First, let’s get the propriety question out of the way. It is perfectly normal for the Army chief to write to the Prime Minister on the issue of military modernisation. Besides, most of the information leaked to the media is well known in the circles that ought to know about these issues.
What we must question is a) who leaked the letter to the media; and b) what is the role of the media in releasing confidential and sensitive information into the public domain, especially if that information pertains to national security?
It is possible that someone from the government or the COAS’ office leaked the letter in order to show the general in poor light as the needle of suspicion for leaking it would point first to the COAS. In any case, both the actors in this drama are at loggerheads over various issues, including the date of birth of the COAS. This gives the government the perfect excuse to score brownie points. It is equally possible that the COAS could also be responsible for the leak to show government ineptness and lethargy.
The third, perhaps most important question is that of military modernisation. It is no secret that conventional arms provided to the Indian military are outdated and ineffective. The fact that India has nuclear weapons is, in fact, reassuring.
India has a no-FDI-in-defence-procurement policy. This is a retrograde policy; and it has set back India’s military modernisation by years, if not decades.
In the name of indigenous technology, India’s policy makers have effectively throttled development, and created an army that will go to battle using yesterday’s technology.
In the case of a full-blown war with a modernised military force, India’s weaknesses will stand exposed. India just cannot afford to face that situation.