Arjun on the battlefield
The Pioneer Edit Desk
At last, a regiment of India’s own tank
Although the project had several delays, the induction of the Arjun Main Battle Tank into the Indian Army is a matter of great satisfaction. On Monday the Army was provided with the first armoured regiment equipped with 16 of these indigenously built battle tanks. The Defence Research & Development Organisation has already handed over 45 tanks to the Army in three phases. Many more are to be inducted over the year with a total of 124 to be delivered by March 2010. The Arjun tanks have been designed keeping Indian conditions in mind as well as the terrain they are likely to encounter during operations. They are especially suited for desert warfare for which many other modern tanks are ill-equipped. These tanks not only have advanced technology but also a firing range of up to three to four kilometre and can climb a gradient of 30 degrees. There was a gap in India’s defence preparedness in the absence of such tanks and the Army had to face certain hurdles as a consequence. The Arjun has had a long gestation period. As many as 15 prototypes were developed and subjected to extensive field tests before the Army was fully satisfied with the tank. It cannot be denied that the development of the tank has taken an inexplicably long time and the several delays have never been properly explained. There were also cost overruns in the project which had slowed the induction of the tank into the Army. As recently as in the winter trials of the tank held last year there were allegations of sabotage with none other than the then Minister of State for Defence, Mr Rao Inderjit Singh, having hinted that this was indeed the case.
It is true that the public fully deserves to know why such an important and prestigious defence project that was initiated in the aftermath of the 1971 war had to go through so many delays. Clearly, there are many people, including some within the defence establishment, who have been instrumental in causing these delays and they may even have benefited from them. If people have so sabotaged this project then they are no less than traitors and must be identified and punished. The Government has nothing to fear from an honest disclosure of the project details in the absence of which things will only be left to the public’s imagination. There should, therefore, be an objective inquiry into the delays and those who are culpable must be exposed. Nonetheless, Indian scientists and others have honestly and diligently worked to develop the Arjun. It is a state of the art tank that should give our defence forces a huge boost. The DRDO deserves to be congratulated for its work.