In a scathing 125-page document, a parliamentary committee led by BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi has called out the central government for “compromising” on national security by not investing enough in defence preparedness.
As per the report, spending on defence has declined from 13.5% of central government’s expenditure in 2014-15 to 12.20% in 2017-18. Defence expenditure’s share in GDP is the “lowest since the 1962 Indo-China War” to 1.56% from 2.06%, the report highlights.
Biggest worrying sign is that capital expenditure on defence, which has a direct impact on modernisation of armed forces, has seen a constant decline over the past few years. While it was 39% of overall spending in 2016-17, it came down to 33% in 2017-18 and 34% in 2018-19. This is “tantamount to compromising safety and security of our country,” states the report.
Calling the central government “complacent” with respect to defence preparedness for a two-front war in the Indian Ocean, the committee said, “The Committee, therefore, strongly emphasises that allocation of adequate financial resources for defence preparedness both for the current needs and expansion & modernisation plans should be accorded highest priority to enable the services to meet the challenges concerning safety and security of the country.”
The report has slammed the government for not doing much on implementation of the strategic partnership model, wherein Indian companies were to partner with global defence majors.
The report stated that the Ministry of Defence accepted before the committee that there was a shortage of 10-15% ammunition and some of them are of critical nature. The committee’s report has also called upon the government to fix the deficiencies in night-time vision equipment.
The committee would also like “the government to examine the feasibility of inserting a provision in the defence offset policy mandating setting up of defence production facilities in the MSME sector in order to expand domestic production base and promote Make in India initiative.”
The report has slammed the government for high dependency on foreign suppliers, saying it results in “huge expenditure on import of defence equipment but makes the security of the country vulnerable as during emergency situations the supplier may not provide us the required weapons or spare parts.”
The report has also advised the ministry to prepare a team of skilled professionals specialising in writing defence contracts.
Interestingly, the report also claims a difference in stance with regards to defence production between the authorities and government-owned Hindustan Aeronautical Limited. The report claims secretary (defence production) said that orders of 40 Tejas and another 83 were already with HAL, which would be sufficient for the next two decades or so.
HAL, however, told the committee that the order to HAL would by liquidated by 2020-21.
The committee’s report also makes strong references to MIGs, the supersonic, interceptor fighter aircrafts. The MIGs might have made stellar records in aviation (including being the most produced supersonic jet aircraft), but in India, the jets have been mostly associated with deadly accidents. The Ministry of Defence has told the committee that all the MIGs would be phased out by 2025 and 2026.
The ministry further stated to the committee that there was a high rate of failures on certain rotables (parts of an aircraft that needed to be changed at regular intervals) on the aircraft which were being worked on with help from the Russians.
The parliamentary committee’s report quotes a defence expert as saying that the Chinese Air Force has 930 fourth generation fighter jets which were likely to go up to 1,300 by the next five years. The expert, whose name has not been revealed, said that India’s air power was slipping badly (squadron strength estimated to be 28 as against what should have been 42) even as Chinese and Pakistani forces continued to expand and modernize.
The committee found that there was only 60% serviceability of aircraft, as against the mandated 70%. “The committee while noting the upgradation process would like to emphasize for replacement of the aircraft which have completed their life,” the report states.
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