As the army prepares to induct the Arjun tanks more than three decades after the project was approved in March 1974, Army Chief General JJ Singh has emphasised that the country must strive towards developing indigenous capability to power its modernisation programme.
Briefing journalists upon the culmination of the army commanders’ conference on Tuesday, General Singh also said that if indigenous technology was not available, the only option for the armed forces was to turn to foreign vendors "so that we do not compromise national security."
Commenting on DRDO’s support to the army, he said, "There have been mixed results. Some technologies have proved to be a runaway success, but there have also been failures. The need to encourage indigenous efforts has to be balanced with our modernisation requirements."
He cited the Arjun, Nag anti-tank missile, Nishant unmanned aerial vehicles and NBC equipment as some of impressive technologies developed by the DRDO. He said said the army was conducting trials on a "squadron strength" of Arjun tanks, about 14, and the force would be inducting 124 tanks in the next two to three years. "We plan to deploy these tanks in semi-desert and plain areas where they will be very effective," he said, admitting that the tanks are heavy.
Without mincing words, the army chief said if the timeline for project completion is not met, a decision has to be taken to import technology from outside. General Singh’s remarks are significant as they come on the heels of the controversy over the Barak deal, which was opposed by the DRDO on the grounds that the indigenous Trishul anti-missile defence system would be operational soon.
The army chief emphasised that the army enjoyed the complete support of the government in implementing its modernisation programme and it was on course to achieve all targets visualised for the 12th Plan period (2012-17).
Responding to a query on the army conducting an unprecedented fifth round of evaluation trials for acquiring the upgraded 155 mm artillery guns, General Singh said, "We are not taking any shortcuts. The army wants the perfect weapon system."
The army chief touched upon a wide array of subjects ranging from the conduct of counter-terrorist operations in J&K and the northeast, terror infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, relevance of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and synergy among the three services.
General Singh said terror infrastructure across the border had been made non-visible by merging it with villages but the situation was under control. He expressed concern over infiltration routes originating from Rajasthan, Nepal and Bangladesh.