Building on the 75th year of Independence celebrated as 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav', the Republic Day parade depicted India's growing indigenous capabilities, Nari Shakti and emergence of a 'New India'.
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
The Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2023 was a spectacular event as always; this beingan occasion to cherish and celebrate the founding of the Republic of India by showcasing the country’s military might, rich culture and economic progress of the country. The accent was on demonstrating ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Nari Shakti’.
Aside from the marching contingents drawn from the various Regiments, the Indian Army demonstrated the Main Battle Tank (MBT) ‘Arjun’, Nag missile system (NAMIS), Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) of BMP-2 ‘Sarath’, quick reaction fighting vehicle, K-9 Vajra-tracked self-propelled howitzer gun, BrahMos missile, 10m short-span bridge, mobile microwave node, mobile network centre and ‘Akash’ missile system. The Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) of the Army Aviation Corps conducted a fly past.
Marching contingent participation was by all the three Services, as also the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and the police. The Navy showcased the women aircrew of Dornier aircraft, a model of the new indigenous ‘Nilgiri’ class ship with a ‘Dhruv’ helicopter deploying marine commandos, Kalvari class submarines and models of autonomous unmanned systems (UAS) being indigenously-developed under iDEX-Sprint Challenge.
If the best of fighter and other aircraft were showcased as part of the fly past, there was no reason not to show our best of tanks, systems and equipment that the Army is equipped with
The Indian Air Force (IAF) displayed the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ MK-II, Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) ‘Prachand’, Airborne Early Warning & Control Aircraft (AEW&C) aircraft ‘NETRA’ and C295 Transport aircraft. The IAF tableau also displayed a team of ‘GARUD’ commandos in combat gear with laser designation equipment and specialist weapons.
The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) tableaus showcased indigenous sonars for underwater surveillance; land surveillance, communication and neutralising platforms like D4 counter-drone systems, Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile Weapon System (QRSAM), Battery Multifunction Radar and Missile Launcher Vehicle and Software Defined Radios (SDRs); aerial surveillance and communication platforms like AEW&C, ‘Tapas’ BH medium altitude long-endurance UAV, semiconductor R&D facility, Wheeled Armoured Platform (WhAP), and; DRDO research activities.
Republic Day Parades are to show the country’s might not only to the Chief Guest and foreign contingents, but to the entire world. India is ranked the fourth strongest military in the world after the US, Russia and China (https://www.safalta.com/blog/top-10-armies-world). Therefore, it would have more appropriate to showcase our best systems – both imported, indigenous as well as hybrid. For example, if the best of fighter and other aircraft were showcased as part of the flypast, there was no reason not to show our best of tanks, systems and equipment that the Army is equipped with. This perhaps was brushed under the carpet because of the elections in 10 States this year including in the Union Territory (UT) of J&K, followed by general elections in mid-2024.
Similarly, the inclusion of newly recruited ‘Agniveers’ was out of place in a military contingent since the government itself has ruled they continue to be civilians until they have been formally inducted after completion of training and solemnisation. This again was to impress voters, even as with limited basic recruit training, this concept amounts to weakening the man behind the machine at the cost of saving money though Defence Minister Rajnath Singh categorically stated that the ‘Agnipath’ scheme is not about saving money.
The inclusion of newly recruited ‘Agniveers’ was out of place in a military contingent since the government itself has ruled they continue to be civilians until they have been formally inducted
Notably, it must be acknowledged that most of the indigenous equipment displayed was either 3.5 generation (not 4-5) but also in the process of trials and induction – not fully inducted which may take many years. The voters can hardly be aware of these intricacies.
A study titled, “Arms Production Capabilities in The Indo-Pacific Region-Measuring Self-Reliance’ by the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute (SIPRI) released in October 2022 states the following with respect to Atmanirbhar Bharat:
In addition to what has been pointed out by the SIPRI study, the following issues require urgent attention: frequent changes in the defence procurement procedure although flagged as the ultimate every time; poor or nil implementation of defence offset schemes because of endemic corruption; transfer of technology (ToT) not implemented in full; systems and equipment claimed “indigenous” despite large percentage of imported components, and; continuing hold of DRDO and DPSUs forcing private industry to serve as their subsidiaries in sharp contrast to the US and European countries where private industry is the mainstay of defence production.
Recent news reports state that the US would likely allow GE to produce jet engines in India. But the million dollar question is would this entail ransfer of technology (ToT) in full or not?
Viewed dispassionately, the DRDO and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will always lag behind in cutting edge technology when compared to the West. By the time we fully induct the Tejas Mark-II, what fighters will the West and China have? We need to fast forward like what countries like Japan and South Korea have done. Can we hope to close the gap vis-à-vis China and the West with only ‘Make in India’?
We need to seriously review development and induction of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) only through ‘Make in India’
The US-Russia war in Ukraine is a live demonstration of how fast weapon platforms, fighter jets and drones are getting destroyed and why Ukraine is screaming for early induction of modern fighting aircraft. In our case, the Multirole Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) deal was delayed and the Tejas Mark-2 would probably take another decade plus for getting fully inducted. We need to seriously review development and induction of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) only through ‘Make in India’ to catch up with China.
The Beating Retreat Ceremony 2023 was a spectacular event. Rain washed out the drone display but recordings done a day earlier during rehearsal showed it was breathtaking. The blemish in the ceremony is the gyrating hip-shaking movements by soldiers playing musical instruments that wereintroduced under the present dispensation; unmilitary and obnoxious,even though some policy makers may be getting cheap thrills. These need to be eliminated.