Standing Committee on Defence: Much of army’s arsenal remains vintage - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 30 March 2023

Standing Committee on Defence: Much of army’s arsenal remains vintage

“Guns versus Butter” 

The third of a five-part series looks at the state of the army’s weaponry and the need for greater funding to transition to a more state-of-the-art arsenal 


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 31st Mar 23


The 36th Report of the 17th Lok Sabha’s Standing Committee on Defence, which was tabled before Parliament on March 21, reveals that an unduly high proportion of the army’s warfighting equipment remains obsolescent.


While discussing the recommendation made in 2018 by the Standing Committee on Defence that one-third of the army’s equipment must be state-of-the-art and one-third in the contemporary category, while the remaining one-third could be vintage equipment; an army representative stated: “Sir, you are right. It was 30:40:30. 30 per cent was to be new generation equipment, 40 per cent was to be current equipment and 30 per cent could be the older generation equipment. Currently, the situation is, approximately, 15 per cent is new generation equipment, around 40 per cent is current equipment, and the balance is the older generation equipment. So, this is the transition that we have to go about. There is some time to go before we are able to reach the ideal state of 30:40:30.” 


The Standing Committee report also reveals that the army has been allocated a significantly lower budget than it had projected as its requirement – both under revenue and capital heads.


In the preceding five years leading to the present – i.e. Financial Year 2018-19 (FY19) to FY23 – the army has been allocated 6.5 per cent to 26 per cent less funding than it has demanded under the revenue head.

The allocation shortfall under the capital head has been even larger during the same period – between 35 per cent and 55 per cent.


Only in the current year’s budget, i.e. for FY24, has the army received almost the same amount it has projected as its requirement. Under the revenue head, the army has been allocated Rs 181,371 crore – Rs 3,619 crore less than its projection of Rs 184,990 crore. Under the capital head, it has been allocated Rs 37,342 crore – exactly the amount it has asked for.


In recommending that the army must be allocated the funding it has demanded, the Standing Committee has played up its role: “Indian Army strengthens the idea of India and lives by national values. Army is dedicated to preserving national interests, safeguarding sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of our Nation. The challenges before Army include thwarting proxy wars, arresting internal threats, assist the Government and the people of India during all needs and crises such as natural disasters etc.,” says the report. 


According to the report, the Financial Advisor (Defence Services) clarified the shortfalls in the army’s capital allocations: “I would just like to mention two things. The budgetary allocations for defence are a function of two aspects. One is the demands projected by the army based on their requirements, and the other is the expenditure which they have been incurring in the past. It is the balance of the two,” he said.


“I would just like to mention that in the past five or six years, the expenditure of the Army as far as the capital is concerned, has been in the range of Rs. 25,000 crore to Rs. 28,000 crore… During the current year, it has been increased to Rs. 37,000 crore. It is based on the demand which the Army has projected. It has already been increased,” said the FA(DS)


Underscoring the defence ministry’s readiness to expedite capital procurements for the army, the Standing Committee reveals that the ministry had accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) in 29 acquisition cases worth about Rs 60,679 crore. These AoNs have been accorded during FY22, and during the current FY23 (up to December 2022). They are under various stages of the acquisition process for induction of the equipment into service during subsequent years. 


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