Dear Friends,

As 2019 just passed into history, so did the second decade of the century. A decade which saw India emerging as a regional power to reckon. And the decade ended with a bang which was music to Indian ears – Indian armed forces got the long overdue Chief of Defence Staff. Gen eral Bipin Rawat the outgoing Army Chief gets a bigger role to play as he takes over as the CDS.

2019 also saw three batch mates of National Defence Academy, taking over the reigns of the three services. Admiral Karambir Singh took over the command of Indian Navy, Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria became the Indian Air Force chief and as the sun set on 2019 General MM Naravane took charge of the Indian Army.

2019 also saw Balakot becoming a household name, when at 3:45 am on February 26 , a formation of 12 Mirage-2000 fighter bombers entered Pakistan, dropped bombs on their pre-designated targets there – only a few minutes flying time from the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbotabad – and returned to their bases in India. The nation reiterated its faith in the armed forces which not only knows how to defend and protect but also to take revenge . The operation lasted 21 minutes. Balakot residents later told the BBC they heard five loud explosions. Between 300 and 350 terrorists are believed to have been killed. And a great diplomatic victory in getting back Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman safe and sound from Pakistan, needs to be applauded. And on 29th February India got its National War memorial.

India has the third largest military in the world and is the sixth biggest defence spender. One of the largest importers of conventional defence equipment it spends around 30% of its total defence budget on capital acquisitions. 60% of defence related requirements are currently met through imports. It is a double whammy for all the global defence majors. They can export through Government to Government sales and establish themselves as partners in Make in India projects. With existing defence equipment becoming redundant the procurement process is forging ahead. This is also an opportunity Indian defence industry has been waiting for. Partnering with the global majors to make in India, the playing field now promises to be more level for our indigenous manufacturers.

The year saw the induction of both Chinook and Apache in the Indian Air Force’s inventory. In one of the biggest-ever boosts to its deterrence capabilities, India received its first Rafale jet also in 2019.

So we need all the gaps in procurement and inventory to be filled as soon as possible, not because India wants to offend but because it wants to defend and that too in the best possible way with the state-of-art equipment. So procurement should be the key mantra in 2020 and its speed has to be of the hare and not of the tortoise. And this can happen only if the bureaucrats in the corridors of South Block change their attitude and ensure files are not for gathering dust but for signing and decisions are not for keeping pending but to be taken. So far this change is visible in the bureaucracy under a Defence Secretary who was prior to this appointment which he took over in 2019, the Secretary for Defence Production.

Hope the year proves to be good for Indian forces and the indigenous industry. It is this symbiotic relationship which will keep the nation strong and steady and the political powers that be will have to ensure that the soldier gets modernised but without a delay. What we need today is for today pending it for tomorrow and day-after-tomorrow is a morale dampener.

Looking forward to a better year for the Indian defence forces and the Central Armed Police Forces. Welcome 2020!

Sangeeta Saxena

01 January 2020