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SOURCE: Mirror Now Digital

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday held a press conference where she defied the findings of a parliamentary committee that criticised the ruling dispensation for its defence allocations. In addition, the Defence Minister also reacted to recent claims that asserted that the army is running low on ammunition and other essential supplies.

“The defence expenditure has been highest in 2017-18 if you look at it since 2004-05. In the same manner, it was second highest in 2016-17 and third highest in 2015-16. The fourth highest defence expenditure since 2004-05 was in 2014-15,” she said while defending her government’s defence allocation.

In a panel consisting of a former Vice Admiral, a leading defence analyst, a retired Lieutenant General and a serving Air Marshall, the unanimous verdict reached was that all three bodies of India’s armed forces are low on funding, low on ammunition and thereby, low on morale.

Defence analyst Maroof Raza says that India’s current defence allocation is as low a figure as it was just before the Chinese invasion of 1962 when India faced a worrisome defeat at the hands of the red dragon. He also highlights the need for an apex body to spell out the requirements of all three arms of India’s armed forces in terms of must have and could have. “We do not have a comprehensive doctrine for the three services,” says Raza.

Air Marshal M Matheswaran clarifies that global diplomacy can only work if it is backed by hard power. The military has to be combat-capable to give out a message supporting the prevention of war. Meanwhile, Lt. General DB Shekatkar lays emphasis on the army’s capacity and capability to build an effective defence system. He sums it up by saying, “In order to prevent a war, we must be ready for it.”

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, headed by BJP MP Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri, had criticized the government for its inadequate allocation of funds to the Army, Navy and Air Force. Former Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Sarath Chand has even gone to the extent of saying that the defence forces are feeling the pinch of the defence budget for 2018-19 at a time when Chinese military is competing to be at par with the United States of America.

At a day and age when our annual defence spending stands at $52.5 billion after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hiked the allocation by 7.81 per cent, India’s defence is in an “agonising state of affairs”, says an official of the Indian Army. Experts have stated that even after we claim to be the fifth largest spender on defence in the world, the allocation given by the government largely comprises of salary hikes for armymen under the seventh pay commission. In layman terms, this means that China, with a defence budget four times as big as ours, is currently spending on modernization of their equipment while 68 per cent of our equipment currently stands in the ‘vintage’ category. Case in point, since defence budgets and international diplomacy cannot account for votes, the ruling dispensation has decided to ignore the advice of defence experts that clearly states that all three arms of our armed forces are underfunded, ill-equipped and vulnerable.