Armed forces fully prepared to meet any challenge: Jaitley

New delhi: Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today asserted that the armed forces were fully prepared to meet any challenge and cautioned the opposition parties against giving the impression that they were unprepared due to lack of procurement.

Making an intervention in the Lok Sabha during a debate on the demands for grants of the Defence Ministry, he rejected the opposition charge that the government had ignored the needs of defence forces and not allocated adequate budget, saying it had signed 147 procurement contracts worth over Rs 2.96 lakh crore in three years.

He cited contracts to procure weapons and equipment for all three wings of the forces– including 155 mm ultra light howitzer guns and Brahmos missiles for the army, deep sea rescue missions for the navy and Apache attack helicopters for the air force — to make his point.

“This impression should not go that procurement is not happening… Our army is not prepared. Our defence forces are fully prepared to meet any challenge,” he said, adding that the matter of preparedness of defence forces should be bipartisan and not politicised.

He also rejected the charge that the ambitious ‘Make in India’ scheme had “failed” in the defence sector, saying 134 proposals worth over Rs 4.45 lakh crore were signed and 100 of them were aimed at Buy and Make in India.

“In self-critical analysis, we should not exaggerate… The government has worked to speed up the procurement process and make it more transparent,” he said.

He said there were twin challenges of resources and process facing the sector.

Jaitley, whose main portfolio is Finance and has been given charge of the Defence Ministry after Manohar Parrikar resigned to become the Goa Chief Minister, however, also pointed to resource constraints.

It is easy to say that more resources should be allocated to the defence sector, which of course should be done, he said while noting that major parts of the central budget are given to states, diverted for subsidised welfare schemes for the poor and to pay interests on debts.