Friday, August 18, 2017

PSY- WAR PROPAGANDA :Walking the tightrope in China






    Walking the tightrope in China 


                Sandeep Dikshit

 Aug 19, 2017

Amidst the military face-off at Doklam, China invited four Indian journalists for a week to convey its side of the story. Such exchanges, called fam-tours, or

familiarisation visits, for foreign opinion makers — including the media and Parliamentarians — are the staple of every government. China has practised sophisticated diplomacy since imperial times and the scheduling of this visit in the middle of a tense standoff conveyed its own message.

The first glimpse of Beijing for a traveller from New Delhi is always groggy. The six-hour airtime interrupted by in-flight catering is inadequate for a straight long nap. Runway congestion in Delhi this time added another hour of bolt-upright sitting in the tightly arranged economy section of Air China.

For chaperoned tours of Beijing, as this one was, there is a set pattern. Beijing is a compulsory destination. The second city is added according to the priorities of the Government-of-day. During the days of Jiang Zemin, aligned with the Shanghai faction of the Chinese Communist Party, Pudong, China's city of a thousand skyscrapers was a must-see destination. When the populist leader Hu Jintao became President, it was common practice to pencil-in a town-on-the make — usually in the interiors, such as Luoyang, the city of Longmen grettos and the White Horse Temple on its outskirts — or model village houses in which befuddled residents were as yet unused to the modern toilet. Even when the Shanghai was on the ropes, the Chinese can't resist showcasing Shanghai's dazzling, giant saucer-shaped high-speed train terminal or the superfast Maglev to the airport, with a top speed of 430 kmph.

Brimming Hostility

But this tour was different. Official China has never been as angry. The previous face-offs between Indian and Chinese soldiers never ever made it to the Chinese media. Now column after column brims with hostility, homilies and invectives. One day a China Daily editorial meticulously lists all the red lines crossed by Indian soldiers and their strategists in Doklam; the next day the Global Times picks up the cue. 

We are the chosen medium for Chinese messaging on Doklam. At each interaction, the message is the same but delivered differently: army officials prefer the in-your-face approach. The run-up of the diplomats is artful, the detailing meticulous and the warning wrapped in a soft tone that hardly registers.

The Message

Because the times are tense and the message should not be diluted by other sights and sounds, the curtain draws with a trip to the 3rd Garrison Division of the People Liberation Army. It is these men and women who would man Tiananmen Square should China again face a call to democracy. At 35 degrees, the heat bounces from concrete pave walks in the city. But the Garrison is set between green rolling hills. Sitting in an air-conditioned room, a sweeping glass panel separates the amassed soldiers as they assault targets and hit bull's eye with every volley. Some among us four may be overreacting when they feel the terrain is similar to Doklam. This is one of the designated spots for interaction with foreign military delegates. This is established by a bank of wall-mounted photo frames. The Pakistani delegations take up several slots but there is a solitary Indian delegation as well which visited the Garrison two months before Doklam unfolded. The message about Chinese army preparedness was reinforced with a drive across the town to an imposing multistoried building with the usual electronic access control systems. The army headquarters is much bigger, our permanent minder from the All China Journalists Association informs us. This is merely their information office. The tenor of the reception everywhere in official China is uniform. Steel gates slide away to admit the vehicle; the way to the lift and then the meeting hall is lined by beauties attired in the velvety-red Cheongsam or the two-piece Pein Fu. One of them is always in attendance at the interaction; gliding up softly to fill the cup of green tea by the elbow.  

As compared to the Indian media presence in non-western countries such as Russia or Tokyo, the contingent here is sizeable. Most were not informed about the rare roll-out of Chinese officials, some of whom they have never sighted in their decades-long postings. It falls on us to battle the patchy free WiFi available in hotels (comparatively free WiFi connectivity in India is a dream) and on the streets to pass on some juicy bits to keep the kitchen fires of Beijing-posted Indian scribes going. 

