Army brass to discuss impact of Ukraine war on India’s readiness
Indian Army’s top brass will assess the likely impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on the country’s military preparedness and review the situation along the borders with China and Pakistan during a five-day army commanders’ conference that begins on Monday, officials familiar with the development said on Sunday.
Two-thirds of India’s military equipment is of Russian origin, and the border row with China in the Ladakh sector will enter its third year next month.
The biennial conference, to be chaired by Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane, comes at a time when complications stemming from the harsh sanctions slapped on Russia by the US and its allies on the back of the war in Ukraine have posed new challenges for the India-Russia defence relationship and put India’s military preparedness to the test.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh is expected to interact with the army commanders and address the conference on April 21.
The senior leadership of the Indian Army will review the operational situation along the “active borders,” and deliberate on capability development and operational preparedness, the army said in a statement.
“Discussions on aspects pertaining to infrastructure development in border areas, modernisation through indigenisation, induction of niche technology and assessment on any impact of the Russia-Ukraine war are also scheduled,” it added.
The sanctions on Russia have assigned new urgency to reduce dependence on imported military hardware. The global backlash against Russia has also raised questions about the fate of new projects, spares procurement for existing Russian-origin weapons, maintenance and servicing of legacy equipment and creating an alternative payment system for defence trade with Russia amid the banking sanctions.
Russia accounted for 46% of the country’s imports during the last five years even though India made fewer purchases from the country over the last decade. Its weapons exports to India fell 47% between 2012-16 and 2017-21, according to a report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) last month.
“While we have diversified our weapons purchases, the dependence on Russia is and will be there. I don’t think we can switch completely to other suppliers. Self-reliance is the only answer though it will take time,” former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd) said earlier.
As far as the border row goes, despite three rounds of disengagement at friction points on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – Galwan, Pangong Tso and Gogra – the two armies still have 50,000 to 60,000 troops each and advanced weaponry deployed in the Ladakh theatre.
In a joint statement issued after the 15th round of military talks held on March 11, Indian and Chinese commanders agreed to carry on dialogue through military and diplomatic channels to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of outstanding problems at friction points on LAC.
General Naravane will chair the conference for the last time as he is set to retire as army chief on April 30.