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India’s new artillery chief signals new focus for army
April 19, 2012Posted by on
Contributed by: Simon Wigfield
It has been recently announced that Lieutenant General Anjan Mukherjee has assumed the position as the 34th Director General of the Directorate of Artillery, Army HQ, Indian Army. However with this new appointment a few questions instantly spring to mind:
- Why specifically was General Mukherjee given this appointment?
- Can General Mukherjee actually do anything to solve the significant issues found in this sector?
General Mukherjee’s prior appointment makes him one of the most influential, important and respected officers in the Indian Army. As DG of Financial Planning he was at the helm of the office responsible for budget strategy and allocation for the entire Indian Army. It would appear to me that General Mukherjee’s business acumen and commercial ‘know how’ places him in the perfect position to re-invigorate India’s artillery procurement. After 25 years of failed procurement due to poor planning, never-ending bureaucracy and corruption at the highest level, India’s artillery is now nothing more than obsolete. It is hoped that by appointing a business minded officer – who has exceptional artillery experience – these monumental procurement issues might be resolved or reduced to a level where at least one major gun can be procured by 2037.
The answer to the second question is a matter of opinion and therefore often can be quite controversial. From the perspective of an international defence analyst, it seems outrageous that a nation with the money, technological ability and requirement cannot complete a simple procurement process. However, India hasn’t just failed to procure for one requirement but at least 5, putting them 25 years behind the rest of their global peers. For General Mukherjee to make a significant inroad into his desired procurements he is first going to have to solve 25 years of sly dealing, mistrust and damaged credibility. International industry’s perception of Indian artillery procurements leads less to be desired. After 25 years of being told “Yes we will buy something this time round, we promise,” only to hear 12 months later “we need to start again as we’ve changed the requirements” or “Company X has been offering bribes, we need to go back to square one,” they are rightly sceptical on whether continually investing in these procurements is genuinely worthwhile.
Even if this reassurance is accepted by the industry, this has still not directly solved concerns over unnecessary red-tape and a lack of understanding as to what is actually needed vs. what can be acquired. General Mukherjee is not simply going to be able to flick a switch and solve these problems. Far from it! He is going to have to look at the very heart of his Directorate to discover what has exactly been going wrong. This I’m sure will not be an easy or pleasant view. But what I am sure of is, if anyone is actually going to be able to turn these procurements around it will be the General in question. Having announced that he is to make a special procurement address at an artillery conference in New Delhi in June in front of senior officers from allied nations, the indication seems to be that the Indian Army’s goal of purchasing $4 billion worth of artillery is finally an immediate requirement.