The first thing to do on reading the ministry of defence's (MoD) 11,000-word press release on Wednesday, hailing the signal contribution of A.K. Antony's tenure as defence minister, is to see it as one big election-related advertisement. The second is to laugh at it as a sick joke, and the third thing to do is to sit down and cry.
At a time when people are wondering whether the sainted Antony is the second or third-worst defence minister of the country, you can only wonder whether the release induces verbal diarrhoea or prolix flatulence.
Reading from the bottom upward we are treated to the minister appropriating the glory of the Indian armed forces sportsmen and women, from Vijay Kumar who won the silver medal at the London Olympics, to Indian women Air Force officers who climbed Mt. Everest. Elections are on hand, so Antony has basked in the sun of humanitarian relief carried out by the forces, even while claiming credit for just about all of DRDO's reported achievements.
Click here to Enlarge
The high spin is brought out by a table on capital expenditure on modernisation. It purports to show that the utilisation of the Budget ranged from 98.17 per cent in 2005-2006 to an astonishing 101.32 in 2012-13. But look carefully at the figures and what do you see?
In 2012-13, a sum of Rs.79,578.63 crore was budgeted for capital expenditure on modernisation. But Rs.10,000 crore was lopped off it for the sake of economy and the revised estimate was Rs.69,578.63 crore. The actual expenditure was Rs.70,499.12 crore which naturally yielded a utilisation rate of 101.32 per cent. Instead of saying that the services got Rs.10,000 crore less and the Indian Air Force was unable to go in for the Rafale deal, the minister has declared victory.
The issue is not the numbers which the MoD weaves before us, showing how well the forces were funded in Saint Antony's tenure. What matters are the persisting and dangerous gaps that remained unfilled because of the delay and incompetence of the ministry headed by him.
In March of 2012, the then Army chief V.K. Singh had written a letter to him complaining of critical shortages of tank ammunition, the obsolescence of most of India's air defence artillery and lack of equipment for the Special Forces. This was over four years after Antony had been the defence minister of the country.
More to the electoral point is the claim to glory for the Prime Minister's inaugural of the naval academy at Ezhimala, Kerala. The press release notes that the academy was inaugurated by the PM in January 2009. The facts of the matter are that the decision to set up the academy was approved as far back as 1979 and the foundation stone for the academy was laid by Rajiv Gandhi in 1987. And it goes on, the fudges, the spin and outright lies.
Tejas "got clearance for induction in Air Force with the handing over of the 'Release to Service Document' by Antony to the Chief of Air Staff on 20 December 2013". Strangely enough, the DRDO had claimed that this clearance, called Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) was given in January 2011 also. At present all we have are test aircraft. The HAL will make the first IOC aircraft by mid-2014, and the second by the end of the year and the full squadron will only be ready by 2016-17 and then only will the process of giving it Final Operational Clearance (FOC) begin.
The biggest boast is about the induction of INS Vikramaditya. The MoD release fails to mention that it so botched up the deal that in October 2007 the Russians hiked the cost of refurbishment to $1.2 billion, an astonishing 137 per cent increase over the original price. And, because of the poor planning by the MoD, the ship does not have a close-in air defence system, or a long-range surface-to-air missile. Both will be fitted in the coming years.
At the end of the day Antony and his MoD have simply failed to realise that it is not through a simple accretion of weapons systems that makes a national defence system vibrant. It requires the political and bureaucratic machinery to work in synergy with the armed forces. It needs modern decision-making structures at the apex level and, above all, it requires political leadership. It is in these vital areas that Antony has failed the nation.
- The writer is Contributing Editor, Mail Today
Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/ak-a ... 47021.html