Monday, September 15, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Glaring flaws in defence planning

I was amused to read former Army Chief Gen V. P. Malik’s two-part article on Defence modernisation (Sept 8 and 9). He errs in first making a sweeping statement: “From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, in the absence of any worthwhile long-term assessment of threats and planning ...”, which implies that all the previous Chiefs of the three Services before him, Defence Ministers, Perspective Planning Directorates, the MoD, and the CCS were inefficient.

Secondly, while talking about the “daring intrusion" in Kargil in 1999 (it was not all that daring, but that we were caught napping on the border), he has opined that because of an adverse revenue-capital head ratio where modernisation is largely affected by the latter allocation, Pakistan took “chances” as the Indian national deterrence had lost its “credibility”.

Kargil took place when General Malik was the Army Chief. Kargil happened not so much because of the lack of defence modernisation, but because of the command inadequacies of General Malik's team of very senior Commanders, because of the faulty on-the-ground vigilance, and poor intelligence inputs from the Army and all the other intelligence agencies in the country which spend more time on hobnobbing with the politicians than doing their job properly.

General Malik may wish to educate the readers as to what he did during his tenure as the Army Chief, in effecting improvement in the capital head allocations, in the various modernisation and re-equipment schemes left over by his predecessors or initiated by himself. Did he really enhance the operational efficiency of the Army in “improve(ing)” the capital head allocation by “suppressing 50,000 personnel and tightening the belt on maintenance”? Such measures may make one popular with the government, but severely restrain the recruitment of personnel and the maintenance of the existing infrastructure of a field force.


The other issues that General Malik may wish to clarify are: One, how much funds under any head did he surrender during his stewardship as the Chief? Two, did he protest when he was forced to keep “bottom line” inventories? Three, why did he accept “annual incremental budgeting” which is detrimental to defence procurement, as he has himself accepted? Also, if “most of the weapons and equipment held by the Army are of first generation (obsolescent) vintage”, then what were his reasons to first accept and then stick to the position of Army Chief?

Did he ever even once expose the DRDO for not rising to the occasion all these years in the annual Senior Commanders’ meeting where the Prime Minister is present? He talks of setting up experts committees and studying Defence Plans. What did he do when he took over as the Chief and found the glaring deficiencies in equipment (let’s say in the Infantry only to which he belongs) before Kargil happened, and what after that when he was still in the chair?

Sadly, most of our Army Chiefs, including General Thimmaya, never stood up and brought the hard facts of their Service’s deficiencies to the Prime Minister’s notice. Many of our Defence Ministers have been a clueless lot (on defence matters), spending their time mostly on power brokering and perpetually “visiting the troops”.

— Maj-Gen Himmat Singh Gill (retd), Chandigarh

We should learn from Israel

The visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to India may herald a new era of cooperation between the two great nations, both victims of terrorism for a long time. Whereas Israel had always adopted a tough line, we have been quite restrained and circumspect. For sure, they would have handled the hijacking case that ended at Kandahar in a different way.

Terrorism these days appears to have familiar contours — official sponsorship and execution by highly indoctrinated people with underground overlap. Sophisticated arms, nationality of the terrorists and open support leave no doubt about the source of terrorism in our country. Possibly India, Israel and Russia can come together and prepare a joint action plan against the menace. But still everyone has to fight its own battle.

Secondly, Israel has made tremendous strides in defence research and is in a position to export sophisticated weapon systems. Perhaps, we can learn a lot by having an integrated approach. The user, research and production agencies must work in close cooperation seeing through major projects. The big hurdle in our progress is the typical protective culture which precludes any competition. India can make tremendous strides in the defence sector as it has done in the pharmaceutical sector. But even after opening up, the defence sector remains out of bounds for innocuous items.

— Air-Cmde Raghubir Singh (retd), Pune

Not in our interest

This refers to the editorial “Pharma pact by WTO” (Sept 4). The World Trade Organisation with 146 members has reached an agreement in Geneva on making inexpensive drugs available to poor countries for fighting deadly diseases. No doubt, it is the victory for the poor and underdeveloping countries against the powerful pharmaceutical companies of the world. While the latter spend most of the money on research and want high returns, India will not gain anything.

A recent World Health Organisation report informs that 35 per cent of spurious drugs in the world are produced in India. The yearly sales of such fake medicines are above Rs 4,000 crore which is one-fifth of the total amount from pharma business. Fake drugs are openly sold in the market. Even the licences are obtained from the Drug Controllers of the Health Ministry.

Even big companies give high profit (300 to 400 per cent!) to chemist shops. If the selling price of a drug is Rs.10 for the chemist, the minimum retail price is Rs 35 to 40. This has been detected by the Panchkula Health Department.

— M.L.Garg, Chandigarh

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