Incredible India!

T-72 - small

The slogan ‘Incredible India!’ was adopted by the country’s Ministry of Tourism in 2002. It obviously resonated enough with a global audience because it even has its own Wikipedia entry.

After a number of trips to India for business and pleasure over the years, I admit I do indeed find India most incredible.

I can give an example of the Defexpo defence exhibition in Delhi. I remember arriving at the main gate on opening day, expecting to pick up my press badge from the (non-existent) media counter. Unfortunately, all badges were held at the media centre inside the exhibition, thus leading to the following conversation with the security guard at the gate.

‘Where’s your badge?’ (him)

‘I guess it’s inside.’ (me)

‘You don’t have a badge so you can’t come in.’

‘If I don’t come in, I can’t get my badge.’

‘You don’t have a badge so you can’t come in.’

‘I know I don’t have my badge because it’s inside.’

You can see where this surreal conversation was going. Anyway, that’s just one example of an incredible Indian propensity to make things much more difficult than they have to be.

What got me thinking about India in the first place was a recent story about India issuing an RfI to replace its approximately 1,900 T-72 main battle tanks (MBT).

The RfI, released on 8 June, stated, ‘The Indian Army is planning to design and develop a new-generation, state-of-the-art combat vehicle platform for populating its armoured fighting vehicle fleet in the coming decade. This vehicle, which will be called the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV), will form the base platform for the main battle tank which is planned to replace the existing T-72 tanks in the armoured corps.’

This revelation must sound the death knell for the indigenous Arjun MBT, a platform that has suffered from lack of performance, high price tag and shortage of spare parts. It was reported earlier this year that nearly half the army’s Arjuns were inoperable. The Arjun was supposed to be an indigenous MBT, but 55% of their components are imported from overseas.

Arjun - small

The design was hugely over budget and behind schedule before it was reluctantly accepted by the Indian Army in 2004. The improved Arjun Mk II continues to slowly pass through user trials but, I for one, do not remain optimistic it will succeed where its predecessor failed.

India’s Arjun experience does not bode well for the FRCV, and programme delays seem inevitable beyond the envisaged 2025-27 entry-to-service period.

For further cautions, just look at India’s incredible record of failed or prolonged arms acquisitions: artillery pieces, Rafale fighters and new helicopters just for starters.

Yes, Incredible India!

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