New Delhi: The army is reeling under severe fund crunch and terribly unhappy with the allocation for defence in the latest budget.
Vice Chief of Army Lieutenant General Sarath Chand told a parliamentary panel the army was struggling to even make emergency procurements at a time when it was dealing with an assertive China along the northern border after the Doklam face-off and increasing hostilities from Pakistan on the western frontier.
The insufficient allocation of funds for defence forces in the union budget was going to hit the army's modernisation at a time when Chinese military was ramping up its capabilities and aiming to be the premier military machine in the world. Pakistan too was adding to the capability of its forces.
Talking about the new procurement policy, delegation of financial powers to Vice Chief of Army and several other initiatives towards modernisation of the armed forces, Lt Gen Chand told the panel that "the Budget of 2018-19 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little set back."
He observed that "Allocation of Rs 21338 crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater for committed payment of Rs 29033 crore for 125 ongoing schemes, emergency procurements.”
He added that "committed liabilities of 2017 which will also get passed on to 2018 will further accentuate the situation."
Dwelling on regional security scene, Lt Gen Chand said the possibility of a "two front" war is a reality and the country needs to pay attention to modernisation of the army.
He underlined that the Doklam issue was going on and China has become increasingly assertive.
"We have seen more and more patrolling and transgressions. Activities in Tibet has also increased over a period of years whether it is the quantum of troops or whether it is the number of personnel undertaking the exercises and also the level of exercises," he said.
The army also informed the panel that it does not have adequate resources to even undertake the construction of strategic roads near the Sino-India border.
The Vice Chief of Army Staff referred to daring terror attacks on military installations in Uri, Pathankot, Nagrota and Sunjwan Cantonment in Jammu and said the defence forces must get their due.
"Peace in the neighbourhood has also been slightly affected by the recent incidents in Maldives. Overall, we have a disturbed situation and all the more important is that the defence forces should get their due," he stressed.
The army informed the panel that it had identified 25 projects under the Make in India initiative but the budget was not available to support them.
"As a result of which, many of these may end up foreclosed," he noted.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP BC Khanduri, was in agreement with the Lt Gen and came down hard on the government for inadequate allocation of financial resources to the armed forces.
"Keeping in view the increasing threat perception, which includes various occurrences of external strife and internal dissidence such as Doklam, increased external activities in Tibet over a year, rampant cross border firing, militant activities etc, the current budget is not supportive to the inevitable needs of the army," the panel said.
They also were concerned by the fact that a whopping 68 per cent of the equipment of the army is in the vintage category while just about 24 per cent is current, and only eight per cent is state of the art.
The panel said it took a series of attacks and numerous casualties before the Vice Chief was delegated financial powers to spend Rs 14097 crore for strengthening ‘perimeter security'.
"But for the attack, it's quite possible that funds for strengthening perimeter security may not have been sanctioned for quite some time to come," the panel observed.
"The committee opine that the security of the Nation is paramount and safety of those defending the country cannot be left in a state of abandonment. The Forces must be capacitated in maintaining a robust and effective response mechanism to counter emerging threats," the report stated.
The Committee also rapped the government for delays in carrying out modernisation of the Indian Air Force and the Navy.