Defence acquisition mess; Media and Citizen attitudes

The Hindu : News / National : Inside India's defence acquisition mess:

'via Blog this'

Continuing from my previous post, a simple perusal of the morning papers revealed an expected but nevertheless interesting scenario: Most news coverage was concentrated either on The General or on the Congress / UPA. Here we are- faced with a nearly 1962-like situation in terms of Defences, sitting on a powder-keg situation, nearly naked (if the Chief's letter is 100% accurate - which I dont doubt, judging from a series of critical articles in various sources over the past few years) - and the entire Media is focussing on anything but Defence. Most newspapers are sticking to their market positioning - which is fine under normal circumstances. If you are known for reportage, your readership will be of that kind. Similarly, if you have a market position of in-depth focus, then that will be reflected in your product. Being a sales & marketing professional I both understand and accept these realities. But this situation is anything but normal - it is exceptional, anyway you look at it! Rather than build pressure on the government to take immediate remedial measures to correct the scenario (as well as restore the morale of the Armed Forces) the Media is just doing routine reportage.

None of us can say that this development has come as a complete surprise: there have been any number of articles in magazines highlighting the increased level of problems in the Army. Admittedly, none were as serious in tone: but the fact remains that murmurs of something of this kind were rife in some magazines which questioned delay in fighter aircraft procurement, tank procurement etc. What makes this different is that this is coming from the head of the Army - which is an infinitely more serious development, as it impacts the morale of the forces, saps their energy and exposes its underbelly. More is expected from the Media at this juncture: and I hope that this particular development is not consigned to the back pages with time. A concentrated pressure is needed to ensure follow-up action! We need to gavanise the bureaucracy and the government to respond to this serious threat to national security - and if our Armed Forces are indeed so underprepared, then this is a threat to security. As it is we are facing serious threats from terrorism - and an Army unable to respond is the last thing we need at this point. 

Some good can still be had from this - if we can get the bureaucrats and the government to act on the weaknesses highlighted rather than do a witch hunt. Judging from the happenings in Parliament, this does not seem to be happening- with various speakers waking eloquent on the state of our Armed Forces as being ship-shape. Who are you trying to fool? By covering up, you are only fooling the people, some of whom will believe in your mumbo-jumbo. The more knowledgable (including enemies) probably already have an excellent idea of the state of the Indian Army. What is more, the fall in morale can only be good news to enemies. Rather than mere statements, the need of the hour is a white paper than either gives specific rebuttals - or gives a plan to plug same.

This is not a problem that can be wished away - it needs a clear strategy to be managed. And it is the absence of a strategy that is bothering me. No witch hunts now, please- at least, not in public.   Present a common front. For one thing is clear: given a choice, I would rather believe the General than the Government. The credibility of the government is lesser as compared to the General, simple as that. And that is what the government also needs to address. As for the rest, please rise above party lines and affiliations... that is the need of the hour!


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