SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
The defense services have recorded an unusually slow pace of expenditure of their capital budgets so far with the Indian Army being the worst hit that has only spent approximately 40% of its capital budget for the ongoing financial year with barely over a month before the financial year is over, its race against time to place orders or else return the money to the Ministry of Finance.
One of the reasons for the delay in capital spending was the capping of capital budgets for domestic procurements as the Army wanted to procure more imports. This year’s budget will only increase Army’s headache as 68% of the defense capital procurement budget will be earmarked for the domestic industry in 2022-23, up from 58% in the last fiscal.
Major indigenous orders that are waiting Army orders are increasing every year while the Army continues to push it into a circle of user trials or have delayed their procurements. Purchase of light combat helicopter from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is one of the major deals that is still pending, others being orders for WhAP (Wheeled Armoured Platform) that has completed all user trials as confirmed by Tata defense recently and purchase of air defense system from DRDO like Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile (QRSAM) that too has completed User trials.
The recent push by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) for the purchase of indigenous systems already has seen the cancellation of the Kamov Ka-226T utility helicopter in favor of light utility helicopters (LUHs) developed by HAL and also cancellation of a deal to purchase Igla-S air defense missiles that have disturbed Army plans that need to be reevaluated claimed Army official but Army till now relied on Emergency purchase to escape procuring indigenous equipment due to heighten border in recent time but that too is now closing due to back down of the escalations.
Switch from imported equipment that Army had in mind to local equipment has not taken place due to which it has failed to spend its capital budget. The army is still battling for more exemptions so that it can continue to explore the emergency procurement window but that too is closing now as MOD is not interested in delaying the implementation of its blacklist that the Army still wants to procure from abroad.
Indian Army is yet to come to face the reality that the good old days of procuring everything from abroad are long gone now as the government wants to reduce the import bill, it also wants to promote exports and no country will buy Indian made indigenous equipment unless it has been procured by the local armed force in India. Bureaucrats and the Chandigarh lobby might still create troubles in the implementation of this change but it still lobbying hard for big-ticket items like procurement of Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) and Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) to be of Russian origin and its MOD jobs to see that these deals are procured within this country to finally break this nexus.
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