State of Non-Communication

Government-focused reporting invariably produces news driblets every day in India but it is risky business in China for its government will only speak when it wants to. And sometimes this state of non-communication can last months. Currently, the roles are reversed. The Indian embassy shows no inclination to reach out except for the Intelligence boys who are curious. The rumour is the Indian envoy is reticent for fear of media misreporting tripping up his promotion chances.

The army men rarely pull their punches. "We have the determination. If India continues going down the wrong path, we have the right to protect the lives of our troops. We have had several face-offs but we never had to issue a position paper." The Chinese are taking their paper missiles seriously.
 The army, like all its counterparts, has a think tank and all its expert hands seem to be exploring the implications of the Doklam standoff.

Soft Power

If Day One belonged to the military, the next day was dedicated to soft diplomacy. It was early and the traffic in Beijing was yet to get into gear. A man leaned on the bonnet of his Toyota as he supervised ill-dressed rural migrants positioning flowerpots around the two-block-long Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was not the usual run-of-the-mill media briefing at the hi-tech hall that so often features on TV news. Petite but steely, Wang Wenji had opted to meet at one of the tasteful low-ceilinged cubicle framed by paper and silk guóhuà paintings, alternating with shui-mo variants of strong black lines and dotted brushstrokes. This time the message will be camouflaged. Her sofa framed by a delicate silk-and-walnut folding screen, Wang details China's considerable experience in settling its land borders and wonders why India, with Bhutan tagging along, is the only exception. But the message from the diplomat who has details about all of China's frontiers on her fingertips is stern: no substantial talks till the Indians stop interfering in Chinese territory.  There was more of soft diplomacy to the afternoon, intended to show that China was not closed to winds and ideas from overseas. At China Radio International (CRI), again in a sprawling behemoth of a building, located off Beijing's Fifth Ring Road, teems with foreigners. The Hindi division has quite a few Indians while the adjoining Bengali news service has denizens from Kolkata and Dhaka. A Mauritian along with a Sri Lankan slurps milky tea in the canteen. The glass ceiling is evident though. Foreigners can only aspire to be worker bees but there is scope for creativity and experimentation for CRI has embraced all the three mediums.

Warnings in Smiles

The next day was again devoted to tough love messaging. At the China Institute of International Studies, the Chief is a former diplomat who again wraps warnings in smiles and dulcet tones. But his number two is of an excitable age. Hackles on the Indian side go up as he fulminates against the "invasion", the "biased" Indian media and the hazards of turning a deaf ear to Chinese protestations. "Calm down," an Indian journalist advises while others smile uncomfortably. It was the same room where Gorbachev and Deng Xiaoping had once initiated border talks that lasted for two decades. A similar sense of déjà vu would have been in evidence then. 

In the evening, three Colonels spearhead a full-scale assault. Billed as an “India-China media seminar”, the local media was actually the audience. Once the Colonels realised the Indian side, though not speaking for their government, was not inclined to absorb recriminations and was prepared to give back as good as it got, the proceedings became interesting, and heated. Accusations of India at odds with all its neigbours were met by a listing of China's troubles in the oceans around its periphery, while the Chinese journalists fidgeted. A hastily-passed note from one regretted the "unfriendly" attitude of the army colonels. But the grins returned when the meeting broke up. The officers were meant to semaphore and once the task was over, there were no hard feelings. One who had served in Doklan confessed that "you are stronger there." The hard feelings sought to be tempered with the Kung Fu Show, a lavishly-mounted fusion of the modern with the traditional. 
The good cop returned into play again the next day. A pre-dawn flight to Zhanjiang, roughly the distance between Chandigarh and Kochi, brought about a complete change of scenery. The stiffness of Beijing devolved into an informal atmosphere. More locals packed its restaurants, the vegetation was wild and abundant compared to Beijing's carefully manicured lawns and familiar vegetables like bitter gourd and pumpkin shared gastronomic space with scallops and oysters harvested from the famed South China Sea. 

