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Army Vice Chief complained of 'shortfall' in Defence allocation, says Parl panel

14 March 2018

"Allocation of Rs 21,338 crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater to the committed payment of Rs 29,033 crore for 125 ongoing schemes".

The low budget this year - the Army has been given Rs 17, 756 crore less than what it had requested for - will have severe consequences for the China border as well, as strategic work will be stalled.

A marginal increase in the defence budget + barely accounts for inflation, without helping address the glaring imbalance between cutting-edge weaponry and old equipment in the Indian armed forces, senior military officers have told the parliamentary standing committee on defence. General Sarath Chand told the panel.

Referring to the Prime Minister's Make In India project, he said: "We in the army have identified as many as 25 projects for Make In India. So, there is an overall shortfall of around Rs 12,296 crore as far as capital is concerned", the officer said. The air force and navy are also lacking money for new schemes, according to the reports.

To add to it, while financial power has been delegated to the Vice Chief of Army to spend around Rs 14,097 crore, there is no separate allocation for it.

"In the Budget Estimates 2018-19, the total projection made by army (including Revenue and Capital Budget) is Rs 1,96,387.36 crore". But India's defence spending continues to be on the decline measured against its GDP.

The air force said that with its current resources, fighting a two-front war would be hard.

Meanwhile, Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat said that there was a "belief" that expenditure on the security forces was a burden on the state, ANI reported. The story was similar under the revenue head for day-to-day operating costs, which in any case dwarfs the capital outlay in a skewed 67:37 ratio due to a ballooning salary bill.

The Indian army is authorised to stockpile ammunition for 40 days of intense fighting, known as war wastage reserves (WWR) in military parlance. The balance leaves an increase of just over three per cent which does not even cater for the inflationary requirements, one of the reports said. As a result, almost 68% of the equipment used by the Army is in the vintage category with just about 24% current and 8% state of the art.

The Army also revealed that the activities of Chinese military in Tibet have increased over the years, whether it is the quantum of troops or the number of personnel undertaking the exercises as well as the level of exercises.

"(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 Asian region".

"But, the current Budget does little to contribute to this requirement".

The Indian army said it was struggling to buy ammunition, spares and armaments it shortlisted after Pathankot, Nagrota and Uri terror strikes over the last two years. 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".

The Army does not have enough money to pay for emergency purchases that it made in the aftermath of the Uri attack, the surgical strikes, and the Doklam standoff, nor are there adequate resources to undertake the construction of strategic roads on the China border.

Army Vice Chief complained of 'shortfall' in Defence allocation, says Parl panel