Amid Doklam standoff, MoD seeks additional Rs 20,000 crores for combat readiness of armed forces

NEW DELHI: The defence ministry on Tuesday sought an “urgent” additional allocation of Rs 20,000 crore for military modernization as well as day-to-day operating costs from the Centre, in a move that comes when Indian and Chinese troops continue to remain locked in a tense standoff near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction since mid-June.

Sources said MoD officials led by defence secretary Sanjay Mitra told their finance ministry counterparts in a meeting that the Rs 20,000 crore was urgently required in addition to the Rs 2.74 lakh crore allocated for defence in the 2017-2018 budget.

“The MoD officials said almost 50% of the capital and 41% of the revenue outlays in the defence budget had already been utilized in the ongoing fiscal. Moreover, the new customs duty on arms imports had also burnt a big hole in the defence budget. The finance ministry said the MoD request will be examined at the earliest,” said a source.

As it is, the Rs 1,72,774 crore revenue outlay for day-to-day costs and salaries by far outstrips the capital one of Rs 86,488 crore for new weapon systems and modernization in the existing 2017-18 defence budget. Moreover, the bulk of the capital outlay is earmarked for “committed liabilities or instalments” for deals inked earlier. Incidentally, the Rs 2.74 lakh crore outlay works out to just 1.56% of the projected GDP, the lowest such figure since the 1962 war with China.

As was first reported by TOI last month, the armed forces have projected a requirement of Rs 26.84 lakh crore ($416 billion) over the next five years under the 13th Defence Plan (2017-2022) to ensure requisite military modernization and maintenance to take on the collusive threat from Pakistan and China as well as to safeguard India’s expanding geostrategic interests.

The armed forces, in fact, want the annual defence budget to progressively reach at least 2% of the GDP for their operational requirements. The actual defence budgets, however, have shown a marked trend towards declining modernization budgets, unspent funds and a skewed revenue to capital expenditure ratio, which have meant the Army, Navy and IAF continue to grapple with critical operational gaps on several fronts.

If the Army has operational deficiencies in artillery guns, infantry weapons, light helicopters, night-fighting capabilities and the like, the IAF does not have enough fighters, mid-air refuellers, AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) and drones. The Navy, in turn, is struggling with shortages in the number of submarines, multi-role helicopters and minesweepers.

Given the “operational military hollowness”, the defence ministry after the Uri terror attack in September last year had delegated emergency financial powers to the three Services to procure ammunition and spares to ensure they had enough reserves for “10 days of intense fighting”.

The Army, which did not even hold one-third of its authorized war wastage reserves (WWR) for 40 days of intense fighting, had identified 46 different types of ammunition, 22 armaments, half a dozen mines as well as spares for 10 weapon systems ranging from tanks to artillery guns as “critical requirements”. This together would amount to roughly Rs 35,000-40,000 crore, as was reported earlier by TOI.

Since then, the Army has inked 19 contracts worth Rs 12,000 crore, which includes 11 kinds of ammunition. Of them, 10 contracts are with Russian companies for supply of engines and 125mm APFSDS (armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot) ammunition for its T-90S and T-72 tanks to Konkurs anti-tank guided missiles and Smerch rockets.





Source:- TOI

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