Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar has ruled out any plans for Indian and the US navies to conduct joint patrolling. While India will continue to conduct joint training exercises with the US, there are no plans for joint patrol, he said. “As of now, India has never taken part in any joint patrol; we only do joint exercises. The question of joint patrol does not arise,” said Parrikar.
Parrikar was responding to a question about the statement made earlier this week by Admiral Harry Harris at an event in Delhi where he said that “in the not too distant future, American and Indian Navy vessels steaming together will become a common and welcome sight throughout Indo-Asia-Pacific waters, as we work together to maintain freedom of the seas for all nations”. This was interpreted as India and the US coming together to challenge the Chinese influence in the regional waters.
Parrikar refused to comment on the reports that India was close to signing the “foundational agreements”: Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial intelligence with the United States. The discussion on these agreements, he said, is taking place in the defence ministry and any change in India’s stance will be intimated by the government. It is expected to be a key focus area during US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to India next month.
Responding to a question from The Indian Express about the mounting salaries and pensions bill of the defence forces, Parrikar said this needed a long-term solution and he has asked the defence services to work out a plan to “cut the flab”. Giving the example of telephone operators used by the army, he said that with modern equipment, these people are no longer required. He said that by using simulators in training and rationalizing the training, savings will be made from the defence budget.
On the fiscal impact of the seventh pay commission recommendations not being included in the defence budget, Parrikar clarified that “it had been accounted for as much as it had been for others”. The details of the pay commission recommendations are being worked out in the ministry and those deliberations will be completed in the next 2-3 weeks, the minister added.
Parrikar also said that funds for raising of the China strike corps will be made available from the defence budget. The reduction of defence budget from eight demands to four gives the ministry the flexibility to reallocate the funds, he said.
Defence Minister clarified that the four demands of the defence budget amount to Rs 3.41 lakh crore, which is 17.23 per cent of the overall government expenditure. After excluding the defence pensions of Rs 82 k crore, the defence ministry will be accounting for 13.09% of government spending.
He said that Rs 77k crore had been allocated for capital acquisition in the current year, out of which Rs 66k crore has been spent by the defence ministry. He claimed that his ministry has been able to save Rs 5-6k crore by recalibrating the account of money deposited with the US government for foreign military sales made to India. After the recalibration, the amount parked with the US government has come down from around $3 bn to $1.7 bn. Another Rs 2-3k crore has been saved due to slippages in committed liabilities, caused by delay in supply of certain contracted equipment.
Parrikar asserted that the amount of Rs 70k crore allocated for capital acquisition in the coming year is as per the requirement of the ministry.