Propositioning Galore

Zhanjiang was a relief from the constant propositioning outside hotels in Beijing and Shanghai. The routine in Beijing is a one-two approach. An older woman will gingerly approach the foreigner. In flawless English, she will claim to have arrived from another city while her younger accomplice, smiling demurely all the time, is positioned as a city resident who wants to have "fun" but is too shy to make the offer. In contrast, Shanghai is a la carte: from offers to facilitate beer for a dollar to a "good time" with a woman, or even a boy. But the end result is the same, as an undocumented Bengali who stitched footballs during the day and solicited in the evening, had confessed. The victim ends up in a Hutong, one of the city's narrow lanes, where roughnecks set to work on him. An Intelligence operation is slightly different, it is said, but journalists are very low-value targets. avy men have travelled the world and have learnt to talk the language of reasonableness. The headquarters of the South China Sea is sprawling but as was the case at the 3rd Garrison Division, a ship smelling of fresh paint but now obsolete as compared to its newer peers is the designated showpiece for foreigners. If the two armies are facing off some distance away, China's sailors gave no indication. Their brief was to point out the difference between US naval forays in South China Sea — within 12 nautical miles of claimed Chinese territory — and Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean where they steer clear of the waters of other countries. Having opened its first foreign base in Africa, the Chinese naval men had the option to swagger. But they were sticking to Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping's dictum: "Hide your strengths, bide your time." Chinese airlines have expanded at breakneck speed and in the process overextended themselves. ea at all times had to be reluctantly given up. And what about shopping, did you say? The flight delays meant there were just two hours on the last day. But with skills honed by bargaining in bazaars here, this was more than adequate.They had a valid reason for the next day's meltdown: a freak hail storm in Beijing. The flight for Zhanjiang landed after six hours. But the enforced stay at the airport was pleasant even for a relatively small city. Chic-looking restaurants, especially at hotels and in malls, are yet to become expensive rip-offs. 

Back in Beijing, another two-hour confinement in the aircraft was in store. The next day it was time to leave. The healthy routine of breakfast at 7 am, supper at 6 pm and unsweetened  tea at all times had to be reluctantly given up. And what about shopping, did you say? The flight delays meant there were just two hours on the last day. But with skills honed by bargaining in bazaars here, this was more than adequate. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

There Is a ‘Critical Hollowness’ in India’s Defence Preparedness


There Is a ‘Critical Hollowness’ in India’s Defence Preparedness

With attempts at infiltration being made virtually every night and frequent exchanges of small arms and artillery fire, the line of control (LoC) with Pakistan is more active than it has been in the last five years. The number of terrorist attacks in Kashmir has also risen sharply this summer. The stand-off with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at Doklam has stretched to two months. The rhetoric being spewed out by the Chinese government-controlled media is getting shriller by the day. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) now under construction will lead to further increase in their military collusion.

