The Indian Army leadership has told a Parliamentary panel that the defence budget presented in February “dashed our hopes” of modernisation and the government’s Make in India programme may end up as a non-starter, The Hindu reported on Tuesday.

Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Sarath Chand told the Parliamentary committee on defence that various efforts taken for modernisation have “received a little setback” due to the Budget. The committee’s report was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

“To highlight a few cases, the marginal increase in Budget estimates barely accounts for the inflation and does not even cater to taxes,” Chand said. “Allocation of Rs 21,338 crore for modernisation is insufficient even to cater to the committed payment of Rs 29,033 crore for 125 ongoing schemes.” He added that the Army’s liabilities would also aggravate the problem.

Chand said that 68% of the Army’s equipment was in the “vintage” category, while only 24% was in the “current” category and 8% was state-of-the art.

Expenditure on the Army is not a burden on the state: Bipin Rawat

Meanwhile, Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat said that there was a “belief” that expenditure on the security forces was a burden on the state, ANI reported. “They believe that whatever put in defence is something that comes without any returns,” he added without mentioning the government. “I want to dispel that myth. If your economy has to rise, you have to ensure security to that establishment that is going to be poured in your country.”

He added that not all of the Indian Army’s budget went into maintaining the military, as 35% of it was used for nation-building purposes.

Speaking at an event in New Delhi, Rawat added that “China has finally arrived” on the global stage, and was challenging the dominance of the United States over the world. “They [China] did not forget that military power should rise simultaneously with economy, that is why they stand strong today in the international world order, challenging the might of the US,” he said.

The chief of Army staff said that other countries had begun to look up to India to balance the rise of China.