Saturday, April 5, 2008

Naval assets not for war?

Premvir Das Director General Defence Planning Staff and Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command Wrote this article .

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) (of India) came out with is own comments on the purchase of INS Jalashva. It was an revelation when it commented that "INS Jalashva cannot be used for war." Why the hell did Indian Navy buy it then? What ever the reasons, look at Premvir Das's justification.

To quote him:

The CAG goes on to object that the contract specifies that the ship should not be used in war. This provision, if it is there, is not unique. When we leased the nuclear submarine Chakra from former USSR in 1988, there was a similar clause in the contract. What we then paid as annual lease cost for that submarine compares with the total price at which Jalashva was purchased at comparable prices. The CAG is also upset that the contract specifies that the supplying country viz USA would have the right to send its people to look at the inventories etc. Once again, only the naval staff can accurately answer this question but it would be useful to remember that for the Chakra, the Soviets insisted, and we agreed, that there own crew would be physically present on the vessel all the time throughout the lease period. So, we had a Russian Commanding Officer, and his crew, present on the submarine 24/7 along with our own people.

If the clause of not going to war with INS Jalashva exists (ofcourse it was denied by US), then Indian Navy had no business buying it. INS Chakra was leased for different purpose. It was to learn how to handle a nuclear submarine. If INS Jalashva was purchased to learn how to handle a big vessel, its silly. We already had INS Viraat. Ofcourse INS Viraat cannot traing Indian navy in amphibious landings. It is still justified to buy INS Jalashva. Why should US be able to look into its inventories? But the way author puts it up is different. He further writes:

This brings us to the question of use of the vessel in war. The Jalashva, as far as those familiar with its possible exploitation can see, is essentially a platform which will enhance our capabilities for rendering assistance during natural calamities such as the Tsunami of 2004.

Indian Navy's primary job is something you know what? But buying a vessel for humanitarian assistance is streaching Navy too far. It's fine INS Jalashva can rescue people, its primary job should be war.

But there is something that Premvir Das wrote and that is a fact. CAG needs to have some training.
This brings us back to what the CAG has said. All those familiar with the process know how exactly the process works. First some lower level auditors look at the files and ask questions. These having been answered by the Headquarters, in this case the Navy, the position is further examined and fresh sets of queries raised. Very rarely will the explanations be accepted. There is little awareness or appreciation among the auditors of the professional issues involved; sometimes, the differences become acrimonious and, in turn, lead to remarks made by higher audit authorities, finally emanating as the comments of the CAG.

Audit of the financial aspect is overtaken, incorrectly, by audit of the professional issue and this is what has happened in this case. This is all the more remarkable because the present CAG is a person with considerable knowledge of the working of the defence establishment. Inhibiting the defence modernisation process is the last thing he should want.

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