Defence ministry seeks 'urgent' Rs20,000 cr to meet current needs

The defence ministry on Tuesday sought an "urgent" additional allocation of Rs20,000 crore for military modernisation as well as day-to-day operating costs from the Centre.

While most reports have sought to link the demand with the standoff since mid-June between Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam on the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction, such a connection is tenuous as defence purchases take years to materialise.

In fact The New Indian Express says defence ministry officials have ruled out that the additional budget requirement is a fallout of the face-off and called the demand not "unusual".

Reports said ministry of defence officials led by defence secretary Sanjay Mitra told their finance ministry counterparts in a meeting that the Rs20,000 crore was urgently required in addition to the Rs2.74 lakh crore allocated for defence in the 2017-2018 budget.

"The MoD officials said almost 50 per cent of the capital and 41 per cent of the revenue outlays in the defence budget had already been utilised in the ongoing fiscal. Moreover, the new customs duty on arms imports had also burnt a big hole in the defence budget. The finance ministry said the MoD request will be examined at the earliest," said a Times of India source.

The bulk of the capital outlay in the budget is earmarked for "committed liabilities or instalments" for deals inked earlier. The Rs2.74 lakh crore outlay also works out to just 1.56 per cent of the projected GDP, the lowest such figure since the 1962 war with China. And the bulk of the capital outlay is earmarked for "committed liabilities or instalments" for deals inked earlier.

The armed forces have projected a requirement of Rs26.84 lakh crore ($416 billion) over the next five years under the 13th Defence Plan (2017-2022) to ensure requisite military modernization and maintenance to take on the collusive threat from Pakistan and China as well as to safeguard India's expanding geostrategic interests.

The armed forces in fact want the annual defence budget to progressively reach at least 2 per cent of the GDP for their operational requirements.

While the Army has operational deficiencies in artillery guns, infantry weapons, light helicopters, night-fighting capabilities and the like, the Indian Air Force does not have enough fighters, mid-air refuellers, AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) and drones.

The Navy is struggling with shortages in the number of submarines, multi-role helicopters and minesweepers.

A notification issued by the government last week empowered Vice Chief of the Army to make hardware procurements up to Rs40 thousand crore to meet critical deficiencies. Army has identified critical deficiencies in 46 types of ammunition and 10 different types of spares to ensure reserves for "10 days of intense fighting".