Indian officers and officials expressed concerns before an Indian parliamentary committee on defence, service chiefs revealed dire shortfalls in equipment and investment.
According to an article that appeared in the Asia section of the print edition of ‘The Economist’:
“Judging from the three services’ own testimony, the airing of such grievances is long overdue. MPs were told that some 68% of the army’s equipment, much of which was first supplied by the Soviet Union, such as BMP-2 personnel carriers and Shilka anti-aircraft guns, may be described as “vintage”. Only 8% could be considered state-of-the-art. “To be prepared for…a two-front war, the huge deficiencies and obsolescence of weapons, stores and ammunition existing in the Indian army do not augur well,” said the army’s report.
In its own commentary the committee noted, by way of example, that despite its having repeatedly raised the matter for a decade, the army had still failed to provide soldiers with adequate body armour. The other services are no better: antiquated MiG-21 fighter jets still patrol the skies and the navy’s shipbuilding programme is a decade behind schedule.”
Contemporary criticism of the Indian military has drawn attention to several issues, such as lack of political reform, obsolete equipment, lack of adequate ammunition and inadequate research and development due to over-reliance on foreign imports.
In addition, the lack of a ‘strategic culture’ among the political class in India is claimed by some to have hindered the effectiveness of the Indian military. Critics believe these issues hobble the progress and modernisation of the military.
Recently, a hatch left open on the INS Arihant lead to saltwater flooding the propulsion area, rendering the $2.9 billion submarine inoperative.
The incident was first reported by The Hindu. According to an Indian Navy source, a hatch was left open allowing seawater to rush in. The Arihant issue rose soon after INS Chakra, the Nerpa class nuclear submarine leased from Russia, was reported to have suffered damage to its sonar domes while entering the Visakhapatnam harbour in early October.
INS Arihant is to be the first of the expected five in the class of submarines designed and constructed as a part of the Indian Navy’s secretive Advanced Technology Vessel project. The Arihant class submarines are reported to be based on the Akula class submarine.
India has an ambitious plan to build a SSBN fleet, comprising five Arihant class vessels.
INS Arihant was introduced to the public in 2009 at a symbolic launch ceremony. The launch coincided with the 10th anniversary of the conclusion of the Kargil War and consisted of floating the vessel by flooding the dry dock. Defence Professionals Daily claimed Arihant was launched without key systems including its nuclear reactor, surveillance equipment, and ordnance.
Prime Minister Singh billed the submarine as an outcome of a public-private partnership. He also thanked Russia in his address, stating, “I would also like to express our appreciation to our Russian friends for their consistent and invaluable cooperation, which symbolises the close strategic partnership that we enjoy with Russia.”