NEW DELHI: The army and the air force have sounded a major funds crunch and said that they do not have the finances to buy weapons and aircraft and that China and Pakistan are modernizing their militaries rapidly.
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.”
The army’s 13-page deposition is part of the report of the standing committee.
“To highlight a few cases, the marginal increase in B.E. (budgetary estimates) barely accounts for inflation and does not even cater for the taxes. Allocation of Rs 21,338 rore for modernization is insufficient even to cater for committed payment of Rs 29,033 crore,” Lt General Chand told the committee headed by BJP MP Major General B C Khanduri (retired). He said the committed liabilities – meaning current procurements – would get passed on to 2018.
“Therefore, liquidation of this committed liability will hardly leave any funds for new schemes in 2018-2019,” he said. He said the funds crunch could make the Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ programme in defence a non-starter.
“We in the army have identified as many as 25 projects for ‘Make in India’. However, there is not adequate budget to support this. As a result of which many of these may end up foreclosed,” he said.
The army vice chief pointed out that in modern militaries, a third of equipment is vintage. “As far as we are concerned, the state today is 68 per cent of our equipment is the vintage category, with just about 24 per cent in the current and eight per cent in the state of the art category,” he said explaining the obsolescence in the military. The vice chief also cited recent attacks on military stations by terrorists and said that there wasn’t enough funds to make security arrangements for them.
The air force said that with its current resources, fighting a two-front war would be difficult.
“It is no doubt challenging to fight a two-front war with the current resources that we have but we do not shy away from any challenge,” the IAF representative told the Parliamentary committee. He said the IAF had two major requirements immediately.
“In so far as our priority list is concerned, our priority list is already with the ministry of defence. Requirement of fighter aircraft is our first priority. Next is the long range SAM (surface to air missile) S-400 system for which we have bet. That would substantially change our posture both towards Northern adversary as well as towards Western adversary,” he said, referring to China and Pakistan.
In a separate event, the army chief, General Bipin Rawat, also flagged concern over the availability of funds for the military.
“Is the entire defence expenditure being utilized only for maintaining military? This is a second myth I wish to dispel. Almost 35 per cent of our budget goes into nation building,” he said.