India’s Defense Minister Dismisses Reports India Not Battle Ready

Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony waves while sitting in the cockpit of an Indian Air Force Mi-17 V5 helicopter during its induction ceremony in New Delhi, India, Feb. 17, 2012.
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony waves while sitting in the cockpit of an Indian Air Force Mi-17 V5 helicopter during its induction ceremony in New Delhi, India, Feb. 17, 2012.
Anjana Pasricha

India’s defense minister has dismissed reports that the country is not battle ready. The assurances follow recent concerns expressed by India’s army chief about the country’s defense preparedness.

Defense Minister A.K. Antony denied on Tuesday news reports that ammunition for tanks in the Indian army was down to four days of reserves. He was speaking in New Delhi on the sidelines of a conference of the Indian Air Force.

“They are all rumors. They are all rumors you see,” said Antony.

Antony said there are some shortcomings, but authorities are working toward improvements. He said India cannot expect 100 percent requirements to be fulfilled. The minister stressed, however, that the country is battle ready.

“India is in a much, much better strong position compared to the past. On the whole, Indian armed forces are now well prepared and they are in a much more better position to meet any challenges to our integrity,” said Antony.

Questions have been raised about India’s defense preparedness since the letter by the army chief to the prime minister turned the spotlight on what he called glaring weaknesses in the country’s defense capabilities. In the leaked confidential letter, the army head said India’s armored regiments were devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks and that essential weapons are in short supply.

A parliamentary panel has summoned the heads of the army, navy and air force, later this month, to seek their opinion on the state of India’s defense readiness. Domestic news reports say the panel is concerned about a shortage of critical ammunition.

In recent years, authorities have undertaken a massive modernization drive to upgrade defense equipment of the armed forces.

But, as a strategic affairs specialist with New Delhi’s Center for Policy Research, Bharat Karnad, explained, enough attention may not have been given to stockpiles of ammunition, as the focus remains on buying military hardware.

“So, between replenishment of stores and spares, and that kind of stockpile that will help you sustain war fighting, and maybe the services sometimes overstress the acquisition of hardware rather than ensuring they have war fighting capabilities, which is what stockpiles of spares and so on helps you do," said Karnad. "Perhaps that is where the Indian services generally go wrong. But the correction is very easily put into place and is being done.”

India has the world’s third largest army, which is largely equipped with Soviet-era military equipment.

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