Parrikar: a performer at South Block

Manohar Parrikar demonstrated urgency in arms purchases, but failed to take measures to synergise combat capabilities

During his tenure as India’s Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar came across as a sincere and perceptive leader and an accomplished manager. He gave a free hand to the Army to engage proactively on the LoC. He got the Prime Minister to approve surgical strikes across the LoC in September 2016 — operations that changed the paradigm. Parrikar worked closely with the leadership of the armed forces and the bureaucracy to put the stalled process of military modernisation back on the rails. And, he put his management skills and experience to good use to review policies and procedures for the efficient functioning of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the armed forces. Under Parrikar’s leadership, the NDA government began the long process of addressing the ‘critical hollowness’ plaguing defence preparedness — a term used by General VK Singh as the Army Chief in a letter written to the then Prime Minister. Besides major operational voids in the war establishment of the three Services, there were large-scale deficiencies in the holding of important items of equipment, ammunition and spares that had an adverse impact on combat readiness.

According to a CAG report, the army’s depots have stocks of some key varieties of ammunition — for example some tanks and artillery guns — for barely ten days of conflict. A cost of Rs 20,000 crore was estimated to replenish stocks and increase holdings to the required levels. Under Parrikar’s guidance, the MoD invoked the government’s emergency financial powers to sign contracts with Russian manufacturers to procure ammunition and spares worth Rs 5,800 crore for the Army and Rs 9,200 crore for the Air Force. Similar deals are being negotiated with French and Israeli companies. However, the serviceability state of war-fighting equipment still needs substantial improvement.

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