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Pakistan, China scaling up military at lightning speed; fund crunch crippling India, warns army

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 13-03-2018

Warning against the possibility of a two-front war, the army said even as China and Pakistan were modernising their militaries at a lightning pace, a looming financial crisis was crippling India’s combat capabilities.

In a series of scathing reports tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the army painted an extremely grim picture of how poor budgetary outlay was coming in the way of making emergency buys planned after the Pathankot and Uri strikes, procuring critical ammunition and undertaking strategic road projects on the Chinese border, apart from holding up key modernisation projects.

The army told a Parliamentary panel that the threat of a two-front war with Pakistan and China was real and it was crucial to pay attention to the military’s modernisation and plugging yawning gaps in capabilities, making a strong case for setting aside more money to meet its requirements.

“Budget 2018-19 has dashed our hopes…The marginal increase in budgetary estimates barely accounts for the inflation and does not even cater for the taxes,” army vice chief Lieutenant General Sarath Chand told the panel. He said the overall shortage under the capital head stood at Rs 12,296.

The reports revealed that the allocation of Rs 21,338 crore for modernising the force was barely enough for the “committed payment” of Rs 29,033 crore for 125 ongoing schemes and emergency requirements. The army and air force are also in the same boat, lacking money for new schemes.

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That’s not all. The army also told the panel that it was running short of Rs 6,380 crore to build ammunition stocks necessary for fighting an intense war for 10 days.

The army has flagged a significant point as the government has set June 2018 as its target for meeting critical shortage of ammunition held by the force - a deficiency that limits the force’s ability to fight prolonged wars.

The army is authorised to stockpile ammunition for 40 days of intense fighting, known as war wastage reserves (WWR) in military parlance. In case that is not possible for all types of ammunition, the requirement for WWR to last for at least 20 days was made mandatory by the government two decades ago.

The GST has also emerged as an issue. The army told the panel that the new tax regime had imposed an additional burden of Rs 5,000 crore and it had not been taken care of in the budget.

The army told the panel that it was saddled with old weapons and systems — 68 % of its equipment is vintage, 24% current and only 8% state of the art.

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“Modernisation gets a mere 14% (of army budget), which is grossly inadequate…I feel it has to be anything between 22 and 25%,” an army representative told the panel.

The army said threat perception was increasing, citing the Doklam border row and China’s increasingly assertiveness. The force said military activities in Tibet had surged in terms of quantum of troops or the scale of exercises.

“Modernisation of both Pakistan and China is going on in full swing. China is competing to reach the levels of the US…The possibility of a two-front war is a reality…More than ever, there is an increasing obligation to ensure that our nation cements its military capability…However, the budget does little to contribute to this requirement,” the representative told the panel.

Forget about fighting a two-front war, the army is struggling to buy ammunition, spares and armament it shortlisted after Pathankot, Nagrota and Uri terror strikes. Against a projection of Rs 2,116 crore to meet these requirements, allocation stands at Rs 1,600 crore, the panel was told.

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Talking about Fidayeen attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and tightening the security at military installations and cantonments, the force said the ministry had delegated powers to the vice chief to spend Rs 14,097 crore.

“However, there is no separate allocation for this. So, this money also to be found from the same Budget leaving us with no choice but to re-prioritise either reduce our requirement as far as the security of military stations is concerned or to go slow on some other acquisition,” the representative said.

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(Video by NDTV)

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