In many respects, 2015 can be considered as a watershed year. Just two decades ago, in 1995, India suffered about 4000 fatalities, in incidents related to terrorist violence and insurgencies. That high dropped to 1212 fatalities in 2005, and further dropped to just over 700 fatalities in 2015, of which 379 fatalities pertained to terrorists killed by the security forces. This indeed is a remarkable turnaround by the security forces and the Indian state. From the previous year itself, the fatalities have declined by close to 30 percent, making 2015 by far the most peaceful year in India, in decades. There were 175 civilian fatalities in terrorist violence throughout the country in 2015, of which 88 were in LWE affected areas. This marks a turning point in the war against terror, which must be exploited through political means to bring about lasting peace.

The social media as a counterpoint to the mainstream media has resulted in democratising information at a scale never seen before, which can but augur well for the country. Information today is all pervasive, and thankfully, is no longer the sole preserve of the government or the big corporate, though they continue to exercise great influence on its content and disbursement. Just as the fourth estate acts as a check on the government and its functioning, the social media has levelled the playing field by putting into public domain, what the fourth estate is loathe to do. While the social media too has its pitfalls, over time, balance will set in which is a positive for the India growth and development story. We are living in the age of information, and information today is power. Democratisation of information has put that power, or at least a semblance of it, firmly in the hands of the people. This is a lesson the armed forces must take note of, as future conflict will have information at its core.

The change of government at the Centre in 2014, has heralded a change in decision making, which at last has picked up pace after a decade of inertia. The political authority has shown its intent in pushing through proposals for fast tracking growth, which has been reflected through 2015. That is indeed a cause for cheer. The instruments of governance however, continue to be a cause for concern, as India’s bureaucracy is wedded to its old slothful ways of delaying decisions and avoiding accountability. Reinvigorating the bureaucracy remains a challenge, which still remains rooted to working with twentieth century mindsets to confront the challenges of the twenty-first century.

On the defence preparedness front, the Make in India programme is making headway, albeit slowly. While the progress is slow, it appears that defence reforms are back on track, though resistance by certain self interest groups and the general inertia of the bureaucracy threaten to derail the system, with the old approach of licence-manufacture, continuing to find resonance in the corridors of power.

There is no alternative for India but to design and manufacture our defence needs at home, if we wish to see ourselves free from the clutches of foreign military vendors. Screwdriver technology, as showcased by the Defence Public Sector Units is not indigenisation, regardless of the spin put out on it by those heading such organisations. Indian design, development and manufacture must be the keystone for the defence sector, which by itself can improve the nations GDP by a point or two, besides enhancing the country’s technological base and providing employment to millions. The challenges are many, but a concerted effort by the political authority, in sync with the Armed Forces, the public sector and the private sector, can deliver the requisite end result. That will remain the defining challenge for 2016. Happy Reading.

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