New Delhi: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was working to ensure that adequate funds are available for purchasing weapon systems on order from domestic vendors despite time overruns due to trials and price negotiations.
“I am in fact even talking to the (15th) Finance Commission’s new chairman N.K. Singh to make sure that defence procurement funding, especially capital expenditure ...is a non-lapsable kind of allocation", Sitharaman said in a speech to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) lobby group.
“We don’t want a situation that when we are looking at a certain procurement, we had the funds, but by the time you moved into the next year or the year after...when you come to the crunch point there’s not enough money," she said.
The minister made the remarks in the context of providing assurances to the domestic industry that orders placed with them for certain weapons would be bought by the armed forces and not rejected on the basis of lack of funds.
At present, money allocated for procurements of hardware in the defence budget if unused in a financial year, is returned to the finance ministry. Time overruns in defence purchases happen mostly due to user trials spanning months and at times protracted price negotiations.
The NDA government has made indigenisation of weapons manufacturing a key priority with the aim of making India a defence hardware production hub and cut imports. This in turn dovetails with the government’s plans to ensure jobs for millions of youth as well as boost domestic manufacturing and make India known as an innovation hub. As it stands, India is one of the largest importers of weapons in the world.
Indian industry has been seen as keen to partner and supplement the efforts of the defence public sector units in producing weapons for the Indian armed forces but has been seeking assurances that the government will buy the systems they produce.
In her comments, Sitharaman also said she would speak to Indian defence attaches stationed in missions abroad to disseminate information about India’s growing defence manufacturing industry.