The NDA government appears to be working at a vigorous pace to fill crucial operational gaps in the military’s capabilities, with projects worth more than Rs 1,20,000 crore being cleared since it was voted to power in May.
Long-pending projects to modernise the military with next-generation submarines, anti-tank guided missiles, attack helicopters, heavy-lift choppers and tanks have gathered momentum following approval by the defence acquisition council (DAC) during the last five months.
The DAC’s ‘acceptance of necessity’ for the weapons is the first step towards making the proposed procurements in the coming years. The projects cleared by the DAC, headed by defence minister Arun Jaitley, are worth much more than this year’s capital defence expenditure of Rs 94,587.95 crore.
Signing of contracts and final induction of equipment could take up to 10 years, with staggered payments being made at different stages.
The quick tempo set by the government has raised the military’s hopes of making up for deficiencies in its arsenal at a time when rivalry with China is heating up and questions have been raised about India’s ability to tackle a combined threat from China and Pakistan.
“There was lethargy during the previous UPA regime. The new government appears to have countered that sense of drift with quick decision making,” said strategic affairs expert Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd). The council has met thrice after the government came to power.
“It is quite evident that the government is sensitive to the requirements of the armed forces. Now it is for the armed forces to prioritise what they need,” said a senior army officer familiar with the procurement process.
Boosting indigenisation appears to be the cornerstone of the government’s policy, with two tenders worth Rs 15,000 crore for importing helicopters being scrapped. These helicopters will now be produced in the country in joint venture with a foreign firm.