The net effect of India’s deteriorating security environment will be that the country will be confronted with a two-front situation during future conflict. With the dogs of war barking in the distance, in July, the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) of India released a disquieting report about continuing ammunition shortages. There are large-scale deficiencies in other important military items of equipment as well. Addressing the inadequacies in the state of India’s defence preparedness, termed as ‘critical hollowness’ by former army chief General V.K. Singh, merits the government’s urgent attention.
Deficiencies in ammunition have an adverse impact on the ability to sustain military operations over the period of time that is necessary. According to the CAG, in March 2013, 50% of the different categories of weapons (including tanks and artillery guns) had stocks for less than ten days of fighting. Since then, there has been some improvement, but for 40% of its weapons, the army still holds stocks for less than ten days of conflict.
The Kargil conflict in 1999 lasted 50 days and we must acknowledge that any future border conflict may also be prolonged. During the Kargil conflict, 50,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery ammunition had to be imported from South Africa. The occurrence of such a critical situation during a time of crisis must be avoided through a prudent replenishment and stocking policy.
The army’s sister services are no better off. While the Indian navy is far from acquiring the capabilities of a blue water navy, the People’s Liberation Army navy is getting ready to sail into the Indian Ocean, and is acquiring bases and port facilities in fast-forward mode. Over the last five years, the Indian navy has had major accidents on board submarines INS Sindhurakshak and INS Sindhuratna. In another accident, submarine batteries that should have been replaced much earlier were still being used due to inordinately long acquisition procedures. Meanwhile, the indigenous production of six Scorpene submarines has been delayed by almost five years.
From its peak at 39 squadrons over a decade ago, the fighting strength of the Indian air force has gone down to 32-33 squadrons, whereas actually 42-45 squadrons will be required to meet future threats and challenges. Obsolescent fighter aircraft like MiG-21s and MiG-27s and vintage helicopters are still in service. The holding of surface-to-air missile systems for air defence operations is grossly inadequate as indigenous research and development projects have been plagued by time and cost overruns. The fortification of forward air bases against terrorist attacks has not yet been completed, despite the attack on the Pathankot air base in January 2016.
The continuation in service of obsolete and obsolescent weapons and equipment also affects the country’s defence preparedness as fighter and bomber aircraft are extremely difficult to maintain towards the end of the life cycle. Modernisation of the armed forces has been stagnating due to the inadequacy of funds, the black-listing of several defence manufacturers and bureaucratic red tape that stymies the acquisition process. However, several pragmatic amendments were approved by Manohar Parrikar, then defence minister, in the new Defence Procurement Procedure to streamline procurement procedures and encourage participation of the private sector in defence manufacture.
Defence procurement projects worth over Rs 1,50,000 crore have been accorded ‘acceptance of necessity’, or approval in principle, by the NDA government, but it will take up to five years before deliveries of the weapons systems begin. And, like in the UPA regime, significantly large amounts of funds continue to be surrendered unspent from the capital budget.
In the army, artillery modernisation has been stagnating. There is an urgent need to acquire approximately 3,000 pieces of 155 mm/52-calibre guns to replace obsolescent towed and self-propelled guns and howitzers. So far a contract has been signed only for 145 pieces of M777 155 mm/45-calibre howitzers from the US.  Another contract for 114 pieces of 155 mm/45-calibre Dhanush howitzers based on the Bofors design is expected to be signed with the Ordnance Factories Board shortly if the gun clears all trials. Air defence and army aviation units are also equipped with obsolete equipment that has substantially reduced their combat effectiveness and created vulnerabilities.
Modern wars are fought mostly during the hours of darkness, but a large number of the army’s armoured fighting vehicles – tanks and infantry combat vehicles – are still ‘night blind’. Only about 650 T-90S tanks of Russian origin have genuine night fighting capability. The infantry battalions need over 30,000 third generation night vision devices, new assault rifles – a soldier’s basic weapon, carbines for close quarter battle, general purpose machine guns, light-weight anti-materiel rifles, mine protected vehicles, 390,000 ballistic helmets, and 180,000 lightweight bullet proof jackets.
The navy is in the process of commissioning an air defence ship at Kochi to replace the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and is building six Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks. It is also building 22 destroyers, frigates, corvettes, fast attack craft, landing ships and support ships. However, India’s maritime security challenges are growing and the navy not only needs to modernise but also expand its footprint in the Indo-Pacific region along with the navies of India’s strategic partners.
The modernisation plans of the air force are making progress, but at a snail’s pace. The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft project to acquire 126 fighter aircraft to replace obsolete MiG-21s is stuck in a groove, with the exception of the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters from France. Lockheed Martin (F-16) and Boeing (F-18) have jumped into the fray again with offers to produce their fighter aircraft locally with transfer of technology.
The IAF also requires several additional AWACS early warning aircraft, six mid-air refueller tankers, 56 transporter planes, 20 advance jet trainers, 38 basic trainers, 48 medium-lift helicopters, reconnaissance and surveillance helicopters, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic warfare suites. All three Services need to upgrade their C4I2SR capabilities to prepare for effects-based operations in a network-centric environment and to match ever increasing Chinese military capabilities.
The planned acquisitions are capital intensive and the present defence budget cannot support many of them. The defence budget has dipped to 1.56% of the country’s projected GDP for 2017-18 – the lowest level since the disastrous 1962 war with China. It must be progressively raised to 3.0% of the GDP if India is to build the defence capabilities that it needs to meet future threats and challenges and discharge its growing responsibilities as a regional power in Southern Asia.
The government has recently sanctioned some funds and delegated financial powers to the three services to acquire the wherewithal necessary for combat readiness. However, unless the remaining deficiencies in weapons, ammunition and equipment are also made up quickly, the management of the defence budget improves by an order of magnitude and the defence procurement process is streamlined further, thoughts of critical hollowness in  defence preparedness will continue to haunt India’s defence planners.
Gurmeet Kanwal is Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017



