68 per cent arms 'vintage': Army official says Budget 2018 'dashed' hopes

PTI file

PTI file

The possibility of a two-front war is a "reality" and the current budget for the army does "little to contribute to this requirement", a top army official told a parliamentary panel, while the vice-chief of the Indian Army said that the latest Budget has "dashed our hopes".

Vice Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant general Sarath Chand deposing to the Parliamentary Panel on Defence on Tuesday said that the allocation for defence in the Union Budget 2018-2019 had "dashed our hopes" of adequate modernisation of the force. "Allocation of Rs 21,388 crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater for committed payments of Rs 29.033 crore for 125 ongoing schemes, emergency procurement and other requirements", Army vice-chief told the parliamentary panel.

In contrast to the requirement of the armed forces to have 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, the report states that "the current position in the Indian Army reveals that 68 per cent of equipment is of vintage category, just about 24 per cent of the current category, and only eight per cent of the state-of-the-art category". General Sarath Chand told the panel.

"Out of this, Rs2,95,511.41 crore has been earmarked for defence".

"In the Budget Estimates 2018-19, the total projection made by army (including Revenue and Capital Budget) is Rs 1,96,387.36 crore".

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The Indian Army had initiated a series of emergency procurements of ammunition, anti-tank missiles, rifles and stores after the 2016 Uri terrorist attack and the subsequent surgical strikes against terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistan administered territory. Similarly, emergency purchases were also initiated after the Doklam stand off a year ago with Chinese troops. Stating that they have been allotted low budget, the officer claimed that several of the adopted projects have to be scrapped as the Army lacks adequate funds to support the projects. "As a result of which many of these may end up foreclosed", he said.

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. "For these infrastructure developments, the allocation is falling short by around Rs902 crore from what we have demanded", Chand said.

In an indictment of budgetary allocations made for the services, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has noted that the fund allocation "is not supportive to the inevitable needs of the Army".

While this concept was given a go-ahead by the defence ministry previous year, the finance ministry has resisted all moves to set it up.

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