India Army Chief: Country’s Defense Capabilities Weakened

Posted March 28th, 2012 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The head of India's army says the country's defense capabilities are weakened by obsolete equipment and a shortage of weapons.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, leaked to the Indian media, Army chief V.K. Singh called the state of India's fighting forces “alarming.”

The letter, dated March 12, says India's tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition” and its air defense system is 97 percent obsolete. The letter says the infantry is crippled with deficiencies and lacks night fighting equipment, while the elite forces are “woefully short” of essential weapons.

However, Defense Minister A.K. Antony told parliament, where the leaked letter was debated Wednesday, the government gives security preparedness its highest priority.

“Our defense preparedness has always been strong and I can assure this house and the nation that it is our intention to keep it strong. Government has spared no effort and will do everything necessary to ensure that our defense forces are provided, equipped and trained to be among the best fighting forces in the world.”

In a rare show of unity, opposition lawmakers rallied around the government, saying such sensitive issues should not have been debated in public. Parliamentarians demanded to know who leaked the letter and some called for the army chief's resignation if he was behind it.

The leak comes at a time when relations between the army chief V.K. Singh and civilian authorities have hit a new low. Earlier in the year, Singh took the defense ministry to the Supreme Court after claiming he was younger than military records showed. He lost the case.

On Monday, he said he was offered a $2.8 million bribe to buy substandard trucks for the army.

Defense analysts say it is not a secret that India's armed forces need modernization. The government in New Delhi is spending billions of dollars to buy new weapons and equipment, but critics say the upgrading has been slow.