NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel has slammed the government for not providing adequate funds for military modernization, with the armed forces getting only 65% of what they wanted to plug critical operational gaps despite the collusive threat from China and Pakistan.

“Such a situation is not conducive for preparing for modern day warfare, where possession of capital-intensive modern machines are pre-requisites for not only tilting the result of war in our favour, but also having credible deterrence capabilities,” said the parliamentary standing committee on defence.

There has, in fact, been a steady decline in the actual allocations for Army, IAF and Navy as compared to their projections since 2015-2016. The shortfall for the Army, for instance, increased from Rs 4,596 crore (14%) in 2015-16 to Rs 17,911 crore (36%) in 2020-21. The shortfalls for IAF and Navy, in turn, rose from 27% to 35% and 5% to 41%, respectively.

“The Navy’s fighting capabilities depend on high-value platforms like aircraft carrier, submarines, destroyers and frigates but the allocation of capital budget for the force has seen the sharpest decline percentage-wise,” said the committee, asking the government not to make any cuts in capital allocations for the three Services in the coming years.

As earlier reported by TOI, the overall Rs 3.37 lakh crore defence budget (revenue and capital) this year works out to just 1.5% of the projected GDP for 2020-2021, which is the lowest such figure since the 1962 war with China. Another Rs 1.33 lakh crore has been allocated separately for defence pensions of retired military and civilian personnel.

The ballooning salary and pension bills of the 15-lakh strong armed forces and the around 33 lakh defence pensioners, of course, cut hugely into the funds available for military modernization. But the Army vice chief Lt-General S K Saini told the committee, “We have unsettled borders, we have a very constrained internal security environment in J&K and north-east, where you require boots on the ground. Therefore, you need to have a large-standing Army.”

The revenue to capital outlay ratio, which should ideally be around 60:40, however, is becoming more and more untenable. The ratio for the Army, for instance, currently stands at 82:18. The committee said concrete measures should be implemented to rectify all this, including the long-pending proposal for creation of a non-lapsable defence modernization fund despite opposition from the finance ministry.