July 24, 2017

Why Indian Army has run out of ammunition, key concerns in CAG report explained

In 2015, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said that the Indian Army did not have ammunition to fight a war extending more than 20 days.

This year's CAG report, tabled in Parliament on Friday, said that there was not enough ammunition to last more than 10 days if war breaks out. This makes the Indian Army vulnerable when they are facing threats on multiple fronts from China and Pakistan.

Indian Army is already engaged in an eyeball encounter with the People's Liberation Army of China over Doklam plateau in Bhutan for over a month. The CAG blamed the functioning of the Ordnance Factory Board for the shortage of supplies to the Indian armed forces. But, there are a number of factors contributing towards shortfall of ammunition to the Indian Army.


The CAG report red-flagged acute shortage of ammunition required for protecting the borders of the country in the event of a war with China or Pakistan if it extended for more than 20 days. Not only this, some types of ammunition would not last even 10 days, according to the CAG report.

In its 2015 report, the CAG had said that the Indian Army needed more budgetary support to reach 50 per cent of the target capacity of the War Wastage Reserve (WWR).

The WWR is referred to as a collection of military material held in reserve in case of war. This includes bullets and other form of ammunition, as well as equipment, weapons and fuel.

Ideally, the WWR should last for 40 days of intense war giving enough time to the ordnance factories for ramping up production of required ammunition and supply the same to the military.

The CAG report meant that if adequate budgetary support was given, the shortfall in ammunition could be overcome by 2019 and in any case not before that.

The latest report of the CAG mentions that despite the concern being red-flagged by the central auditor and also a high-level report on defence preparedness in 2015, no improvement was seen in the working of the ordnance factories.

The production and supply of ammunition remain inferior in quality and quantity, the CAG report said.

Indian Army is the third largest in the world with more than 13 lakh personnel. Such a huge size of army makes storage of arms and ammunition difficult. There have also been storage quality problems with defence establishment.

Usually, bullets and shells last for decades if properly stored. But, large stocks of ammunition have been found to degrade and create problems when put to use.


Besides the functioning of the ordnance factories, there have been problems of funds for both production of ammunition in the country and import from outside.

Defence observers say that due to red tapism and archaic bureaucratic practices have hampered defence over the years. According to one report, only 20 per cent of the targeted ammunition was imported between 2008 and 2013 as bureaucracy kept creating hurdles.

The Make In India push is also blamed for poor defence procurement. Under the ambitious programme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in 2014 that India would cut down import of arms and ammunitions to give a push to domestic production of the same.

Modi said that India should emerge as an exporter of arms and ammunition to the world especially the smaller countries. Though, the programme is well intended but it further delayed bureaucratic clearances.

The CAG has expressed surprise that majority of the procurement cases from other than Ordnance Factory Board and which were initiated by Army headquarters during 2009-13 were pending as of January 2017.


Though, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is the largest arms importer in the world. Between 2012 and 2016, India accounted for 13 per cent of global arms imports.

But, noted strategic thinker, Ian Bremmer recently said that India is among the few countries, which were spending more on infrastructure than on defence preparedness. Bremmer wrote on Twitter: "Under @narendramodi, India now spends more on infrastructure than defense. One of the only countries to do so."


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