Days ahead of the Union Budget, Army chief General M.M. Naravane Tuesday said the Indian Army has submitted its annual budget projection to the Narendra Modi government and is confident of getting a good grant.
Naravane said the government will look into all the aspects, considering the prevailing security situation of the country.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Union Budget Saturday, 1 February.
“We will continue to modernise and be operationally prepared, notwithstanding the allocation,” the Army chief said, while interacting with a group of journalists.
Giving examples of the induction of crucial equipment and weapon systems last year such as the Dhanush guns and the Spike anti-tank missiles, Naravane said many such inductions are on the cards.
Negotiations for the six Apache helicopters for the Army are also at an advanced stage, he said.
The Army, Navy and the Air Force have always complained that defence budget allocations are less than their projections.
There have also been demands from various corners that budget for defence should be at least 2 per cent of the GDP from the current 1.5 per cent.
In 2018, former minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre had informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply that the budgetary allocation under the Capital head was around Rs 76,765 crore less than what the Army, Navy and Air Force had sought.
On China, Northeast
Reiterating his focus on the northern borders with China, Naravane said a “rebalancing” of troops and strategy there has to be seen in a larger perspective — beyond numbers in terms of quality and thrust on capability-building.
He said although the Line of Actual Control with China has been quiet and there haven’t been any violent incidents and just minor skirmishes, the Army will still need to prepare for war as it “can’t afford to be weak” and not react when a situation arises.
Naravane was the first Army officer to speak on the China issue after the 2017 Doklam stand-off as the head of the Eastern Command just before taking over as the vice-chief.
The Army chief further said the Northeast is going through a transitional phase and the Army has drawn up a plan to increasingly withdraw troops deployed there for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.
He said two battalions of troops or around 2,000 soldiers have already been withdrawn from the Northeast and the same could be replicated in Kashmir in the future given that the long-term focus of the Army remains conventional war-fighting, as against the short-term and immediate goals of being involved in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.
On Kashmir, the Army chief said there are terrorist launchpads on the other side and they are constantly trying to infiltrate as there is a desperation on their side to prove a point after the scrapping of Article 370.
On Army veterans
On Army veterans, Naravane said they are as patriotic and nationalist as anyone else.
Veterans have come out openly against several policies of the Army, whether it was a proposed code of conduct or a move to tax disability pension.
The Army chief said he will also be a veteran someday and that ex-servicemen were the ones who laid the foundation of a strong Army, despite some issues and requirements, which could crop up sometimes.
Naravane further said in future battles, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and big data will play an important role and the task that lies ahead is how the Army would make the transformation and transition, and in what time-frame.
Input has been sought from various corners on where exactly the Army wants the AI to come in, Naravane added.
By: The Print