Top Priorities of Indian Defense
1. Boost indigenous defence R&D and production. Revamp DRDO and its 50 labs, five defence PSUs, four shipyards and 39 ordnance factories. Encourage the private sector to enter arms manufacturing in a major way. India, embarrassingly, still imports 65% of its military hardware and software.
2. Streamline cumbersome arms procurement procedures to fast-track acquisitions and reduce corruption. Also re-examine the policies for offsets, transfer of technology and ban on agents. Projects for new submarines, howitzers, fighters, helicopters, night-fighting capabilities, air defence weapons and the like have been stuck for years due to politico-bureaucratic apathy.
3. Reform the country's higher defence management, with measures ranging from creating a chief of defence staff-like post to truly integrating Service HQs with the defence ministry and cross-staffing (posting military officers to MoD at the director/joint secretary-levels).
4. Ensure faster build-up of both the new mountain strike corps as well as military infrastructure like the long-identified 73 strategic roads and 14 railway lines, helipads and advance landing grounds, along the Line of Actual Control to counter China. Boost force-levels and infrastructure at Andaman and Nicobar Command, apart from creating three new tri-Service commands for space, cyber and special operations.
5. Complete India's nuclear weapons triad by faster induction of nuclear submarine INS Arihant and its follow-on sister ships with long-range missiles. Land and air legs already in place with Agni ballistic missiles and fighter-bombers.
6. Hike budgeted defence expenditure to at least 2.5% of GDP, instead of letting it wallow around just 1.7 to 1.9%, for adequate military modernization and requisite deterrence against both China and Pakistan. Cut the flab in the armed forces, improve the teeth-to-tail ratio.