                                     INDIAN NATIONAL FLAG

For several decades, crores of Indian’s were led to believe that Pingali Venkaiah from Vijayawada designed the Indian National Flag. Now, new research by Capt. L. Panduranga Reddy proves that this is yet another half-truth propagated by our Andhra leaders. Truth is that the current Indian National Flag had evolved over several decades of independence movement. Pingali Venkaiah was merely a contributor to one of the versions of the flag. Even the flag designed by him, was not his idea, but Venkaiah just implemented the idea of  Lala Hansraj and Gandhiji.  Capt. L. Panduranga Reddy’s research proves that it is a Hyderabadi woman named Suraiyya. who actually designed the final tricolor!

Read on:

Read on:
Hyderabad Woman made the National Flag
- Capt. Lingala Panduranga Reddy
President, Voice of Telangana

For many writers, the erstwhile Hyderabad state was a last legatee of the Mughals and a feudal backward state. However, for a few it was a peaceful state known for Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb where people lived in harmony. The Nizam was known for eclectic views and did not squander state’s finances. In reality, both views are partly correct and in many respects they are wrong. Earlier writers castigated the Nizam belittled Hyderabad people as indolent, indulgent and ingenuous and the affluent hedonists. On the other hand, they not only became nostalgic but also turned apologists. They wrote about buildings, sherwanis – biryanis, khandaan and pandaan, etc. In the process, the real contributions of Hyderabad people were relegated to limbo of history, and the heroes were unwept and unsung.

One such remarkable and incredible contribution was designing the National Flag was by a woman from Hyderabad. Tomes of vernacular and English literature attribute this to Pingali Venkaiah of Vijayawada. It is a factoid – an assumption or speculation that is reported or repeated so often that it becomes acceptable as truth. According to them, in 1921, All India Congress Working Committee meeting was held at Bezawada (present Vijayawada), Venkaiah, a Congress volunteer designed a tri-colour flag and presented to Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was impressed by it and passed it on to the Working Committee. In deference to the wishes of Gandhi, Congress had adopted it and subsequently it became the National Flag, for which Pingali Venkaiah was hailed and Government of Andhra Pradesh showered encomiums on him. His statue was installed at the Tank Bund of Hyderabad along with other supposedly luminous personalities of Andhra region.

In March 2013, Telangana protagonists organized a “Millennium March” to Tank bund as part of agitational programmes to press for Telangana de-merger from A.P. Some of the protagonists became restive and demolished many statues belonging to Andhras. However, they did not touch the statue of Pingali Venkaiah out of veneration, for they regarded him as a nation builder. That was the esteem Venkaiah held even amongst Telangana people. A section of media reported that Pingali Venkaiah progeny was not only impecunious but also indigent and also appealed to the Govt. to extend financial assistance to his successors and the Government rightly obliged.

Be that as it may, the official history of Congress reads altogether different. The All India Congress Committee Commissioned Bhogaraju Pattabhi Seetaramaiah to write a detailed Congress history. Accordingly, he wrote authentic history of Congress. He writes that – the issue of National Flag was first time ever discussed in the annual conference of the Indian National Congress held at Calcutta in 1923. However, the Home Rule League movement which was started by both Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Beasant in 1916, had already designed a flag and propagated it as the National Flag. Subsequently, the Home Rule League was merged with the Congress. However, the Congress appointed a sub-committee to finalise the flag for India. On this Committee, a noted artist, Avinindranath Tagore was included. The Committee never met and finalized the Flag.

