July 13, 2017

Can India survive a 10-day war?

In May, 2015, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) tabled in Parliament revealed a shocking truth—if India went to war, it would have run out of most of its ammunition in just 10 days.

The CAG report slammed the defence establishment for the dismal management of ammunition in the Army, expressing shock that there was total "disregard" of the policy to hold ammunition for 40 days of "intense" fighting. "In 50 per cent of the types of ammunition, the holding was critical or less than 10 days in March 2013," said CAG.

The Army faces severe shortage in ammunition, mainly for artillery guns, tanks, air defence and certain infantry weapons, which will make it very difficult to fight a short intense short war.

But now the Army is ready to take this challenge head on. The Centre has given Army vice-chief Sarath Chand full financial powers to procure critical ammunition and spares to maintain an optimum level to fight a short intense war following "critical voids" in capabilities of the Army.

The major decision means procurement process of such ammunition and equipment that would take months would be completed much faster.

Today, a short war with Pakistan or China cannot be ruled out. Even if there is no possibility of a war, it is highly important for the defence forces to have minimum required reserves of ammunition.

The alarming CAG report had covered the status of ammunition reserves till March 2013. The NDA government had already started making for the shortfall.

The defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, had highlighted several steps initiated by the government such as placing second Five Year Ammunition Roll on indent for the period 2014-19 on Ordnance Factory Board and approving a road map on ammunition which envisaged procurement ex-import and ex-trade to build up adequate targeted stocks in addition to training requirement.

By giving full financial powers to the Army vice-chief, the procurement can be done faster. According to a top defence ministry official, this is the revenue route for in-service equipment and there will be no need to head to the Defence Acquisition Council (headed by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley) or the Cabinet Committee on Security, for procuring such critical equipment.

The direct route will reduce the time taken in procuring equipment and ammunition considerably.


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