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Border Tensions a Challenge to Defence Resources, but Govt Will Ensure Success, Rajnath Says

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New Delhi: In the midst of a stand-off with China in Eastern Ladakh and simmering tension along the Line of Control, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh declares that the government is committed to safeguarding operational capabilities despite resource challenges. In a recent address on Friday, the minister emphasized the critical importance of efficiently utilizing the available budget to overcome constraints.

Singh’s remarks arrive at a time when India’s armed forces are grappling with the ramifications of a constrained defence budget, which has hampered significant modernization efforts due to financial limitations.

Addressing a gathering organized by the Defence and Research Development Organization (DRDO), Minister Rajnath Singh underscored the necessity of conducting a realistic assessment of the challenges ahead. He stated, “Realistic assessment is essential, and only through it can we adequately address these challenges.”

Discussing the current security situation, Singh acknowledged that challenges on both the western (Pakistan) and northern (China) borders have strained the country’s resources. He assured, “On behalf of our government, I can promise that a shortage of resources will not impede our success at the border. The Prime Minister has reiterated this commitment, and I can affirm it with confidence.”

However, he also highlighted the adverse economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “We must efficiently allocate the available budget. I believe this is an area we should focus on. And I am confident that our scientists are well aware of how to maximize resource utilization.”

Sources within the defence and security establishment have raised concerns about the budgetary constraints, affecting military modernization plans. Noting the prolonged stand-off with China, now in its eighth month and involving the deployment of nearly 50,000 troops. And equipment, has placed additional pressure on the Army’s budget.

Addressing this, Modi government has recently lifted expenditure restrictions on defence spending in the third quarter of the financial year. Also ensuring that procurement can proceed without awaiting approval from the finance ministry.

“While there may be various reasons for the slowdown of certain projects, the underlying issue is the budget,” a knowledgeable source said.

Budget constraints: an important issue existing

Budgetary constraints have long been a concern in the defense sector. This fiscal year, India’s defence budget saw only a modest increase of 1.82%. And reaching Rs 3.37 lakh crore (excluding pension expenses). This increment has proven insufficient for the military, compeling to curtail procurement and modernization plans due to budgetary limitations.

The Indian Navy, in particular, had to revise its plans due to dwindling budgetary allocations. Which it repeatedly argued were inadequate for future acquisitions and to meet its existing commitments.

Numerous major projects have been stalled for an extended period, predating the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. These include orders for new fighter aircraft. And Tejas Mk 1A, nuclear and conventional submarines for the Navy, as well as helicopters and tanks for the Army.

Earlier this month, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh disclosed that the navy had proposed funding models. Particularly for shipyards, to the finance ministry, similar to the Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) model.

The Indian Hawk
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