Doklam row: 20,000 crores sought for combat readiness of forces

New Delhi: The Defence Ministry on Tuesday has demanded an additional fund of Rs 20,000 crore for military modernization as well as to meet the daily operating expenses from the Central government. The demand has come at a time when Indian and Chinese armed forces continue to remain locked in a tense standoff near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction since mid-June.

According to highly placed sources, MoD officials led by defence secretary Sanjay Mitra divulged their finance ministry counterparts in a meeting that the Rs 20,000 crore was immediately needed in addition to the Rs 2.74 lakh crore allocated for defence in the 2017-2018 budget. "The MoD officials said almost 50% of the capital and 41% of the revenue outlays in the defence budget had already been utilized in the ongoing fiscal. Moreover, the new customs duty on arms imports had also burnt a big hole in the defence budget. The finance ministry said the MoD request will be examined at the earliest," revealed the source. According to a report in TOI, As it is, the Rs 1,72,774 crore revenue outlay for day-to-day costs and salaries by far outstrips the capital one of Rs 86,488 crore for new weapon systems and modernization in the existing 2017-18 defence budget. Moreover, the bulk of the capital outlay is earmarked for "committed liabilities or instalments" for deals inked earlier. Incidentally, the Rs 2.74 lakh crore outlay works out to just 1.56% of the projected GDP, the lowest such figure since the 1962 war with China. As was first reported by TOI last month, the armed forces have projected a requirement of Rs 26.84 lakh crore ($416 billion) over the next five years under the 13th Defence Plan (2017-2022) to ensure requisite military modernization and maintenance to take on the collusive threat from Pakistan and China as well as to safeguard India's expanding geostrategic interests.