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Budget 2019: Defence allocation too small

File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Delhi, India Feb 07, 2019, 11.47 AM (IST) Written By: V P Malik

Last week, the government announced its Interim Budget for 2019-20. Defence allocation was again a disappointment, particularly for those looking forward to covering up important deficiencies and introducing a degree of modernisation.

With a 3 per cent hike from the last Defence Budget, the current allocation will cover inflation, but very little beyond that.

In all civilisations, wise generations and statesmen have been keenly aware of the values of peace and war. Peace connotes development, progress and lives led in comfort and tranquillity. War denotes death, destruction and poor development.

Greek historian Herodotus noted in 484 BC: “No one is so foolish as to choose war over peace. In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.” War and peace have been part of all civilisations; two sides of the same coin.

Most of us believe that in the mythological Sat Yug, our people lived a great life, peaceful, free from toil and grief. But they forget that even Sat Yug was not entirely peaceful. There was violence between Devalok and Asurlok. In fact, none of our mythological Yugs was peaceful. In Treta Yug, there was war between Ram and Ravan. In Dwapar Yug, the Pandavs fought with Kauravs.

On war and peace, there is another classical quote, ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’ (Latin writer Flavious Vegetius). It means “If you want peace, prepare for war”.

This phrase is used to affirm that the effective means for ensuring peace for a people is always to be armed and ready to defend oneself. Chinese words Shi ji convey the same idea.

The historical truth is that peace cannot be had free. It accrues only to those nations which are strong and prepared for war. Strong nations seldom listen to weak nations when their own national interests are at stake. They indulge in coercive diplomacy backed by threats of war.

Hoping for peace can only be wishful thinking if a nation is not strong to deter/dissuade its foes.

Vegetius’ quote is also interpreted to mean that the time to prepare for war is not when the war is imminent, but when times are peaceful. A strong peacetime army would signal to would-be attackers that the battle may not be worth it.

To set the foundations on which to erect the outline of a general theory of war, Vice-Admiral JC Wylie (US Navy) had worked on several basic assumptions. One such assumption described by Wylie in his papers ‘Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power’ is “Despite whatever effort there may be to prevent it, there may be a war.”

Military history tells us that nations who neglect this historical determinism make themselves vulnerable to military surprise, defeat, and ignominy.

This assumption is a reminder to strategists to visualise security threats and to remain prepared for any eventuality. To those who may find this assumption irritable or doubtful, I would remind them of the Kargil War which broke out within two months of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan signing the Lahore Declaration.

Another basic assumption for war planning, as mentioned by Wylie, was “We cannot predict with certainty the pattern of war for which we prepare ourselves.” It has seldom been possible to forecast the time, place, scope, intensity and the general tenor of a war.

India, since Independence, has never prepared itself adequately for wars. Only in 1971, did we manage to get time and prepare ourselves because Sam Manekshaw insisted on delaying the conflict and the circumstances were favourable.

In all other wars, our adversaries took the initiative because they considered us to be politically and militarily inadequately prepared.

Erosion of credible conventional deterrence often makes them audacious and challenge us. Before the Kargil war, Pakistan had perceived that due to prolonged involvement in anti-terrorist and anti-insurgency operations in Punjab, J&K and North East India, our army was not in any shape to fight. Its weapons and equipment were obsolete, as no modernisation had taken place for more than a decade.

While addressing troops of the Pakistan Army on October 29, 1998, Musharraf had said, “Don’t be carried away by the rhetoric of the Indians, whose armed forces are totally exhausted and whose morale is at its lowest.” In March 1999, the intelligence adviser to Nawaz Sharif, Lt Gen Javed Nasir, wrote that “Indian Army was incapable of undertaking any conventional operation.”

Some of us want peace desperately. We refuse to learn from history and happenings on the ground. We get thrilled whenever a friendly statement is made by a Pakistani or a Chinese leader. That may be soothing. But to be intoxicated by over-optimism and neglect our defence preparedness would be naïve and dangerous.

To deter or dissuade potential challengers, our armed forces require strengthening of capabilities with a certain amount of specialisation.

There is an acute shortage of fighter aircraft in the Indian Air Force and submarines in the Indian Navy. The Indian Army needs to replace its basic weapons for infantry.

Keeping in view the nature of conflicts in the foreseeable future, we need to raise more special forces, upgrade command, control, communications, computers, information, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber and space war capabilities.

We also require better defence infrastructure along our northern borders. The next war, if we are forced to fight, will be quite different from any war that we have fought so far.

For peaceful development, security awareness, sagacity and rationality are needed in our political discourse to allow required build-up of military capability. India must aim for the cheaper, preparedness option. The other, more expensive option, is unthinkable.

(This article was originally published on The DNA. Read the original article)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)

V P Malik

The author is former Army Chief

Story highlights

The historical truth is that peace cannot be had free. It accrues only to those nations which are strong and prepared for war.