Indian Defence

PM Modi’s Defence Triumphs: A Decade Overview

The landscape of the Indian Armed Forces has significantly transformed in the last decade and is still transforming at a good pace. Traditionally focused on deterring threats from Pakistan, the strategic priority has shifted to address the growing threat from China. This shift gained a significant boost after the 2020 Galwan incident. Some might look at this evolution from the political perspective as this transformation gained a significant boost under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi has served as the Prime Minister of India for almost 10 years and has supported India’s defence industry with multiple reforms brought during his tenure. 

From finalising long-delayed defence procurements to supporting domestic defence industries and taking swift action against potential security threats to India. Here are some of the major achievements under PM Modi’s tenure of 10 years. 

Atmanirbhar Bharat boosting Indian Armed Forces

For decades, India’s defence sector has relied heavily on imports, particularly from Russia. This reliance stemmed from factors like the wake-up call of the India-China war in 1962, which significantly exposed gaps in domestic capabilities. Even today estimated 80% of Indian weapon platforms are of Russian origin. However, the last decade has witnessed a significant shift from importing to domestic production of defence goods. The primary reason for this shift lies within the Central government’s initiatives toward Atmanirbhar Bharat. Key milestones achieved due to Atmanirbhar Bharat are as mentioned below

Arjun M1A Tank boosting Indian Armed Forces
Arjun Mk1A Tank (an Image of Atmanirbhar Bharat)
  • Streamlining defence procurement

Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) introduced in 2016 which was further revised as Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) in 2020 aimed to create a more efficient, transparent, and equitable system for acquiring critical military equipment. DAP has been working as an important instrument in propelling the Make in India initiative within the defence sector. 

DAP prioritises indigenous content by mandating higher minimum percentages of indigenous content in defence contracts. This incentivizes foreign manufacturers to partner with Indian companies for production and technology transfer, fostering domestic capabilities. Additionally, DAP incorporates provisions specifically aimed at simplifying procedures and promoting the participation of Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). This expands the domestic defence industrial base and contributes toward creating a robust ecosystem of suppliers.

The DAP also ensures transparency and efficiency by streamlining the procurement process. This reduces delays and encourages wider participation from domestic companies, fostering a more competitive environment that benefits, “Make in India”.

  • Increased Exports

From heavily importing defence goods to exporting, India has come a long way in this journey. Compared to previous decades India’s defence exports have grown by a staggering 31 times. In the financial year (FY) 2013-2014, exports stood at a mere ₹4,312 crore, whereas In FY 2023-2024, they reached a record high of ₹21,083 (USD 2.63 billion). It is worth noting the rise in exports was not consistent throughout the decade. There were significant jumps in specific years like in FY 2018-2019 followed by a dip in the next 2 years due to COVID-19. This highest-ever recorded defence export showcases India’s growing capabilities and increasing global recognition as a reliable defence platform supplier.

Factors resulting in the Highest ever exports are as mentioned below:

Policy reforms – Atmanirbhar Bharat initiated under PM Modi’s leadership focused on making India not only a self-reliant nation but also a supplier to the global market also plays a key role in increased defence export.

Improved Quality and cost-competitiveness – Indian defence manufactured goods have always been cost-effective and highly reliable as compared to other weapon platforms available in the International market. Maintaining such high quality and providing them at a reasonable price is yet another reason for this achievement.

New Reforms enhancing Indian Armed Forces

Chief of Defence Staff

Until January 2020 India did not have any Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). CDS is the senior most appointment of the Indian Armed Forces. This concept originated in the 1980s but took decades due to various factors. Additionally, recommendations for a more unified defence structure gained momentum after the 1999 Kargil War, however, political consideration delayed the decision until 2019. General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the first CDS of the Indian Armed Forces. The introduction of CDS came due to multiple reasons as mentioned below:

Chief of Defence Staff
India’s First Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat

Improved Coordination = Before CDS, the Indian army, navy, and air force functioned as separate entities. The CDS acts as a single-point military advisor to the government promoting better communication and joint operations among the service

Faster Decision Making = CDS streamlines the decision-making process by eliminating bureaucratic hurdles between the different branches. This allows for quicker response to evolving security threats. 

Theater Command = It is still a new concept for Indian forces and is expected to be implemented soon as now Indian forces have CDS. Theatre command is the concept where all military resources in a region are placed under a single commander, regardless of their service branch. This fosters better synergy and resource allocation during operations. 

  • Agnipath Scheme

Indian armed forces have come across multiple challenges with time. These challenges could have been tackled with suitable platforms that were lacking within the forces. The only reason that such required platforms were not available to the forces was because of a lack of budget. Around 50% of the total defence budget was being spent heavily on pensions whereas 5% on Research and Development (R&D). To overcome this issue a new recruitment scheme for all three services of the Indian Armed Forces came into existence in June 2022. Agnipath scheme was implemented with specific aims that were necessary for the modernization of the Forces are mentioned below

Reduced Defence Spending = The scheme aims to bring down the average age profile of the armed forces, which can lead to long-term pension billing reduction. 

