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Defence – spend more on equipment, reduce manpower

In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff: “India will have a CDS. This is going to make the armed forces even more effective,” he said.

This is welcome news raising the hope for speeding up reform the Defence sector. There has not been much of coordination among the Army, Navy and Air Force with a lot of duplication and redundancies. Defence accounted for a total expenditure of Rs 4,31,011 crore out of total revenue expenditure of Rs 27,86,349 lakh for 2019-20. A sizeable portion of this is accounted for by salaries and pensions. For a few decades now payment made on modernising defence equipment has been grossly inadequate to the needs. With widespread complaints of corruption, there have been long delays in negotiations and decisions on defence purchases. Former defence ministers like AK Antony have been indecisive and postponed purchase decisions. This has seriously affected national security.

In recent years there has been a welcome effort to streamline the system and modernise the equipment. Bold measures had been introduced to step up defence production capabilities and also tap the potential for exports of defence products. Manohar Parikkar and Nirmala Sitharaman, as ministers of Defence, set up ambitious targets for defence production and exports by 2025. Hopefully, these efforts would be continued.

A recent report suggested reducing defence employment by 3.5 lakh. The profound changes in modern warfare have moved towards short duration, hi-tech combat. The colonial system of huge manpower has lost much of its relevance. A large portion of the savings can go for strengthening the police and internal security apparatus as well as disaster relief. A vast reduction in the numbers can also save the resources for modernising equipment and systems.

TN CM to woo Tamil diaspora in UK, USA…

IE had been pointing to the chief ministers of the Dravidian parties unenthusiastic about foreign visits to attract investments in the state. MGR once visited the US three decades ago. C N Annadurai visited the US for medical treatment. Karunanidhi once toured Europe and the US. The atheist and a harsh critic of Hindu religious heads and their customs, had a darshan of the Pope. Jayalalithaa didn’t move out of the country to solicit investments.
These are in contrast to the vigorous efforts made by the counterparts in other states like S M Krishna of Karnataka, Chandrababu Naidu of A P or Narendra Modi of Gujarat; Tamil Nadu chief ministers failed to liaise closely with the large, prosperous Indian diaspora in the west.

I notice a welcome change since 2015. For the first time, the state organised a Global Investors’ Meet, set apart a budget of Rs 100 crore and encouraged top bureaucrats to project the very many special attractions of the state for investment. This was continued with the second such meet in January 2019. These resulted in handsome commitments for investments together totaling over Rs 540,000 crore. Chief Minister E K Palaniswami (EKP) seems to have been quite impressed with this record.

News on Chief Minister EKP planning visits to the UK and the US is thus welcome. The Tamil diaspora is concentrated in London, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle as also in the US capital Washington DC. The Tamils are in senior positions in several large corporations, financial services, IT and also, of late, in top government positions, legal and political fields… The Tamil Sangam and other Hindu religious outfits have also been active and flourishing. EKP is humble, approachable and spiritual and can vibe easily with the vast diaspora. In London also the Tamils are well established in the IT, financial services and healthcare sectors. I do hope the chief minister would impress the Tamil diaspora which would help make the CM’s visit productive and encourage the diaspora to share its considerable resources, particularly intellectual, with their motherland. The Gujaratis have been doing this so effectively for Narendra Modi and the Andhras for Chandrababu Naidu.

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