A day after Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said that India is fully equipped to defend itself against China, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its Compliance Report on Friday said that the Indian army faces a shortage of 40 percent of types ammunition to fight a 10-day long intense war.
The top auditor's lament on the shortage of tanks and artillery in the Indian Army comes against the backdrop of the flaring military stand-off between India and China in Doklam.
India and China have been involved in a dispute in the Doklam region along the Sikkim border for over a month now. The standoff began after Indian soldiers stopped the Chinese Army from constructing a road in the strategical region. India feels that the Chinese intrusion in the region will seriously affect the security at the tri-junction and the sensitive chicken neck, which joins India's northeast with the mainland.
The latest CAG report is the seoncd one on the shortage of ammunition in the army since 2015. "No significant improvement took place in the critical deficiency in availability and quality of ammunition... since March 2013," said the Auditor in the Parliament.
How low is India's ammunition stock?
The Indian military uses 152 types of different ammunition.
In March 2013, the CAG had warned that the army could not fight a war beyond 15 to 20 days. In September 2016 report it said that 40 percent, that is 61 out of total 152 types of ammunition was still in critical level.
As per government orders, the army is supposed to be stocked with ammunition that is enough to withstand 40 days of intense war. However, the CAG report shows that as of September 2016, India has enough stocks for only 20 percent of the 152 types of ammunition (31 out of 152 types of ammunition) for the army to fight a 40-day war
The report also stated that the stockholding of 55 percent types of ammunition (83 out of 152) was below the Minimum Acceptable Risk Level (MARL). MARL is the requirement of ammunition for 20 days. It is considered as the "minimum inescapable requirement" to be maintained at all times to meet operational preparedness.
Shortage of fuzes
The CAG report stated that there is a shortage of fuzes in the ammunition as well. Fuze is considered the "brain of the artillery ammunition" as it initiates the firing function of the device. "In the absence of fuze, 83 percent of high calibre ammunition for tanks and artillery presently held with the army were not in a state to be used in operation," said the report.
Why this shortage
Around 90 percent of the army's requirement of ammunition is taken care of by the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). The remaining ammunition has to be bought from elsewhere.
But according to the audit report most cases initiated by the Army Headquarters from are pending since 2009.
Despite the Defence Ministry penning down a Rs 16,500 crore plan in 2013 to end the shortages by by 2019 there has been a tardy progress in the procurement of the ammunition. "We noticed that no case had culminated into the contract," the Comptroller and Auditor General's report said.