Major General Dalbir Singh Suhag inspects the Guard of Honour

As Armed Forces grappled with steep rise in terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014 amid heightened tension along the border with Pakistan, fresh breeze blew across the corridors of Defence Ministry which saw the new government pushing for faster acquisition process.During the year, defence forces launched gigantic rescue and relief operations in Jammu and Kashmir following the devastating floods and in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha after cyclone ‘Hudhud’ besides being the first to reach out to Maldives after it lone desalination unit caught fire.The year was also marked by the resignation of then Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi following a spate of mishaps under his watch while the Army got its new chief Gen Dalbir Singh, whose appointment by UPA government kicked up a row with BJP saying the matter should have been left to the new dispensation.But one thing that stood out this year was the new government’s pledge to fast track the defence acquisition process in a transparent manner while promoting domestic military industry.Defence proposals worth Rs 1.50 lakh crore were cleared by the Narendra Modi government since it came in power in May.The ball was set rolling by Arun Jaitley, who was holding the additional charge of defence ministry apart from his finance portfolio.In its first few days in office, the Modi government hiked the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in defence to 49 per cent from the earlier 26 per cent and significantly pruned the list of defence items whose production requires manufacturing licences. It also lifted an earlier three year lock-in period for foreign investment in defence sector.The NDA government is stressing on indigenisation of the military industry given that India has to import 70 per cent of its defence hardware.The slew of decisions brought cheers to the Armed Forces which has been facing an uphill task in its modernisation process.”The Armed Forces is not looking at the value of decisions taken. The high figure of value is because some major projects have been cleared. But we are happy to note the number of decisions that have been taken on the modernisation front,” a top defence official said about the new government.However, a major foreign defence player cautioned, “We should also see how many deals have actually being firmed up. Mere decisions alone cannot work in long term.” But the Indian domestic industry is happy that “Make in India” became the buzzword in the corridors of MoD.Under Jaitley, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) cleared an IAF proposal for issuance of a tender for construction of 56 transport aircraft to replace the force’s fleet of Avro aircraft. This is seen as a significant project in which the private sector would be the sole player and lead to capacity-building in the private sector.The DAC also decided that all the 384 light-utility helicopters needed by the Army and Air Force to replace the existing Cheetah/Chetak fleets will be made in India with foreign collaboration.What is more, in a landmark decision on October 25, the DAC cleared projects worth over Rs 80,000 crore.It was decided to build six submarines in India at a cost of about Rs 50,000 crore and to purchase over 8,000 Israeli antitank guided missiles and 12 upgraded Dornier surveillance aircraft. Of the Rs 80,000 crore, more than Rs 65,000 crore is Make in India or Buy & Make.For the personnel on the ground, the year was fraught with challenges.The year saw 103 militants being killed in Jammu and Kashmir and 31 Army personnel martyred. In 2013, 65 militants were killed while 50 security personnel laid down their lives.As assembly elections were underway in Jammu and Kashmir, militants carried out daring attacks. The militants seemed not only better trained but better equipped too.2014 also saw increased tensions along the LoC and International Boundary with thousands of Indian civilians forced to evacuate following “unprovoked firing” by Pakistani troops.However, Indian forces too were given a free hand and they replied strongly.

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2014, a mixed bag for armed forces