No cuts in expenditure for key defence areas: Antony

Projects related to operational preparedness of armed forces will not be affected despite a cut of Rs 10,000 in defence expenditure, Defence Minister A K Antony said today.

"There is recession globally and we are not an island. We are also affected by it. We have to tighten in all areas for a better future. This year consciously government is tightening (expenditure). As a result all departments of the government have been tightening.

"I can tell you...we will not reduce the budget for priority areas and operational preparedness. Areas in which expenditure is essential for operational preparedness, there is no question of any cuts," he said at the Aero India press conference here.

The Defence Ministry was "anxious" to secure more funds from the Centre for defence forces, but the government was passing through "difficult times" and everyone was getting affected by it, Antony said.

He said there was a cut of around Rs 10,000 crore in the defence budget for this year's allocation of Rs 1.93 lakh crore from the capital account for modernisation of armed forces.

Asked if the budget cut would in any way affect the modernisation process, he said, "Regarding modernisation of armed forces, there is no question of any slackening. We are conscious of the geopolitical situation around us, and the emerging threat and the volatile situation we are in where national security is primary importance."

India's economic growth depends on peace situation in the country and armed forces play a crucial role in this, he said. "So, there will be no slackening in modernisation of armed forces and nothing will happen in that area."

In view of the cut in defence budget, Antony said armed forces have been asked to prioritise their procurements as per the requirements of their operational preparedness plan.

Asked about India's reliance on imports for its defence hardware, Antony said the situation has improved and now it is not 70:30 ratio as was the case earlier.

On the night fighting capabilities of Indian Army, he said earlier only 10 per cent of the tanks had night vision devices but at present all T-90 tanks have this equipment and majority of T-72 tanks come equipped with them.

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