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Army builds up arsenal to fight a long war

Army builds up arsenal to fight a long war
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Army builds up arsenal to fight a long war 

Highlights

Faced with the prospect of a protracted stand-off with China on the LAC, the Union government has authorised an emergency military acquisition programme that could run to over $1 billion, sources said.

New Delhi: Faced with the prospect of a protracted stand-off with China on the LAC, the Union government has authorised an emergency military acquisition programme that could run to over $1 billion, sources said.

The Army's crash acquisition programme, aimed at equipping it to fight a war with China that lasts up to a month, is focused on building stockpiles of critical war material. These include fin-stabilised ammunition for India's T-72 and T-90 tanks, ordnance for various types of artillery, Israel-built Spice air-to-air missiles, Heron drones, and SiG716 infantry rifles.

The Chinese government has earlier insisted that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will hold its existing positions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh through this winter.

With the need to equip more than 50,000 troops in Ladakh — five times the normal deployment — the Indian Army is also purchasing large stocks of extreme weather clothing, shoes, portable heaters and tents, as reported by News18 earlier this month.

"The Chinese strategy is to lock India into a ruinous confrontation that runs for months or even years, but without actual war-fighting," said strategic affairs expert Manoj Joshi. "Given the huge difference of scale between the two economies, this will obviously impose unequal costs on India," Joshi said. Last year, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat warned that it "benefits China to compel India to maintain troops in forward locations, since such a large deployment involves a lot of money and logistics.

Experts have long raised concerns over large-scale deficits in critical military equipment, with the Comptroller and Auditor General reporting that, in 2016, stocks of 55% of all types of ammunition were not sufficient to last 20 days of war-fighting, and 40% inadequate to last for 10 days. The delays, some analysts believe, were the consequence of former Defence Minister AK Antony's refusal to fast-track acquisitions, for fear of corruption allegations.

In a 2019 interview, General Rawat revealed that the Army had made progress in addressing those deficits, building up reserves adequate for an intense but brief war with Pakistan. "If we can't win a war with Pakistan in 10 days, there is no point of a war", he said.

The then-Army chief said, however, that the Army had also begun the process of building a stockpile that could enable a longer, 30-day war with China. "You won't believe the amount of visits the officers have undertaken in markets across the world,", General Rawat added.

Little information is available on how much progress had been made on expanding India's reserves to meet the demands of a 30 day war, but a senior Government official said troops on the LAC were "well-equipped to face any situation that might arise".

"Emergency acquisitions have had to be made every time there has been a crisis, from the Siachen build-up to the Kargil war and on", notes Joshi. "Vendors know we are desperate and charge ridiculous prices. Worse, our adversaries get insights into our weaknesses from our own shopping-lists".

"The Government and the Army need to ask themselves some very hard questions about why we keep getting into this mess", Joshi said.

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