Bravehearts soldier on even as politicos undermine national security – Shankkar Aiyar

Shankkar Aiyar“Under the watch of the UPA—and the presumed oversight of the Opposition—bravehearts in uniform face unprecedented risks and the objective of national security has been undermined.” – Shankkar Aiyar

Conventional wisdom tells us that history repeats itself—first as tragedy and then as farce. In India, alas, history repeats itself mostly as tragedy.

Consider these facts:

• February 26, 2010: A blast occurs in the battery pits of the Indian Navy submarine INS Sindhurakshak, when the vessel was alongside Visakhapatnam harbour, killing one naval officer. A board of inquiry is constituted.

• February 25, 2014: Four years later, another blast in the battery pit, in another submarine of the Indian Navy. This time it is INS Sindhuratna. Two young officers lose their lives but save their colleagues.

Kapish Singh Muwal & Manoranjan KumarHistory simply repeated itself, as tragedy. Given the state of submarines and lack of upgrades, the death of the two young warriors aboard INS Sindhuratna is a tragedy that was foretold. India is losing its bravehearts to the systemic collapse—not war. This begs the question: What were the findings of the inquiry post the blast of February 2010 and following the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak in August 2013? Were any steps taken? Quite obviously not!

INS SindhuratnaSo why are India’s warriors forced to risk their lives? Why are they manning 30-year-old tubs passing off as submarines or asked to train on aircraft which should be in museums? The answers are embedded in the economics of politics and the politics of economics.

Look at the economics of defence preparedness. Defence expenditure, which was 15.24 per cent of Central government expenditure in 2004-05, dipped to 12.23 per cent in 2013-14. As a percentage of GDP, defence expenditure slid from 2.34 per cent in 2004-05 to 1.79 per cent in 2013-14. Yes, there are resource constraints. There is also the constraint of strategic imagination. China ramped up its defence budget from $15 billion in 2000 to over $110 billion now by making economic growth a fundamental aspect of national security. This was not a mantra within the UPA.  It was influenced by electoral economics.

The focus on entitlements for electoral dividends stalled growth and the burgeoning bill for sops left little in the kitty for defence upgradation. There is also the inefficiency factor. Even the depleting resources made available couldn’t be deployed. Look at the capital spend of just one year: In 2012-13, the Army was projected to get `28,234 crore (BE), allocated `15,749 crore of which only `11,341 crore was spent. The Navy was projected to get `36,950 crore, allocated `18,266 crore of which only `15,599 crore was spent. Critical acquisitions are either perpetually in process or were benched for fear of scams.

Bullet Proof VestIt is a well-known secret that India’s defence preparedness is stranded between bureaucratic sloth and political corruption. To appreciate this, one must visit the issue of bullet-proof jackets. Technically, the Army needs 353,765 bullet-proof jackets. In 2009, the Army was short of 186,138 jackets—which means over 1.8 lakh soldiers were at risk. On October 19, 2009, the Defence Acquisition Council authorised the defence ministry to purchase 186,168 bullet-proof jackets. This was an urgent issue, but the request for proposals (RFP) was issued only in March 2011, commercial offers received from vendors in July 2011. The RFPs were retracted in December 2011 following many political representations on technical issues that set off rumours. Last year, the Standing Committee on Defence in Parliament was “astonished” to find that the jackets were not yet bought. Does it take Government of India 50-plus months for choosing a `50,000 jacket?

Indecision and delays are endemic in the defence ministry. Consider this nugget. The lighting system at the IAF air field at Car Nicobar got washed away during the tsunami of 2004. In 2014, the airfield—certified for fighter jet operations, which presumably was set up for strategic reasons—continues to await deliverance. And Car Nicobar is one of 10 such airforce airfields handicapped without adequate infrastructure.

Every major programme is behind schedule. The Light Combat Aircraft, Phase-II programme was to take off in December 2008. It is now expected to do so in December 2015. The Naval Light Combat Aircraft, Phase-I was expected in March 2010  but will be available in December 2014. The Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile targeted for May 2011 will only be active in December 2015. The Air-to-Air Missile Astra expected in August 2012 will now be operational in December 2016.

Kolkata-class DestroyerIn 1999, the country had planned a 30-year programme for 24 modern submarines. The first submarines were to arrive in 2012. It transpires that the first ones will arrive only in 2015. Every major indigenous warship programme is delayed and costs are bloating. The ministry informed Parliament that its programmes for new destroyers (Project-15A), frigates (Project-17) and corvettes (Project-28) will cost 225 per cent, 260 per cent and 157 per cent more due to delays.

Much of this is the consequence of systemic rot. The granular process of governance has been reduced to a tragic farce. The blood of the young warriors is on the hands of the political class. Under the watch of the UPA—and the presumed oversight of the Opposition—bravehearts in uniform face unprecedented risks and the objective of national security has been undermined.

Can India afford the consequences of such wilful neglect? India needs a non-partisan platform to ensure decisions on acquisitions, programmes … for defence preparedness. The political class owes it to the bravehearts who soldier on and defend India’s sovereignty. – The New Indian Express, 2 March 2014

» Shankkar Aiyar is the author of Accidental India: A History of the Nation’s Passage through Crisis and Change. He can be contacted at

See also 

3 Responses


    The original, in Malayalam, is available at

    This is actually a leaflet I had prepared on the occasion of the visit of A K Antony, officially the Defence Minister of India. It was titled ‘For whom the soldiers suffer sacrifices?’ and subtitled ‘For sustaining the thugs, scoundrels and traitors in offices of authority and allowing them to perpetrate their crimes with impunity?’ It was intended to be distributed to the people going into a hotel auditorium to attend the 50th anniversary of public life of B JP leader, O Rajagopal, which A K Antony was to inaugurate. Not only I was not allowed to distribute even a single leaflet but today face a false case charged by the police under the Prevention of Disturbance of Public Meeting Act! And there after I have been falsely implicated in two more cases also by the same police.


  2. Very Very factual presentation flowing right from the heart of a person, dedicated to the Nation. Unless all the Baboos, the Traders and the Politicians are jailed, so that they do not interfere by any means, the country is likely to………!! The then Congress organised the Salt Satyagraha claiming that the British had no right to seek the cess on Salt derived from the ocean and utilising only the Sun’s heat; to day the salt is being sold at Rs. 17 per Kg thanks to the policy of ‘ OUR GOI ‘- and quoting some reference or the WHO- for adding imported IODINE to the native and essential salt! Our foreign trained Baboos, Accountants, politicians and Importing Traders have literally ruined our Nation in the name of ‘REFORMS’ thrust by ‘Bankers’, who give loans on ‘easy terms’ for building infra structure Industries!! The paid media too is presenting a shining India! In order to sustain their business, the Nation Oriented media is also forced to do the same presntation-much similar to one political party driving the other party/parties to tow the same line!!


  3. simply fantastic… such easy flow of facts & emotions… liked it fully… mine is … share feedback


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