Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Wednesday asserted that the Indian Army could maintain its operational preparedness within the existing defence budget by prioritising and readjusting. He also said the process of modernisation of the armed forces had begun, but would not happen overnight.
His comments come after a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence presented a report earlier this month, highlighting the lack of budget for the armed forces. The panel had asked the Prime Minister’s Office to take note of the crisis.
The report was based on testimonies of the vice-chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who had painted a dismal picture of defence modernisation and stalled projects due to lack of budgetary support in financial year 2018-19. The defence budget was increased by a mere 7.81 per cent to Rs 2.95 lakh crore for the current fiscal against last year’s Rs 2.74 lakh crore.
“Some more budget, if it is given to us, we will be happy. But we can balance the budget to meet our operational requirements,” General Rawat said. He said the government was giving more approvals and if contracts were finalised, more funds would be made available.
“It is possible to reprioritise and readjust the budget within the existing money available, by giving the operational preparedness a higher priority. This is not to say that accommodation for families are not needed, but they can take some time. We are balancing the budget to focus on operational preparedness,” he said.
The Army chief said that infantry weapons, surveillance devices for the infantry and security of Army bases was his highest priority. The requirements of the mechanised forces, artillery and air defence will be taken up in subsequent years, he said. To balance the budget, the Army has now identified need for different types of weapon systems for infantry soldiers in active operations, and another weapon system for other soldiers, Rawat said.