Interview of Brigadier Hemant Mahajan
Source :News Bharati   Date :21-Oct-2011

Recently some news items got published about Indian Government and Ministry of Defense has given the go-ahead for the second phase of military expansion along the China front.  News items said with the inputs from Government sources and Defence ministry that deployment of Brahmos cruise missiles in Arunachal Pradesh will be India’s first offensive tactical missile deployment against China.

The three Brahmos missile regiments raised so far have been deployed in the western sector to counter the Pakistan threat. This will be the fourth regiment. As per the sources it was claimed that India’s second expansion plan is being fast-tracked because of urgency shown by the armed forces. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also cleared the five-year expansion plan for which he had given the green signal earlier. The plan involves fresh accretion of 89,000 troops, with 400 officers. This is estimated to cost over Rs 65,000 crore, making it one of India’s biggest one-time military expansion effort. The proposal is now with the Finance Ministry, and will be put up before the Cabinet Committee on Security.

News Bharati is publishing an interview of Brigadier Hemant Mahajan (YSM) in which Brig. Mahajan has commented on several issues like Indian weapon modernisation plan and strategic prepredness and political enthusiasm to strenghthen Indian Armed forces.

Brigadier Heman Mahajan (YSM) joined armed forces since 1973. Started his military life as an officer with the ‘7 Maratha Light Infantry’. Brig. Mahajan has served in the most sensitive areas like Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, North Eastern states. Importantly Brig. Mahajan had an experience of serving his duty in highest and tough warzone like Kargil, handling peace situation in furious Punjab after the ‘Operational Blue Star’ and the Ayodhya region. Along with ‘Youth Seva Medal’, Brig. Mahajan is recipient of various Military awards for his excellent track record.

News Bharati’s Chief Editor Arun Karmarkar and News Editor Milind Arolkar talked with Brigadier Hemant Mahajan on this topic.

Respected Brigadier Mahajan,

Recently Indian government has given the go-ahead to deployment of Brahmos cruise missiles in Arunachal Pradesh. Will this be India’s first offensive tactical missile deployment against China?

Brig. Mahajan: If the Indian Government and the Ministry of Defence is claiming as such, this can be termed as ‘eyewash’ to call it ‘India’s first offensive tactical missile deployment against China.’

Security of the nation is not a particularly endearing subject for India's rulers. The Lok sabha did not pay any attention to serious flaws in the defence budget. In the budget speech 2010-11 Finance Minster Pranab Mukharjee devoted less than 35 seconds to National Security & defense budget out of a total of two hours. The Prime minister after acknowledging the contribution made by the defense forces gave the usual assurance by intoning "that where defense of the country is concerned money would not be a consideration."Even now Prime Ministers assurance has been over ruled by the finance ministry.

What are your views about the weapons modernisation and an Offensive deployment plan?

Brig. Mahajan: Actually any missile system can be used as both offensive and defensive ways. Brahmos is a missile which gives a range of 290 kms with a warhead of 300 kg. The warhead is high explosive and nuclear warhead can also be mounted on this system if required. It would require major modification to Brahmos. Normal artillery gun shell contains 50-100kg of high explosive. In terms of explosive Brahmos warhead is 3-4 times more than a heavy artillery shell.The range is much more than artillery guns but less than aircraft.

Indian army has a perspective plan of 25 years for modernization of army and additional troops required to meet challenges from China & Pakistan. Perspective plan of Indian Army is reviewed and updated every year to cater for any new factors which would have emerged recently.

Phase 1 of army modernizations was coinciding with 11th five year plan of Indian Government. First phase of modernization of two additional divisions (1 div =15000-20000 soldiers) has still not been completed and is way behind the schedule. This plan in which   89 000 troops will be raised for Indo-China border, is the Phase 2 of the plan & will coincide with 12th five year plan of our Country.  It is yet not been approved by the CCPA (Cabinet Committee for Political Affairs) and the Finance ministry. Implementation will start only when funds are released by the finance ministry.

India from Prime Minister Nehru’s time is highly relied on talks and pacifying China than any offensive military deployment. What is the strategic importance of this proposed deployment?

Brig. Mahajan: We have no offensive capability against China and even the defensive capability requires to be improved drastically in terms of modern weapons and infrastructure. What has been announced is mere good intensions but no funds have been allotted for this up till now. Even the approved phases of weapons modernizations and building of roads is behind schedule by 3-5 years.

The Finance ministry has been resisting this phase of modernization. It is hoped that this clearance will be given at the earliest. In any case implementation of this modernization plan, will take at least 7 -10 years, after sanctioning of funds. Country will be lucky if it is completed before 2020. The successive Indian Governments have been neglecting modernization of Indian armed forces. On an average, the defence budget has been increasing at the rate of 7-8% per year. While the inflation rate, has been 10-12% per year. That is to say  defence budget in real terms is going down every year. No new artillery gun has been inducted into the Indian army since 1988.

What would you tell about currect weapon system of Indian Armed Forces?

What has to be understood is that weapon systems of armed forces are technologically intensive and become obsolete in ten to fifteen year cycle. Thus the existing weapon system has to be replaced by a newer and more modern weapon system every fifteen years. The armed forces are way behind on modernization. Deficiencies of authorized weapon system in Indian armed forces runs into thousands of crores and this must be made up methodically. Indian Army’s strength has been remained static at 12.5 lakh  approximately since 1972 while the Government has increased the strength of police and Para-military forces from  6 Lacs in 1972 to 24 Lacs in 2011 (4 times).

Has this improved the internal security situation in the country? The answer is obviously NO.

