gen naravane: Army will maintain combat readiness on fronts with China and Pakistan despite budgetary cuts due to Covid: Gen Naravane | India News

NEW DELHI: The 12-lakh strong Army will ensure its operational efficiency and combat readiness is not affected on the western and eastern fronts due to the fund crunch in wake of the coronavirus pandemic severely hitting government’s finances, said Army chief General M M Naravane on Friday.
The Indian armed forces have to “remain alive” and cater for the scenario of a “two-front war” with China and Pakistan, even though the possibility is remote. The armed forces, in fact, are currently faced with a “two front plus half (terrorism and insurgency) plus half (Covid-19 pandemic) situation, said Gen Naravane, at a webinar organized by defence thing-tank IDSA.
Noting there will be “some budgetary constraints this year”, the Army chief said his force had already identified some activities, like the holding of major exercises and movement of battalions from one peace-time location to another, which can be deferred and re-prioritized.
The Army is “fully committed” to the ongoing thrust on “Make in India” and self-reliance in the defence production sector, instead of importing exorbitant weapon systems. “Whenever we have gone in for arms imports, we have done so to plug critical operational voids till indigenous weapons can be developed,” he said.
Around 75% of the orders and contract inked for the Army last year, for instance, went to Indian companies. Admitting that the bulk were for defence PSUs and the Ordnance Factory Board factories, the Army chief said, “We should look to give more orders to the private industry in India.”
The manpower-intensive Army is also trying to correct the problem of 80% share of its annual budget going for revenue expenditure (salaries and day-to-day operating costs), with only 20% being left for modernization.
But, he said, there was little option as of now because of two “very active borders” with China and Pakistan as well as heavy commitment in counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations in Kashmir and the northeast.
Proposals like the “tour of duty” (ToD), under which the Army plans to induct youngsters as officers and jawans for a three-year tenure, can help in cutting down the revenue expenditure and reduce the pension burden. “This is definitely an idea we can pursue,” said Gen Naravane.
TOI on May 13 had reported that the Army was finalizing the radical ToD proposal in the backdrop of the urgent need for cadre restructuring amidst the ballooning salary and pension bills adversely impacting military modernization.
The ToD scheme, if and when approved, will initially be launched with around 100 vacancies for officers and 1,000 for jawans. It will be a “voluntary military service” scheme, not to be confused with compulsory military conscription like in some countries like Israel.

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