In its maiden meet, NSA Ajit Doval-led defence panel decides to fast-track military purchases

The meeting was held under the chairmanship of NSA Ajit Doval and was also attended by the three Service Chiefs.

In its maiden meet, NSA Ajit Doval-led defence panel decides to fast-track military purchases

NEW DELHI: The newly constituted all-powerful defence panel for defence planning headed by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval for chalking out the country's military and security strategy has decided to chart a time-bound action plan for accelerating military purchases, in its inaugural meeting here on Thursday. 

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, ''the meeting of the Defence Planning Committee 'deliberated upon the geo-strategic landscape' and agreed to chart a time-bound action plan in keeping with its broad mandate".

The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Doval and was attended by the three Service Chiefs.

The members of the newly-constituted defence panel which included Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, Expenditure Secretary Ajay Narayan Jha, Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale and Chief of Integrated Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. Satish Dua, who is the Member Secretary, also attended the meeting.

The overarching Defence Planning Committee, which was set up by the government last month, has been mandated to drive the country's military and security strategy, draft capability development plans and guide and accelerate defence equipment acquisitions in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious plans to modernize the country's armed forces and their ageing war machines.

Led by NSA Ajit Doval, the all-powerful defence panel comes under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and works with an aim to make decisions on military purchases much faster.

The panel has been tasked to prepare military doctrines and define the Indian military objectives for the future amid rising internal and external security challenges in a heavily militarized neighbourhood.

The panel was constituted by the Government in light of reports that the armed forces were unhappy with the Defence Budget 2018-19.and held an opinion that more money should have been allocated for military modernisation.

In the recent defence budget, a sum of Rs 2.95 lakh crore was earmarked, which is approximately 1.58 percent of the country's GDP. This was the lowest share in terms of percentage vis-a-vis India's GDP since 1962.

Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Sarath Chand, had told the Parliamentary Panel on Defence that the budget is insufficient and that it may bring an end to several 'Make in India' projects. 

"Allocation of Rs 21,388 crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater for committed payments of Rs 29.033 crore for 125 ongoing schemes, emergency procurement and other requirements," the Army's Vice Chief deposed. 

"The Budget 2018-19 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little setback," he said.

Lt Gen Chand also raised several other budget-related concerns like the prospect of Future Ready Combat Vehicles and upgradation of existing equipment. 

In view of the Army's long pending demand for urgent procurement of weapons considering the threats from Pakistan and China, the Defence Ministry, during a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), had earlier cleared the proposal to buy 7.40 lakh assault rifles for the three services and procure light machine guns worth Rs 1,819 crore.

The Narendra Modi government also cleared the proposal for the purchase of 5,719 sniper rifles for the Army at the cost of Rs 982 crore.

The Defence Ministry said the DAC chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman cleared capital acquisition proposals which were valued at Rs 15,935 crore.

(With IANS inputs)