Budget '19 dashed our hopes to modernise, says Army VC

Elias Hubbard
March 13, 2018

This is in sharp contrast to any modern force which should 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, he told the lawmakers.

In a rare and frank deposition to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, the Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Sarath Chand said the "budget of 2018-2019 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little setback".

In a scathing assessment of the defence budget, a top Army officer has told parliament's standing committee that 68 per cent of the Army's equipment is vintage era and the army's budget isn't enough to pay for even existing projects, let alone fund any immediate modernisation.

Several such military capabilities have been identified in the defence ministry's new "Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap-2018" to provide the industry with an overview of the country's offensive and defensive military requirements up to the late 2020s.

Neither does it have adequate resources to undertake the construction of strategic roads on the China border.

The Army told a parliamentary panel that the insufficient allocation to it in the defence budget was going to hit the Army's modernisation at a time when Chinese military was competing to reach the level of the USA and Pakistan bolstering capability of its forces.

Stating that the low budget would also have an adverse impact on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship "Make in India" initiatives, Chand said that the 25 projects that it has selected will not be rolled out. "As a result, many of these may end up foreclosed", he said.

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.

The parliamentary panel expressed alarm at VCOS' statement, saying they were aghast to note the dismal scenario. "However, there is not adequate Budget to support this", he said.

While this concept was given a go-ahead by the defence ministry past year, the finance ministry has resisted all moves to set it up. The Navy and IAF, in turn, got 56% and 46%.

"There is an overall shortfall of around Rs 12,296 crore as far as capital is concerned", the Vice Chief of Indian Army said.

"Therefore, liquidation of this committed liability will hardly leave any funds for new schemes in 2018-2019", he said. 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. 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".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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