Army commanders calls govt attention to budgetary constraint at biennial meet

Bipin-Rawat-PTI Army Chief Bipin Rawat | PTI

Indian Army kick-started its week-long, biennial meet of its top commanders by raising the critical issue of budgetary constraint.

Making a detailed presentation before Minister of State Subhash Bhamre, and other key bureaucrats of the ministry of defence, the Army highlighted several critical areas, where government's attention is needed.

In the week-long conference, top Army commanders are expected to review the regional security architecture, and key challenges it is facing on the Chinese and Pakistan borders.

A senior official said the presentation before the minister highlighted the limited budgetary allocation and its optimisation to meet the critical deficiency in ammunition and to ensure defence preparedness. "Top Army commanders today apprised the ministry about the budgetary allocation and its optimisation to meet critical requirement. We are prioritising our modernisation programme to meet the budgetary allocation," said the official.

This year, India is spending only 1.57 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the year 2018-19 on the defence sector—the lowest since the 1962 war with China.

For re-equipping the armed forces, defence ministry has received Rs. 2.95 lakh crore, in comparison to Rs. 2.74 lakh crore last year. With a heavy baggage of committed liabilities of the previous years, there will hardly be any money left for new purchases. The capital budget for the Army has only gone up from Rs. 25,175 crores last year to Rs. 26688 crore.

At a time when military experts seek enhancement of capabilities on the northern sector, money allocated for tanks and armoured vehicles have seen a major cut from last year. The money allocated for anks and armoured vehicles was Rs. 3,193 crore last year. But in this year's budget, only Rs. 1,972 crore has been granted to the Army for the purpose. Nonetheless, the Army has only itself to blame for this cut as it failed to utilise the money allocated for this and returned nearly Rs. 1,200 crore to the national exchequer.

Similarly, for artillery guns, from Rs. 15,112 crore last year, the amount has increased to only Rs. 17,197 crore this year.

In his opening remarks, Bhamre emphasised that the government was fully seized of the requirements of the Army regarding capability development, force modernisation and above all, infrastructural development.

"He reiterated the need to optimise the fiscal resources through syneragised capacity building within the three services, through enhanced indigenisation and self reliance,"" a statement issued from the Army said.

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat also stressed on the need to work in a collaborative manner for retaining and enhancing the current level of combat effectiveness.

"He gave emphasis on the need to lay down judicious priorities to ensure that the allocated resources are utilised optimally and the force modernisation be carried out unabated," the Army statement said.

During the conference, top Army commanders will deliberate on the management of the extant security dynamics, mitigation of future security threats, and enhancement of combat edge over potential adversaries.

Other issues like infrastructure development for capability enhancement along the northern border, review of strategic railway lines, optimisation of limited budget to ensure making up of critical deficiency in ammunition, issues related to Border Roads Organisation projects will be discussed during the meet.