FAUJI INDIA - February 2019
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Even though the 70th Republic Day parade saw perhaps for the last time the wreath laying ceremony at 'Amar Jawan Jyoti' – since next year onwards, we are told, there would be a national war memorial in its place – there were two firsts on the parade. One was, the presence of 90-year-old INA Veterans for the first time, never mind the fact that they fought on the other side of the current day Indian Army units that were then under the British in World War-II. The other was awarding the prestigious Ashok Chakra for the first time to a Kashmiri, the twice decorated militant-turned-soldier L/Nk Nazir Ahmed Wani. But despite the display of some hi-end weaponry on the parade, the reality is that the bulk of our military equipment falls in the vintage category. This begs the question: why has there been little progress in defence indigenization, despite the loud pronouncements of ‘Make in India.’? An international event – the Aero India – preceding the elections this year thus reminds us of our embarrassing tag as the world's largest weapons importer, whilst dreaming of a 'great power' status! Foreign military aircraft makers have been invited at Bengaluru to pitch the swankiest in aerospace technologies in February, in the backdrop of the nasty allegations – a new low in Indian politics – following the Rafale deal, also reflecting our humiliating failure to make our own fighter aircraft. This is contrasted by the remarkable successes of the aerospace and defence industries of other developing countries like Brazil, South Africa, and of course, China. The staggering Chinese advances in niche areas like stealth aviation literally forced the US to resume its obscenely expensive F-22 programme that it had planned to scale down. The Chinese story forces us to question India's failure here and shows how vital scientific advancement is for both a nation's economic and military advancement.
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