On 7 June 2021, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh released an e-booklet — ‘20 Reforms in 2020’ — in presence of the top brass of the military and the Ministry of Defence. In his address, he termed the e-booklet a reflection of the resolve of the government to make the defence sector stronger and more efficient, and expressed the hope that the reforms undertaken would make India a global powerhouse in the defence sector in the years to come.
The aim of the reforms is vaguely mentioned “to bring about greater cohesion and modernisation of the armed forces through policy changes, innovation and digital transformation.” Notable reforms mentioned in the booklet are: appointment of Chief of Defence Staff and creation of Department of Military Affairs for tri-service integration and synergy with the MoD; crystallisation of policy on Aatmanirbhar Bharat to achieve self-sufficiency in defence, including creation of a military industrial complex; transformation of R&D; introduction of Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 to streamline procurement with focus on indigenisation; increase in defence budget; policy to boost defence exports; strengthening of border infrastructure; defence diplomacy; and a host of policy decisions and executive actions like increased participation of women in defence, digitisation of various departments, expansion and reforms of NCC and assisting the nation in fight against Covid.
The year 2020 has been momentous for policy decisions with respect to defence reforms. The challenge will lie in execution. Also, the reforms seem to be incremental in nature to make the existing system function better.
What is missing though is holistic and cohesive national security strategy driven transformation of the armed forces and the defence industrial complex to fight the wars and conflicts of the 21st century.