India needs to upgrade its weapon technology for future wars
No country exports weapons that are at the top end of technology. So even with the import of weapons, the country is unable to place the best weapon or a weapon of equal technical advancement as may be available with the potential enemy
All through the history of warfare, the attempt by every country has been to place a weapon in the hands of its soldier which is better than what the potential enemy has or at least of the same quality. No military commander would contemplate arming his soldier with a weapon inferior to that with the enemy soldier.
Countries that have overlooked or relegated such imperatives for fighting a war have ended up paying a heavy price on the battlefield. Thus, when Babur appeared on the battlefield of Panipat with artillery guns, Indian troops were placed in a hopeless situation and they merely wasted their gallantry and lives attacking the guns with no matching weapon in their support. The outcome needs no recalling.
Since then, weapons technology has relentlessly moved ahead and is more and more the determining factor in the outcome of battles. While the man behind the gun still matters, the scales are tipping in favour of the weapon. However at present, in this man and weapon combination, the quality of the man still holds and will be so till artificial intelligence and robotics take over.
China has successfully upgraded its weapons technology to almost match that available to, say the United States of America. In some fields, it has possibly moved ahead of America, as in the case of developing electro-magnetic guns for its naval fleet.
On the other hand, India has failed to develop its weapons technology. Though India has over four dozen establishments, manned by thousands of scientists, there is very little to their credit. Even with repeated transfer of technology in a range of weapons, they have failed to take that knowledge and technology forward.
The country continues to import 70% of its requirement of weapons and equipment. What needs to be noted in this import of weapons is that no country exports weapons which are at the top end of technology. So even with the import of weapons, the country is unable to place the best weapon or a weapon of equal technical advancement as may be available with the potential enemy.
FREE DRDO OF BUREACRATIC CONTROL
So, why has India, with these over four dozen establishments of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), failed to develop contemporary weapon technologies? It has even failed in reverse engineering. Repeated demands for a science audit of these establishments has never been met for obvious reasons. The bureaucratic control of these is the reason and an audit will reflect on the performance and consequent call for accountability.
It is only one of the three DRDO establishments dedicated to naval technology that has provided some positive results and that one establishment out of these three has always been under the control of Indian Navy, with a naval officer heading it.
The user, in this case the defence services, project their requirement for a weapon or weapon system to the DRDO, through what is called General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR). This GSQR spells out performance parameters and related features required of the weapon. This is normally, based on the knowledge of what has been developed and available to other armies. It may not be the very top of the line weapon asked for, because often advanced countries do not give out details of their very best weapon systems. In any case the developing agency (DRDO in this case) would take a few years to develop a weapon that meets the requirement as spelled out in the GSQR for that weapon.
By the time DRDO develops this weapon, as is often the case, further advancement would have taken place in such a weapon or weapon system. Possibly, this better weapon may already be available with the enemy, which in any case is well advanced in weapon technology.
OVERHAUL THE DRDO
If one is to lower the essential feature of the weapon or weapons system in the GSQR to 70%, as advocated by India’s Chief of Defence Staff (to do away with import of weapons), then what the DRDO (or those private enterprises that may come in this field in future) will place in the hand of the military will be far inferior than what the enemy would have.
So, what is required is not lowering the GSQR to 70% but to overhaul the DRDO, which in spite of the availability of top of the line laboratories, connected equipment and abundant funds has failed in the last seven decades, to deliver even a suitable rifle, which the army is now trying to import.
Till such time the DRDO or private industry, as and when it is brought into weapons development field, is able to develop weapons and equipment that meet the desired performance parameters, it would be advisable for the CDS to refrain from tampering with GSQRs and instead let, as of now, import of such weapons and equipment continue.
Else, we may end up in the same situation as we faced during the First Battle of Panipat.
The writer a former deputy chief of army staff. Views expressed are personal