There is much talk today of smart cities as the mantra for future growth. At the core of this planned project, lies the fusion of modern technology with good infrastructure and smart governance. For armies of the world to be fit and ready for the battlefields of tomorrow, we too need to Smarten Up!
That means identifying and adopting military technologies that are in tune with our geography, strategic vision and national imperatives. Most modern nations develop technologies and war fighting wherewithal to enhance their capabilities in national interest and as part of an overarching grand design. Other nations then get hand me downs once these gizmos are fading out. If we have hopes and dream of being a respected regional power which can deter adversaries, it is imperative that we not only ‘Make in India’ but more importantly ‘Make for India’. Juxtaposing expensive and generational jump systems of foreign origin and then tailoring a role for them is unlikely to help us fight and win the next war. Given the terrain configuration of 75 percent of our borders, we have to as an army, imbibe, perfect and master technologies which give us dividends in mountainous, high altitude areas.
The ongoing asymmetric warfare in our region and elsewhere demands simpler and robust technologies to be a force multiplier. While boots on the ground are essential in this situation they must be augmented by weapons, sensors and protective devices which give us the winning edge. The transition from brawn to brain has now moved to technology and is moving towards artificial intelligence (AI). Thus, when goal posts keep changing rapidly, the smart team must adapt even faster.
It is in this context and backdrop that I must honestly confess that we, as a professional and competent army have failed the litmus test of being agile and receptive to harnessing emerging technology. Today, we lag behind our sister services by nearly a decade in understanding and applying technology as a potent weapon of war. We do not demand new systems which suit our tactics, organisation and terrain and are also slow in optimising the potential of our existing inventory. There is a reflex action desire for our decision makers to take a short cut by picking up ‘of the shelf’ weapons and systems hawked by western arms manufacturing conglomerates. These technologies are then willy nilly modified/innovated to align with Indian ground and tactical realities with suboptimal results, denying us the bang for our buck! Our experience with DRDO has perhaps so singed us that we are now skeptical and chary of any indigenous offering.
However things have since changed and we all should now be more receptive to indigenous equipment. I have met many Indian frontline tech savvy companies and their young technology adept entrepreneurs who are very eager to ‘Make in India’ for the armed forces. They are not only competent and patriotic but very receptive to ideas and prepared to go the extra mile to ensure cyber secure systems are tailor made which are fully in sync with our peculiar and varying operating conditions. The time has therefore come to step out of our comfort zone and prepare pragmatic wish lists of weapons, systems and sensors ‘for ourselves by ourselves’, for the future battle field. We are all aware that capacity and capability building is the key, whilst intentions are transitory. The army must catch up and take the lead in being a tech savvy army ready to fight a full spectrum war and win it convincingly! For that we need a paradigm shift in how we think as a modern army. We have to understand, imbibe and seek out breakthrough disruptive technologies, and stop being content at mastering the art of a good power point presentation.