The three Brahmos missile regiments raised so far have been deployed in the western sector to counter the Pakistan threat. Are there any near-term serious threats from Pakistan are traced by the Indian military?

Brig. Mahajan: The deployment on Pakistan border is normal modernization phase of Indian Army. In any case a war with Pakistan does not seem likely in near future. Pak will continue to bleed India by thousand cuts by aiding and abetting terrorism/various insurgencies in India. However Indian Armed forces have to be ready to fight Pakistan and China simultaneously should a war with either country breakout. You have to ready face a two and half front war that is war with Pakistan, war with china and also facing Maoists and terrorism inside the country.

With a range of 290 km, these cruise missiles are being deployed to improve India’s military reach into the Tibet and counter China’s elaborate missile deployment along the Sino-Indian border. This India’s second expansion plan is being fast-tracked because of ‘urgency shown by the armed forces’.

Why is this urgency perceived by the Military suddenly? Do you find any strategic reason for that?

Brig. Mahajan: It is wrong to say that second expansion plan is being fast-tracked because of ‘urgency shown by the armed forces’. The government has shown no urgency.

Indian government inaction has resulted into Indian Armed forces being way behind in modernization and infrastructure as compared to Chinese army. In fact the opponent of the modernization Indian armed forces is not china or Pakistan but it is finance ministry, environmental ministry and rest of Government of India.

The Chinese roads (like mega Express highways) have reached passes (from where Chinese can launch an attack on India) on the Indo China border. While the Indian roads are still 50 to 60 km behind the passes, the rail lines in Tibet are about to reach the Nepal border. Indian rail system is only up to plains of Assam and has not reached in the mountainous areas of the Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese have constructed huge pipelines for carrying petrochemical products right up to Indochina borders. The population of Tibet where this infrastructure has been created is between to 15 to 17 Lacs only.

It is obvious that the infrastructure created is not for local population but for military purpose only. With this infrastructure, China can get up to 40 to 45 divisions for a war on Indo China border. While India has 8 to 10 divisions available for the defence of India China border, two new divisions were raised in the 11th plan, and two more divisions which will be raised in the 12th plan, will only take the forces available on the India-China border from 10 div to 14 divisions.

It is obvious that these forces may just be adequate for defending our borders. The Indian Army hardly has any offensive capability (to launch an attack on China) against China.

Is China’s mindset has become visible to make nasty movement on Sino-India border or Indo-Pak border in near future?

Brig. Mahajan: Right from day one, China has not hidden its intensions to settle boundary issue on its own terms and its policy and actions are completely anti-Indian in nature. These include repeated border incursions, threatening India for going into South China Sea for oil explorations with Vietnam. China has developed its Military/Surveillance bases in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar, and Bangladesh (policy of garland of pearls). It supplies arms, nuclear reactors to Pak. It is improving Karakoram Highway in POK.A war with China is on cards in next 10-15 years. The anti Indian actions are endless.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also cleared the five-year expansion plan for which he had given the green signal earlier. The plan involves fresh accretion of 89,000 troops, with 400 officers.

How you see Government’s promptness to respond to Army’s call for the deployment which needs an investment of Rs 65,000 crore and could be termed as ‘India’s biggest one-time military expansion effort’?

Brig. Mahajan: Govt is just making grand announcements with no action on ground. Pakistan and Chinese budget is 3 to 4 % of GDP and Indian is between 2 to 2.5 % of the GDP. In order to meet the challenges of both China and Pakistan we need to increase our ‘Defense Modernization’ budget in a systematic manner. The 12.5lakh strong army needs as much as Rs 41,000 crores to even meet its existing shortages in equipment and ammunition. There are critical shortfalls in 'war wastage reserves' (quantity of equipment and ammunition required to fight a war) in several areas," The army is nowhere near reaching its 100% operational capability, which an earlier projection held would be possible only by end of the 14th Plan in 2027. Modernization is a slow ongoing process, ideally all forces having 30% state-of-the-art, 40% prevailing and 30% outdated technologies. The Army had sent the proposal to the MoD sometime in early 2010, for putting it up to the Cabinet Committee on Security  for approval. In April, the PM had offered all government support for Army modernization along the China border during a presentation to him by the Army top brass. The Army leadership appraised the PM about the overwhelming capabilities of the People's Liberation Army along the border with India during the presentation.

Despite the PM's assurance, the MoD has now raised questions about the Army's assessment of Rs 12,000 crore needed to set up the new formations, and sent back the file to Army headquarters.

The MoD, in recent years has miserably failed to improve acquisition procedure, the recurring underutilization of resources highlights the weakness in the system.Let the defense minister explain his ministry’s pathetic record on defense spending under his watch. What, to his mind, is the optimum capital to revenue expenditure ratio for national defense? How can it be achieved, if capital spending is either being reappropriated into revenue expenditure or being returned unutilized? Should the defense spending be related to the national GDP or should there be a quadrennial defense review conducted by the government to determine the budget for the defense Long Term Procurement Plan?

The real rub of India’s defense inefficiency however lies  with the Finance Ministry & with the country’s slow, archaic procedures for acquisition. More over the large number of court cases has made officials wary of signing acquisition contracts. Thus even with a Defense Minister who has a reputation of being squeaky clean, the process of arms acquisitions is caught in a permanent bind of suspicion affecting the modernization of Armed Forces.

The Indian Armed Forces are way behind Chinese Army in terms of infrastructure, Force Levels & technology. Only drastic increase in budget & complete utilization of allotted amount will the wide gap decrease.