Why the Infantry of the Indian Army needs to be modernised

Vishal Dahiya

Indian Army has recently finalised one of its biggest plans for infantry modernisation. Under the new plan a large number of light machine guns, battle carbines and assault rifles will be purchased to replace the ageing and obsolete weapons. The purchase will approximately cost ₹ 40,000 crore.

Rajya Sabha TV’s show ‘Security Scan’ discussed the issue at length with guests – Lt Gen (Rtd) Vinod Bhatia, Former DG, Infantry, Lt Gen (Rtd) Satish Nambiar, Distinguished Fellow, IDSA, Capt Alok Bansal, Director of India Foundation and Saikat Dutta, South Asia Editor, Asia Times.

The Indian army which epitomises bravery, sacrifice and professionalism, has risen to every challenge it has faced. With the changing times and warfare strategies, the Defence forces need to be modernised to effectively counter the challenges along the border as well as those threatening internal security.

The 1.3 million Army has been pressing for faster procurement of weapon systems in view of emerging threats to its security. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has already said that modernisation of the world’s second largest army is a top priority for the government.

File photo: PTI

File photo: PTI

Defence experts say that while there is a pressing need for upgradation of weapons and other equipment for the Infantry, which is the core fighting arm of the Indian Army , other departments such as the Artillery and the Mechanised Infantry are also in urgent need of modernisation.

“Infantry man is in the contact every single day … Focus has to be on the head to heel equipping and arming of the infantry man,” said Former DG , Infantry , Lt Gen (Rtd) Vinod Bhatia.

His view is strongly supported by senior journalist Saikat Dutta who says the replacement of the primary weapon of the Infantry – the rifle, is hanging fire for almost two decades. While the INSAS rifle currently used by the Infantry was introduced in late 80s, the experts say that there are several flaws with the weapon.

Lack of proper equipment also mars the capability of the artillery.

Another retired senior officer of the Indian Army Lt Gen (Rtd) Satish Nambiar points out that the Bofors scandal haunts the modernisation process in the Army even today.

Supporting his argument Capt Alok Bansal, who is Director of India Foundation says, “Bofors ghost continues to haunt the Indian Army and the weapons which suffered are the artillery guns.”

While putting the right procedures and policies in place to implement the policies for modernisation is the way forward to meet the requirements of Armed Forces, experts say the authority has to be aligned with accountability to achieve the goals.

With India emerging as a global power, it has to build on its military power as well to thwart fresh challenges arising out of its new responsibilities. And to achieve this the focus, India also has to improve the indigenous capabilities and spend on the defence budget judiciously.