India is well prepared to defend itself in the face of a war, Defence Minister AK Antony said yesterday, dismissing as “rumours” reports about a shortage of ammunition for the armed forces. “These are all rumours that ammunition only for four days is left in the stock. India is well prepared,” Antony told reporters on the sidelines of an Indian Air Force (IAF) function.
He was asked about reports that a parliamentary panel was informed by senior IAF and army officers that stocks of certain types of tank munitions were down to four days of reserves. This follows the leaked letter Army Chief wrote to the Prime Minister, referring to serious gaps in India’s defence preparedness.
But the defence minister denied any gaps in the preparedness of the armed forces. “I can assure that India is fully prepared. On the whole, the Indian armed forces are better prepared to face challenges,” he said. Earlier, addressing the bi-annual air force commanders’ conference, Antony assured the forces that the government will provide all assistance to meet its rapid modernisation plans, but cautioned that this cannot be accelerated “in fits and starts” as it is a continuous and time-consuming process.
He also said that capacity building is a steady process. “Our government is aware of the need to modernise IAF at a rapid pace and of its long-term plans for capacity building. Modernisation is a continuous, time-consuming process and cannot be accelerated in fits and starts,” he said.
Noting that the budget allotted to IAF has been fully utilised, Antony said the government will continue to support the modernisation process to strengthen the capacity of IAF during the next three five-year plan periods. “We’ve put in place detailed procurement procedures. So, while a number of procurement schemes have been finalised, others are being processed for approval and are in various stages. The capacity-building of the force also involves upgradation of existing systems and platforms and our government has also taken several steps in this direction,” he said.
“The air defence system of the Indian Air Force is being further strengthened with new inductions and integration of weapons and modern sensors. All airfields of IAF are being upgraded in a phased manner with modern navigation equipment and runway aids,” he added. Reiterating the need for indigenisation in defence procurement to achieve the goal of self-reliance, the defence minister said, “Even as we undertake the modernisation drive, our government is acutely aware of the urgent need to encourage indigenisation and take steady steps towards self-reliance in defence production so that the IAF need not rely on foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers for procurement of major aircraft and equipment.