Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh recently painted a grim picture of India's defence forces while speaking at the News18's Rising India Summit.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh recently painted somewhat a grim picture of the preparedness of India's defence forces while speaking at News18's Rising India Summit.
Singh had said that soldiers of the regiment he served with, who are now posted in Kashmir, regularly swap their weapons with the ones they seize from terrorists because their lack of trust in their own weapon.
"If a soldier doesn't have confidence in his weapon, how can he fight?" Singh asked.
Responding to the Punjab CM's comments, Sitharaman said, "I haven't heard his comments so I may not be able to respond to the specifics, but I agree with him that there is no doubt that (modernisation of equipment for armed forces) is a big challenge for us."
She added that there has been a huge question raised about the availability of enough equipment and ammunition for the armed forces for at least 10 days of intense war.
"In this context I'm happy to say that our vice-chiefs have been given enough financial powers to procure equipment. They can make immediate procurement under the increased budget made available to them and I'm happy to say that they're rapidly making the required purchases," Sitharaman said.
Regarding the preparedness of the armed forces, Sitharaman said that the Defence Ministry has addressed the issue of low reserves of ammunition and the Chiefs have been given enough power to take a call on the need of equipment.
In Budget 2018, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised the defence allocation by 7.81 percent to Rs 2.95 lakh crore. The hike, however, fell short of expectations as the armed forces face growing challenges on the borders with Pakistan and China.
A major chunk — Rs 1.95 lakh crore — of the total allocation of Rs 2.95 lakh crore for the defence budget has been allocated for revenue expenditure, which includes expenses on payment of salaries for nearly 1.4 million active military personnel and maintenance of establishments.
This means a lower budgetary allocation for capital modernisation. Only Rs 99,947 crore has been set aside for capital outlay to purchase new weapons aircraft, warships and other military hardware.
Indian military personnel have already been facing grave shortages in many areas ranging from ammunition, assault rifles, bullet-proof jackets, and night fighting-devices to howitzers, missiles, helicopters, fighters and warships, accrording to an Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) report.
Addressing the lack of equipment in the country, Sitharaman stated that they are working on the ability to produce in this country, to avoid import of expensive technologically advanced equipment for the army.
"Our emphasis has been to reduce import of equipment and manufacture as much as possible and to reach to a stage where we produce not just for ourselves, but to export also," the defence minister said.To enhance the procurement of these weapons, the defence ministry has started work on setting up two defence manufacturing corridors - one in Tamil Nadu and one in Uttar Pradesh.