Younger force = Agnipath brings in a younger generation familiar with technology, which is a necessity for modern warfare 

Opportunity for youth = Youth have a chance to serve the nation for a fixed tenure and gain valuable skills and experience, making them a responsible citizen of the country. 

Training burden = Training a smaller force for a shorter duration could free resources for more specialised training programs for permanent soldiers. 

  • Defensive Offence

In recent years the nature of the Indian Armed Forces has shifted from being just a defensive force to a defensive offence. A force with a defensive offence nature maintains a strong defensive posture but on the other hand, is also allowed to take necessary offensive steps to counter security threats. Some examples of defensive offence are mentioned below 

  • Operation Hot Pursuit – In June 2015 militants from the National socialist council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) ambushed an Indian army convoy in Manipur. In response, the Indian army launched Operation Hot Pursuit. Under this operation, Indian special forces entered Myanmar territory and targeted militant camps. This operation resulted in heavy militant casualties.
  • Surgical Strike, 2016 – In September 2016, 19 soldiers lost their lives during a deadly militant attack on an army base in Uri. A militant training camp in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir launched militants involved in this attack. In response to this attack, the Indian army launched a surgical strike targeting militant launch pads in POK. This surgical strike resulted in successful destruction of these targeted militant launch pads. Tension between India and Pakistan escalated significantly but did not turn into a major conflict. 
  • Balakot Airstrike, 2019 – On 14 February 2019, a suicide bombing by Jaish-e-Mohammad resulted in the casualties of 40 Indian CRPF personnel in Pulwama, Kashmir. In a pre-emptive strike, India launched an air attack on a JeM training camp in Balakot located deep inside Pakistan. This was the first time since 1971 that the Indian Air Force entered Pakistani airspace to conduct a military strike. 

Strategic Partnership 

The Russia-Ukraine war serves as a stark reminder that even powerful nations benefit immensely from strong strategic partnerships. While Ukraine lacked a robust military of its own, its alliances with the US and Western countries have been instrumental in its surprisingly effective resistance against a much larger foe. 

India’s Minister of External Affair S. JAISHANKAR

Similarly, India, surrounded by potential security threats, has actively bolstered its strategic partnership in the last decade. These strategic partnerships provide India with benefits like Joint military exercises, transfer of technology of key platforms, countering security threats effectively global influence such as 

  • QUAD:  A small group of strong nations including India, the US, Australia, and Japan fostering security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, a crucial area of concern due to China’s growing assertiveness. 
  • Enhance US-INDIA relations: Over the last decade, India and the US have built up a strong strategic relationship. Agreements like LEMOA (Logistics exchange memorandum of agreement), COMCASA, and BECA enable greater interoperability and Information sharing. 
  • Neighbourhood First Policy: India has prioritised building stronger ties with its immediate neighbours. Including economic and military cooperation with countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh, and others. 
  • Look East Policy: India’s Look East policy has evolved into an Act East policy, focusing on strengthening strategic economic partnerships with Southeast Asian nations to counter China’s influence in the region.

Way Forward

The past decade has seen India’s defence sector take off. The domestically built LCA Tejas fighter jet is a prime example, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) now capable of producing 24 aircrafts per year. However, engine supplier General Electric faces difficulties meeting India’s demand for the F404-GE-IN20 engine, causing delays in delivery of LCA aircraft. India also achieved a major milestone with the INS Vikrant, country’s first domestically built aircraft carrier. This success paves the way for future carriers to meet the Indian Navy’s requirement of 3rd aircraft carrier in active service. Moreover, in the wake of the Galwan clash the central government fast-tracked the acquisition process by approving four emergency procurement rounds for all three services of the Indian Armed Forces. 

Despite these achievements, hurdles persist. The Agnipath scheme, designed to bring in younger soldiers, faced criticism for its short, four-year service term. Many fear it jeopardises job security and leaves ex-soldiers, particularly those from underprivileged backgrounds, with limited options. This led to violent protests and many youths withdrawing their decision to join the Indian Armed Forces. Another challenge is the delay in crucial projects like the AMCA, India’s 5th-generation fighter jet. Government of India in March 2024, after years of waiting, finally granted funding for the prototype. However, it will still take an estimated five years to develop the first prototype and another five for full-scale production.

A major constraint remains is the lack of budget for research and development (R&D). To truly achieve self-reliance in defence, as the Indian government desires, a stronger R&D budget is essential. This lack of investment hinders the ability to achieve true self-reliance in defence, forcing India to rely on foreign suppliers. Additionally, this insufficient fund further adds challenges for Indian defence manufacturers to stay competitive in the international market.

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Bobby Yadav

A researcher in the field of Defence and International Relations, driven by a passion to make complex security issues understandable for the everyday citizen. With a belief that an informed public is essential for a healthy democracy and a peaceful world.

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