Army Chief General M.M. Naravane at Leh to review security situation and operational preparedness along the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh
PC : File Photo

By Milind Kulshreshtha

During the incident of Sino-India skirmish at Galwan valley last year, the Indian Armed Forces showed their resilience to stand up against a regional super-power like China and showcased the rich traditions of bravery of men standing guard to protect the sovereignty of the nation. Sacrifice and leadership of the men along with Col Santosh Babu, Maha Vir Chakra shall resonate forever, as these few stood up to tackle a grave field situation. Meanwhile, this skirmish pushed both India and China to re-look at their strategies within the international dictum to handle any flash point along the Sino-Indian border. Indian government accelerated the procurement routes in order to prepare the nation and not be pressurized into any unfavourable negotiations with the adversary.

Modern Military Technologies

The China’s People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had been in the process of modernization of its Armed Forces for many decades, developing a Navy to not only protect nearer seas like South China Sea, but also to launch Aircraft carrier based Task Force for a blue water power projection. The PLAN operational military assets have been aligned to its war time strategies and India too requires a Theatre Level force deployment for an effective deterrence. Individually, each service has been putting efforts to evolve itself in a modern war fighting arm. The CDS (Chief of Defense Staff) General Bipin Rawat emphasized the need for a technological superiority over China in the Raisina Dialogue forum in April 2021, highlighting the disruptive technologies with the adversary which puts them at an advantageous position today.

Indo-Pacific Focus

Indo-Pacific today is evolving into a significant frontier in the international arena, with an unstable geopolitical equilibrium for sea dominance due to China’s expansionist plans. India has joined hands with the like-minded nations by participating as QUAD Naval force and collaborating with EU (European Union) and UK to maintain the freedom of navigation (FONOPS) in the Indo-Pacific, to ensure an assured rights, freedoms and lawful use of the seas within the purview of the international laws. However, for Indian Navy to maintain its tactical advantage in the local region, more jointness with the cooperating nations at a digital level shall go a long way. The stealth Indian submarines are required to stay ahead of an ever enhanced detection and hunting capabilities of the adversary. As per information in the public media, Indian Navy is likely to soon commence the procurement process for building six stealth submarines under Make-in-India initiative.

Some of the know-how which are already available with technologically advanced adversaries like China are related to UAVs role in Air warfare, precise Geo-referencing through own military grade GPS (like Bideou Global Navigation Satellite System), hypersonic missiles, untraceable advanced Cyber-attack capabilities etc. The key to success for any Armed Forces shall be the bridge between the indigenous innovation and the Operational specs but this has been a complex challenge, and today, multiple organisations have emerged to guide the Indian Industry interface with the Defence.

Indigenization a Strategic Necessity

It was well identified at the beginning of the 21st century that self-reliance in meeting the Armed Forces requirements is a strategic necessity for India. Indian Navy promulgated its first ‘15 year indigenization plan’ in 2003, a document which undergoes a revision every five years and the present document caters for equipment requirement till 2022. To achieve self-reliance, the public and the private sector R&D organisations are required to field products and solutions under the Atmanirbhar Bharat in various fields like Communication Systems, Space, Artificial Intelligence, Cyber-security or UAVs. However, these solutions are to be field deployable at the earliest.

Indian Armed Forces recognized the direction and the pace of the technology essential for meeting the future needs. However, the translation of these well detailed requirements to a successful product demonstration has been an uphill task for the private industry, especially the MSMEs, who usually have a budget limitation. It is well known that the Defence Forces have an elaborative procedure for equipment induction and the suppliers may many a times find it cumbersome. Coupled to this, the lack of volumes to establish a profitable manufacturing line for the military equipment for an innovative solution leaves the MSMEs usually disenchanted. On the other hand, for Defence, the time and options usually run out to meet the operational requirements and imports are resorted to meet the unescapable requirements.

What is of significance here is that the warfare technologies are advancing at a rapid pace, and Indian industries may always require to outpace these developments to keep the Indian Armed Forces contemporary. Already newer technologies like Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) encryption, hypersonic missile detection, Artificial Intelligence in fighter jet cockpits for combat roles etc. are emerging rapidly, keeping the military strategists on their toes. While hardware products shall always be the basis of any military Command, the tri-services interoperability through a Multi-Domain Operation (MDO) solution shall ensure an effective response to real-time multi-layered war scenarios. Military warfare changes in the modern generation requires perpetual reorientation in force enhancement through technology, and technological advancements are never going to be enough to meet the operational challenges of the next war.