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Facing budget squeeze, army looks to put limited funds to best use

According to the army, it is running short of Rs 6,380 crore to build ammunition stock necessary for fighting an intense war going past 10 days.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2018 22:25 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Indian Army,Army fund,Budget for Army
An Indian Army contingent marches during 69th Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2018.(AFP File Photo)

The Indian Army’s top brass is trying to figure out how to deal with a budget squeeze at a time the force is facing a “critical deficiency” of ammunition.

How to best use the “limited budget” is one of the top issues in the agenda laid out for a six-day Army Commanders’ Conference that begins here on Monday, a government official said. Army chief general Bipin Rawat will chair the biannual event.

Sharpening India’s combat edge over China and Pakistan, strengthening military infrastructure along the Chinese border, managing future security risks and welfare of soldiers will also be discussed by the army’s top commanders.

“Optimisation of limited budget to ensure making up of critical deficiency in ammunition” is one of the issues that commanders will discuss in detail, said an army release issued on Sunday.

Read | Union Budget 2018: Defence spending increased by 7.81%, but lower than expectations

According to the army, it is running short of Rs 6,380 crore to build ammunition stock necessary for fighting an intense war going past 10 days.

A recent parliamentary report revealed how poor budgetary outlay was coming in the way of emergency purchases, procuring critical ammunition, and undertaking strategic road projects on the Chinese border.

The army told the panel that even as neighbouring China and Pakistan were modernising their militaries at a lightning pace, lack of resources was hurting the force at a time it should be prepared for a two-front war.

Army vice chief Lieutenant General Sarath Chand told the panel that Budget 2018-19 had dashed the army’s hopes and overall shortage under the capital head stood at Rs 12,296 crore.

The defence ministry, however, last week brushed aside concerns about a looming financial crisis crippling India’s combat capabilities, saying “things are happening in the defence ministry” and “resources are adequate” to modernise the armed forces.

Read | India overtakes UK in defence spending, China remains a major challenger: Report

The report, tabled in Parliament in March, said that the allocation of Rs 21,338 crore for the army’s modernisation was insufficient for the “committed payment” of Rs 29,033 crore for 125 ongoing schemes and emergency requirements.

Minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre will deliver the opening address at the conference. The release added that the conference is aimed at formulating important policy decisions through comprehensive deliberations.

First Published: Apr 15, 2018 22:25 IST