India's $250-Billion Military Upgrade Plan Is Sputtering Says Foreign Media

India

 

New Delhi: India wants to transition from an importer of weapons systems to an exporter, Ajay Kumar, the government's secretary of defense production, said at a recent panel discussion. And also Delhi hopes to export made-in-India military technology, including its BrahMos missiles, to smaller countries in Asia that fear China's rise. India will have another chance to show off at the Singapore air show starting February 6, where BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between India and Russia, will exhibit for the first time.

But away from the pageantry of parades and sales pitches, experts suggest India's $250-billion military modernization program is sputtering. That's becoming more important as the U.S. pressures Delhi to tackle a larger role policing the Indo-Pacific, from the Indian Ocean to the waters off Southeast and East Asia.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held steady against geopolitical rivals, including with China in the face-off at Doklam last year, his administration hasn't fixed a broken defense procurement system in the world's largest arms importer. That prevents it from equipping its own armed forces, let alone those in friendly nations.

"The structures that are dysfunctional, that have stopped the military from making smart choices, are still there," said Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has advised U.S. ambassadors to India. "It's not the way to run a military of a major power. It has to be among the worst procurement processes of any major power."

By contrast, China's military modernization has advanced considerably. Over the past two years, President Xi Jinping has overseen the most sweeping changes to China's military since the 1950s in an effort to create a fighting force that can win modern wars. It's also now the world's third-largest arms exporter, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

A spokesman for PM Modi didn't respond to calls or texts for comment on India's defense procurement.

Experts suggest India could resolve some issues by appointing a single person in charge of the armed forces, or outline priorities in a national security doctrine.

They can't tell you about strategy," he said. "The army, navy and air force are well trained, but their organization is obsolete and their equipment is obsolete."

After three decades spent developing its own fighter, India put out a tender for 126 warplanes, which morphed into an order for 36 Rafale aircraft from Dassault Aviation SA that will start arriving in 2019.

 

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