MoD chided over milking scarce resources for new corps

  • Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 13, 2015 20:54 IST
An Indian army soldier holds an AK-47 assault rifle during a fight in the town of Dinanagar, Punjab. (AP Photo)

A Parliamentary panel has chided the defence ministry for "milking existing resources" to create a new mountain strike corps to counter China in the Northeast. The raising of the new formation, 17 Corps, kicked off in January 2014 by digging into existing war reserves without any separate allocation in the defence budget. The corps was approved in September 2013.

In a report tabled in Parliament on Thursday, the standing committee on defence questioned the logic of building up new capability by draining war wastage reserves (WWR) facing severe shortage.

A CAG report pointed out in May that the army faced a massive ammunition shortage with reserves that would barely last 20 days of intense fighting. The army needs to build up its WWR for 40 days of intense fighting.

The panel said, “As there are, already, serious shortages in the current WWR, which does not even cater fully to the existing demand, how could it be further milked…”

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar told HT in April that the government had frozen the cost of the new corps at Rs 38,000 crore over next eight years and it would consist of 35,000 men. He said the previous government had estimated it would cost Rs 88,000 crore and have 70,000 soldiers without making any budgetary allocation.

India is years behind the Chinese military with the Communist neighbour currently outnumbering the country’s combat power by a 3:1 ratio. The new corps is expected to reduce the Chinese military advantage to a ratio of 2.1:1 by 2022.

The panel asked the government to provide separate allocation and modern weapons for the new corps. “It seems very impractical and incongruous that a new corps is being raised with WWR.

The report said technical and cost issues were holding up the inking of a contract between India and Russia for the R&D phase of Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). India has sought 27 technical clarifications on the joint project, but Russia has reverted only on 19.

The 30-tonne FGFA will be a swing-role fighter with stealth features, advanced avionics, smart weapons, top-end mission computers and 360-degree situational awareness. The fighter will have supercruise ability, allowing it to fly at supersonic speeds without kicking in fuel-guzzling afterburners.

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