"70% Equipment Vintage": Army Officer Says Defence Budget Dashed Hopes

The development was shared by the army's Vice Chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand in his deposition to the Committee, according to a report tabled in Parliament by the latter on Tuesday.

The shortfall stands at ₹17,756.92 crore, ₹15,691.70 crore, ₹1,392.58 crore and ₹41,924.57 crore for Army, Navy, Joint Staff and Air Force, respectively.

In the wake of an audacious terrorist attack on an Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2016, the Defence Ministry delegated financial powers up to Rs 14,097 crore for immediate purchase of ammunition and other equipment to secure the military stations.

In a candid submission, Indian Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Sarath Chand has told Parliamentarians that the 2018-19 budget was a setback for the forces as the money sanctioned for capital purchase was not sufficient even to pay for ongoing projects, leaving barely anything for new procurement.

"Budget 2018-19 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little setback", Lt. Gen. Chand said while deposing before the parliamentary panel, and added that this may lead to foreclosure of 25 "Make in India" defence projects that are now in the pipeline.

"The possibility of a two-front war is a reality, and speaking about it, it is important that we are conscious of the issue and we pay attention to our modernisation and filling up our deficiencies".

"(The) modernisation of both Pakistan and China is going on in full swing. "More than ever, there is an increasing obligation to ensure that our nation cements its military capability and is recognised as a net security provider in the South Asia region", he said. "However, the budget does little to contribute to this requirement", the representative quoted above told the panel.

"Typically, any modern armed force should have one-third of forces, one-third of its equipment in the vintage category, one-third in the current category and one-third in the state-of-the-art category". He said the funds crunch could make the Prime Minister's "Make in India" programme in defence a non-starter.

"We, in the Army, also identified as many as 25 projects for the "Make in India" policy". However, there is no adequate budget to support this.

India allocated Rs 2.95 lakh crore for military spending in 2018-19, a modest hike of 7.8% over last year's budget of Rs 2.74 lakh crore.

All streams taken into account, the Army has an overall shortfall of around ₹12,296 crore under the capital head, the report said. In case that is not possible for all types of ammunition, the requirement that WWR must last for at least 20 days was made mandatory by the government two decades ago. Similarly, taking note of the "unsympathetic attitude" towards naval modernisation, the committee said, "A budget deficit of almost 40% will indeed have a cascading impact on the operational preparedness and technological up-gradation of the Navy".

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