In a damning assessment of India’s armed forces, The Economist has published a report on how the country’s international ambitions simply don’t match its military muscle.
“India is not as strong militarily as the numbers might suggest,” says the article, going on to claim how despite looking good on paper, India’s armed forces are in fact outdated or ill-maintained.
“Our air defence is in a shocking state,” the report quoted Ajai Shukla, a commentator on military affairs, as saying. He said, “What’s in place is mostly 1970s vintage, and it may take ten years to install the fancy new gear.”
The report said that on paper, India’s air force is the world’s fourth largest, with around 2,000 aircraft in service. “But an internal report seen in 2014 by IHS Jane’s, a defence publication, revealed that only 60% were typically fit to fly,” it said.
The report quoted another earlier report this year by a government accounting agency estimated that the “serviceability” of the 45 MiG 29K jets that are the pride of the Indian navy’s air arm ranged between 16% and 38%.
They were intended to fly from the carrier currently under construction, which was ordered more than 15 years ago and was meant to have been launched in 2010. According to the government’s auditors the ship, after some 1,150 modifications, now looks unlikely to sail before 2023.
India fields the world’s second-biggest standing army, after China, with long fighting experience in a variety of terrains and situations. “Yet there are serious chinks in India’s armour. Much of its weaponry is, in fact, outdated or ill maintained.”
The report also addressed how India’s military is scandal-prone. “Corruption has been a problem in the past, and observers rightly wonder how guerrillas manage to penetrate heavily guarded bases repeatedly. Lately the Indian public has been treated to legal battles between generals over promotions, loud disputes over pay and orders for officers to lose weight.”
The deeper problem, the report added, with India’s military is structural. The three services are each reasonably competent, say security experts; the trouble is that they function as separate fiefdoms. “No service talks to the others, and the civilians in the Ministry of Defence don’t talk to them,” says Shukla.