The former vice-chief also noted that 68 per cent of Army equipment was in the vintage category.
New Delhi: The first blow of Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat’s clarion call for austerity measures in the Indian Army has landed on the high-level military delegation heading for China. In the past, the military delegations to China led by the head of one of the Army’s seven commands, usually comprised about eight to 10 officers, but this time the size has been reduced to just three on the directions of the Army Chief, sources told this newspaper.
The team, on a four-day trip, the first such high-level visit by Indian military officials to China after the 73-day Doklam standoff between New Delhi and Beijing ended in August last year, will leave India on August 13 and return on August 18.
The team, to be led by the Eastern Army commander, and not the Northern Army chief as earlier reported, is due to hold meetings with counterparts in the China’s People’s Liberation Army in Beijing and Shanghai.
Besides the Eastern Army commander, there will be one officer from Army headquarters in New Delhi and one from the Northern Command HQ at Udhampur.
Recently, Gen. Rawat had circulated a “summary of directions” on the internal Army Wide Area Network, a common platform linking all Army establishments, that focused on, among other things, ways and means to curb extravagance and wasteful expenditure.
The Army is already facing a problem of scarce financial resour-ces, blamed on burgeoning revenue expenditure (day to day expenses, including salaries, pensions and maintenance), with little left for capital expenditure (like buying new gear, weapons, arsenal and modernsiation).
A few months ago, then Army vice-chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Chand, deposing before a parliamentary panel, in one of the strongest indictments on the budgetary allocation for the Army, had said on Budget 2018-19: “The allocation of Rs 21,338 crores for modernisation is insufficient even to cater for committed payment of Rs 29,033 crores for 125 ongoing schemes, emergency procurements, and other DGOF requirements. Committed liabilities of 2017 which will also get passed on to 2018 will further accentuate the situation.” He said after these payouts, there will “hardly leave any funds for new schemes in 2018-19”. The former vice-chief also noted that 68 per cent of Army equipment was in the vintage category.
The Indian Army’s official tour of China is to reciprocate the high-level PLA delegation visit in the first week of July led by Lt. Gen. Liu Xiaowu, number two in China’s Western Theatre Command. The Chinese general also visited the Eastern Command headquarters in Kolkata as well as the Sukna military base, from where Indian troops were sent to Doklam.
The coming visit will focus on more military exchanges at the theatre level and will also promote border defence cooperation and coordination.