New Delhi: Amid the stand-off with China in Eastern Ladakh and tension along the Line of Control, the government will make sure that the challenge to resources does not affect operational capability, but efficient utilisation of available budget is important, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Friday.
His remarks came at a time when the forces have been feeling the pinch of a constrained defence budget with many big-ticket modernisation processes slowing down due to lack of funds.
Addressing an event organised by the Defence and Research Development Organisation (DRDO), the minister said a realistic assessment of challenges should be done.
“Realistic assessment is important in itself and only then can we do what is necessary to meet them,” he said.
Talking about the security situation, he said the situation on both western (Pakistan) and northern (China) borders has posed a challenge to the country’s resources.
“I can assure on behalf of our government that lack of resources will never come in the way of our success at the border. The prime minister has said that, and I can say it with confidence,” Singh.
“But we will have to keep in mind the adverse effect of Covid on the country’s economy. What I am trying to say is we have to efficiently utilise the budget that is there. I feel we need to focus on this as well and I am sure the scientists are aware of how something can be utilised to the maximum extent possible.”
Sources in the defence and security establishment point out that the cash crunch is a real worry and many modernisation plans have slowed down due to budgetary constraints.
They added that the ongoing stand-off with China, which is in its eighth month and has seen a deployment of nearly 50,000 troops and equipment, has also put pressure on the Army’s budget.
To beat this, the Modi government has removed expenditure curbs on defence spending in the third quarter of the financial year to ensure procurement goes ahead without a requirement of the finance ministry’s nod.
“While there will be many reasons why certain projects have slowed down, the underlying problem is the budget,” a source in the know said.
Budget constraints were already an issue
The increase in India’s defence budget this fiscal by a mere 1.82 per cent to Rs 3.37 lakh crore, excluding expenditure on pension, has not been enough for a military that has been forced to cut back on its procurement and modernisation plans due to lack of funds.
The Navy was forced to recalibrate its plans due to a depleting budget, which it repeatedly stressed was too little to cater to its future acquisitions and inadequate to meet its committed liabilities.
Some big-ticket projects have already been pending for a very long time, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Among them are the order for new fighter planes, besides one Tejas Mk 1A, additional nuclear and conventional submarines for the Navy and helicopters and tanks for the Army.
Earlier this month, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said the force approached the finance ministry with some funding models, especially for shipyards, similar to the Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) model.