Sitaramaiah further succinctly writes that the Congress included ‘Charaka’ to the earlier Home Rule League Flag and adopted. It was in 1931, original red colour in the Home Rule League Flag was replaced with Ochre colour (Bhogaraju Pattabhi Seetaramaiah, Congress Charitra, All India Congress – Allahabad, Andhra Patrika Printing Press, Chennapuri, 1935, p.207). It should be noted that the History of Congress is a ponderous book of 870 pages and has 86 annexures. Seetaramaiah was a knowledgeable senior national Congress leader from Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. To this very district, Pingali Venkaiah belonged. However, Seetaramaiah did not make mention of Venkaiah’s name, not even once in this book.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak started the Home Rule League confined mainly to Maharashtra and Karnataka in April 1916, whereas Annie Beasant founded her Home Rule League in September 1916. Activities of both league consisted of carrying out propaganda for the Congress – League agenda of political reforms following the Lucknow Pact. In the year 1917, the 33rd session of the Congress was held at Calcutta, and the first woman President Annie Beasant (Dec. 26th to 29th). As Annie Beasant became the President of AICC, she merged the Home Rule League along with its tri-colour in the Congress. That means, tri-colour came into vogue in 1917 whereas the Working Committee of Congress met at Bezawada only in 1921. In this meeting, Pingle Venkaiah supposed to have presented tri-colour to Mahatma Gandhi. The contemporary newspapers of that period both vernacular English did not make any mention of the flag.

It was in 1957, the Government of India while celebrating the century celebrations of 1857, the first war of independence, had decided to compile a book on the freedom fighters of India and solicited the services of noted historian Prof. Tarachand of Allahabad University. He produced four volumes of authentic history of freedom movement citing primary sources. Curiously enough his book also does not make a mention of Pingali Venkaiah and his much orchestrated tri-colour flag.

Be that as it may, another erudite English historian Trevor Royle in his “The Last Days of the Raj” writes that the National Flag was made by Badruddin Tayabji’s wife.

He writes “By one of those contradictions which run through India’s history, the national flag was designed by a Muslim, Badr-ud-Din Tyabji. Originally the tricolour was to have contained the spinning-wheel symbol (charka) used by Gandhi but this was a party symbol which Tyabji thought might strike the wrong note. After much persuasion Gandhi agreed to the wheel because the Emperor Ashoka was venerated by Hindu and Muslim alike. The flag which flew on Nehru’s car that night had been specially made by Tyabji’s wife.” (Trevor Royle, The Last Days of the Raj, Cornet Books, Hodder and Stoughton, London, pg. 217)

Tyabji was an ICS officer in the Prime Minister’s office in 1947. He was known for erudition and scholarship and his wife’s name was Suraiyya. She was none other than niece of Sir Akbar Hydari of Hyderabad. Her wedding was performed at Hyderabad city. Thus the Indian tricolour was made by a woman from Hyderabad, but history does not record the contribution of Hyderabad people as was done in the case of Maulvi Allauddin, the first 1857 martyr who was transported for life to Kalapani, Andamans and Abdul Hasan Safrani a Hyderabadi who coined Jaihind slogan.

Dramatist Shakespeare is right:

 “when beggars die, there are no comets seen;

    the heaven’s blaze from the death of  princes   

Monday, August 14, 2017



Posted at: Aug 14, 2017, 12:43 AM; last updated: Aug 14, 2017, 12:43 AM (IST)

            THE DOKLAM TEST  


        Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)

National defence holds low priority



UNPREPARED: The country is faced with a war-like situation

THERE appears to be no early solution to the ongoing standoff on the Doklam plateau. China's unilateral action to alter the location of the tri-junction between India, Bhutan and China is unexceptionable and violates the 2012 agreement. 
There is a deeper move in this attempt to build a road on this plateau. It not only aims at posing a serious threat to the Siliguri corridor by crossing the Torsa Nala and occupying the Jhamperi Ridge, but also wean away the only country left in India's neighbourhood, where it exercises influence and comes in the way of China's attempt at complete encirclement of India.     
China has been assiduously working to encircle India both on land and sea, with the eventual aim of capturing markets and relegating India to a secondary position. Such a move is reminiscent of the gun-boat diplomacy of the seventeen-eighteen centuries by European countries. Building OROB (One Road one Belt) and CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) is in line with the gun-boat diplomacy of that period, though, through a different format, the sole purpose being to capture markets, in the region and beyond.   
China has succeeded in gaining influence and foothold in almost all of India's immediate neighbourhood, sans Bhutan. This Doklam effort is to draw Bhutan too out of India's sphere of influence. 

