete; and that the infantry was riddled with deficiencies including an inability to fight at night. The letter also said that special forces were woefully short of essential weapons and there were gaping holes in the armyâ€™s ability to conduct surveillance. General Singh blamed the countryâ€™s complex defense procurement system for the problems.
But there is plenty of blame to go around. â€œI am of the opinion that the army is also responsible for this situation,â€ said Laxman Kumar Behera, a researcher with the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis, a research organization funded by Indiaâ€™s Defense Ministry.
In a recent interview Mr. Behera highlighted the case of 155-millimeter ammunition that was supposed to be produced at an Indian facility. The project was delayed by more than a decade because the Ministry of Defense banned the two international firms that were supposed to provide equipment and technology for the project, Denel of South Africa and later the Israel Military Industries, from supplying arms to India because of allegations of bribery.
â€œSuspending procurement cases pending the investigation, or blacklisting of firms, does more harm to the countryâ€™s defense preparedness than the economic woes it inflicts upon the concerned firmsâ€ Mr. Behera said.
He estimates that during the past decade, the Indian armed forces have surrendered about $5.5 billion allocated to it by the government because it did not or could not spend the money.
Another report, by IHS Janeâ€™s, also blamed bureaucracy and corruption for the situation. â€œAllegations of corruption have long been endemic in India and have derailed many defense programs in the past,â€ the report said.
â€œFor potential defense exporters to India there are still a number of challenges,â€ Guy Anderson, chief analyst for IHS Janeâ€™s Defense Industry and editor of the report said in a statement. â€œThere are concerns about economy, the notorious project delays and almost habitual cancellations-not to mention the corruption.â€
Indiaâ€™s defense minister, A. K. Antony, held a meeting, earlier this week, with General Singh and top bureaucrats to speed up the acquisition process. He asked officials to examine if they could shorten the time for field trials and delegate more financial authority to service headquarters, according to a statement from the ministry.