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India approves procurement of 73,000 assault rifles from US

India approves procurement of 73,000 assault rifles from US
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New Delhi: In major move towards infantry modernisation, the Defence Ministry has cleared a long-pending proposal of the Army to procure around 73,000 assault rifles from the US under fast track mode, official sources said on Saturday.
Defence Minister NirmalaSitharaman approved procurement of the Sig Sauer rifles which will be used by troops deployed along the nearly 3,600-km border with China, the sources told PTI.
They said the rifles, being used by the US forces as well as several other European countries, are being bought under the fast track procurement procedure.
“The contract is expected to be finalized within a week. The US firm will have to deliver the rifles within one year from the date of finalising the deal,” said a senior official involved in negotiation of the deal said.
Army sources said the US-manufactured rifles will replace the Insas rifles.
The world’s second largest standing Army has been pressing for fast-tracking the procurement of various weapons systems considering the evolving security threats including along India’s borders with Pakistan and China.
In October, 2017, the Army began the process to acquire around 7 lakh rifles, 44,000 light machine guns (LMGs) and nearly 44,600 carbines.
Around 18 months ago, the Army had rejected an assault rifle built by the state-run Rifle Factory, Ishapore, after the guns miserably failed the firing tests.
Following it, the Army started scouting for rifles from the global market.
The procurement of assault rifles has witnessed significant delays due to a variety of reasons including the Army’s failure to finalise the specifications for it. The Army needs around 7 lakh 7.62×51 mm assault guns to replace its INSAS rifles.
Notably, the defence budget was increased by 6.87 per cent to Rs 3.18 lakh crore against last year’s allocation of Rs 2.98 lakh crore, notwithstanding expectations of a major hike when China and Pakistan were bolstering their military capabilities.
Out of the total allocation, Rs 1,08,248 crore has been set aside for capital outlay for the year 2019-2020 to purchase new weapons, aircraft, warships and other military hardware. Last year, the government allocated Rs 93,982 crore as capital outlay.
The defence ministry said the total allocation of Rs 3,18,931 crore in defence budget is an increase of 6.87 per cent over revised estimate of Rs 2,98,418 crore for 2018-19.
The total outlay does not include Rs 1,12,079crore set aside for payment of pensions.
“The allocation for capital expenditure is totally inadequate given the kind of modernisation our armed forces are envisaging,” said DrLaxmanBehera of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.
Behera said the defence budget is around 1.44 per cent of the GDP which, he called as “insufficient” considering the evolving security situation in India’s neighbourhood.
Presenting the interim budget for 2019-20 in Parliament, Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs PiyushGoyal said additional funds, if necessary, would be provided to secure India’s borders and maintain its defence preparedness.
“Our defence budget will be crossing Rs 3,00,000crore for the first time in 2019-20. For securing our borders and to maintain preparedness of the highest order, if necessary, additional funds would be provided,” he said.
Under capital outlay, the Army was granted Rs 29,447 crore, the Navy was given Rs 23,156 crore and the Indian Air Force got an allocation of Rs 39,302 crore.
The revenue expenditure which includes expenses on payment of salaries and maintenance of establishments has been pegged at Rs 2,10,682crore as against Rs 1,88,118 crore for 2018-19.
Experts said Goyal’s budget was an interim budget and the allocation for defence forces may change when a full-fledged budget is presented by the new government after the LokSabha polls.
The defence ministry said the capital outlay for armed forces is 32.19 per cent of the government’s total capital expenditure of Rs 3,36,293 crore. It said the total defence allocation including for funds for pensions accounted for 15.48 per cent of the total central government expenditure.
Earlier the Press Information Bureau pegged the defence budget at Rs 3,05,296crore. But later, the defence ministry put the total allocation at Rs 3,18,931crore.
Officials said the final amount of defence budget included funds set aside for Border Roads Organisation, Coast Guards and allocation made for payment of salaries and allowances to civil staff of the defence ministry.
In his budget speech, Goyal also referred to government’s efforts to strengthen defence and national security and said due care will be taken of the soldiers who protect India’s borders in tough conditions.
He said the issue of One Rank One Pension (OROP) which was pending for the last 40 years has been resolved.
“The previous governments announced it in three budgets but sanctioned a mere Rs 500 crore in 2014-15 interim budget. In contrast we have already disbursed over Rs 35,000 crore after implementing the scheme in its true spirit,” he said.
He said the government also announced substantial hike in the Military Service Pay (MSP) of all service personnel and special allowances were given to naval and air force. (PTI)

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