India's inability to counter these moves by China bears on our foreign policy and diplomatic skills.

While China's media and government have been making every effort to raise the ante, India's response has been restrained, muted and mature. 

The issue that one needs to be addressed is as to why China is spoiling for a fight with a large country of India's size with equally large defence forces for a minor issue, when seen in the larger context of the region! 

Perhaps, it is somewhat related to the state of the Indian armed forces.

 There has been no attempt at modernising the military during the last three decades. Since the Bofors scandal, deficiencies of ammunition and some other essential equipment have been allowed to pile up. The most unusual step of placing thousands of crores of rupees at the disposal of the Vice Chief of the Army to undertake emergency purchases to meet acute shortages of ammunition, both artillery and armour, and a range of other items points to an alarming situation of shortages with the military. All this leads one to conclude that the state of military's reserves is critical. One need raise the issue as to how this critical situation has come about and who is accountable. 

Who has been sitting on the Army's demands for ammunition and a range of critical equipment as well as its modernization? 

According to some press reports, the country is faced with a war-like situation and desperate attempts are afoot to create reserves of ammunition etc even for a war of duration as short as ten days or so.

Though the Army Chief has been talking of a two and a half front war, where is the wherewithal for a conflict of this scale and spread? 

China has been threatening to enlarge the scope of conflict and may not confine it to the Doklam area, where it is at some tactical disadvantage. 

There is an inherent drawback in emergency purchases of ammunition and certain critical equipment.  Since none of these are available off the shelf and their supply involves undertaking manufacture on demand, and that takes much time, one may end up picking up substandard or time expired items from the sellers' military reserves. 

While these emergency purchases for the military has in the past resulted in being shortchanged in a number of cases, one need quote just two to highlight the pitfalls in letting a situation develop where there may be no alternative to adopting this course. 

During the Indian Army's operations in Sri Lanka, the possibility of employment of parachute brigade came up and it surfaced that while we had a parachute brigade but there were no parachutes! Defence Finance had been sitting tight on the demand for these parachutes for close to six months. Now such items are not available off the shelf, so our military attaches were tasked to explore the possibility of obtaining these from armies of their accredited country. 

Our military attache in France was able to get these from the French army's reserve stocks. We paid the money only to discover that these failed the stress tests in India and turned out to be from the Vietnam war period, where many of these parachutes had blood stains. Thus these could not be put to use. 

The second case relates to tank ammunition. Once we took up the project to up-gun the T-55 gun, the Russians, who did not approve of this, for the first time and out of the blue, offered us APFSDS ammunition for the original 100 milimeter gun of this tank. We purchased 20,000 rounds of this ammunition at a huge cost, which failed two separate sets of trial in India, where I conducted one of these two trials. So such emergency purchases of ammunition and other military equipment without proper trials and care have their own pitfalls.

Unfortunately India has never paid much attention to the vital issue of national security. We have had considerable difficulty in finding a suitable Defence Minister. Parrikar would go about inspecting ceremonial guards of honour wearing slippers, with hands in his pockets and went on to inform the nation that since there has been no war for a long time, the public has lost respect for the Army! During his over two years tenure as Defence Minister there is nothing for him to show which can bring him some credit. Now an already over burdened Finance Minister has been given the additional charge of Defence Portfolio. In some manner this also points to the fact that national defence holds low priority in this country, even when we are surrounded on two fronts by hostile neighbours, who are in league with each other. 
India has never fully understood the inclusive relationship between economics and military power. The country's long history of subjugation by foreign powers bears testimony to this fact. We do not seem to have learnt much from history and appear to commit the same mistakes related to national security. A strong military is not to wage wars but to secure peace and let conditions prevail where nation building and creating economic muscle can go on unhindered and without outside interference.