CHANDIGARH: Former Indian Army chief, General VP Malik (Retd) claimed on Friday that some foreign countries had overcharged India for satellite images, arms and ammunition needed to meet the sudden military requirements during the Kargil conflict two decades ago.

"In every urgent purchase during the Kargil war, no matter from which country, they exploited us as much as they could. When we approached one country for few guns, initially they promised us, but later supplied refurbished old weapons. We were short of some ammunition and when approached another country, we were given 1970 vintage ammunition," Gen Malik revealed during a panel discussion on ‘Make in India and the Nation’s Security’ on the first day of the Military Literature Festival here.

Gen Malik, who headed the Indian Army during the Kargil conflict, disclosed that for each satellite image India purchased at the time, it had to pay Rs 36,000 each and those images were not even the latest ones — the images were from three years earlier.

Elaborating about the notion that the Indian Army was fond of importing weapons from abroad, Gen Malik categorically said abject failure of public sector units to fully deliver the required weaponry was the only reason for this.

He warned that unless India becomes self-reliant in defence, its security forces would become vulnerable. "Technology today is running fast, problem of our system is that equipment needed at particular time is delayed and supplied at a time when that technology become redundant," he added and asserted that too much protection has been given to public sector in India and the private sector has not been given a level playing field.

Cautioning against the temptation to tag defence matters with mere sloganeering, Lt Gen Arun Sahni, former Army commander, South Western Command, urged for allocation of more funds for upgradation of equipment.

Too Much Focus On Buying Process

The problem in our system is that too much focus is on process of procurement but no focus is on the end results. We need a more serious approach where accountability is fixed for producing unusable products at the public sector institutions working in the sphere," he added. The former Army commander also said that more and more private companies should also be involved in defence-related production.

Amit Cowshish, former financial adviser (acquisition), ministry of defence, questioned the ambiguity and mistrust around objectives laid down under ‘Make in India’ as far as defence acquisitions were concerned. There is no clear cut policy and framework to achieve avowed goals under the new slogan, he said, adding that indigenisation cannot be the sole criterion to reduce costs. He advocated a dedicated overarching organisation to process and deliver on defence needs in a time bound manner.

Moderating the session, Rahul Bedi said the problem in Indian defence production is that they want to hasten slowly and the guidelines are extremely bureaucratic. Pointing out the gross mismatch till now, he said, "On one side we have launched ballistic missiles but we still can’t make INSAS Rifles."