New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) India is well prepared to defend itself in the face of a war, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Tuesday, dismissing as 'rumours' reports about a shortage of ammunition for the armed forces.
'These are all rumours that ammunition only for four days is left in the stock. India is well prepared,' Antony told reporters on the sidelines of an Indian Air Force (IAF) function here.
He was asked about reports that a parliamentary panel was informed by senior IAF and army officers that stocks of certain types of tank munitions were down to four days of reserves. This follows the leaked letter army chief Gen. V.K. Singh wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, referring to serious gaps in India's defence preparedness.
But the defence minister denied any gaps in the preparedness of the armed forces. 'I can assure that India is fully prepared. On the whole, the Indian armed forces are better prepared to face challenges,' he said.
Earlier, addressing the bi-annual air force commanders' conference, Antony assured the forces that the government will provide all assistance to meet its rapid modernisation plans, but cautioned that this cannot be accelerated 'in fits and starts' as it is a continuous and time-consuming process.
He also said that capacity building is a steady process.
'Our government is aware of the need to modernise IAF at a rapid pace and of its long-term plans for capacity building. Modernisation is a continuous, time-consuming process and cannot be accelerated in fits and starts,' he said.
Noting that the budget allotted to IAF has been fully utilised, Antony said the government will continue to support the modernisation process to strengthen the capacity of IAF during the next three five-year plan periods.
'We have put in place detailed procurement procedures. So, while a number of procurement schemes have been finalised, others are being processed for approval and are in various stages. The capacity-building of the force also involves upgradation of existing systems and platforms and our government has also taken several steps in this direction,' he said.
'The air defence system of the Indian Air Force is being further strengthened with new inductions and integration of weapons and modern sensors. All airfields of IAF are being upgraded in a phased manner with modern navigation equipment and runway aids,' he added.
Reiterating the need for indigenisation in defence procurement to achieve the goal of self-reliance, the defence minister said, 'Even as we undertake the modernisation drive, our government is acutely aware of the urgent need to encourage indigenisation and take steady steps towards self-reliance in defence production so that the IAF need not rely on foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for procurement of major aircraft and equipment.
'Indigenisation will not only help the domestic economy, but will also reduce our excessive dependence on foreign countries.'
Underlining flight safety as the key to success, Antony said he has instituted a ministerial-level committee to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the IAF's court of inquiry as regards civil agencies.
Welcoming the commanders to the conference, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K Browne said, 'IAF operations rest on three pillars -- operational capability, operational infrastructure and security of these operational assets.
'An operational mindset must dictate all our actions and the primacy of operations in all our actions must be understood by each and every air warrior as well as be demonstrated in our daily work. The IAF is poised for a strategic transformation; how we would be a decade down the line, will depend on how we perform now,' he added.
Later, Browne told reporters that the Mirage-2000 combat planes, grounded following a recent crash, were undergoing checks and are expected to fly again by April end.
He also noted that the checks on the crashed Mirage led to some issues relating to engines being detected that had to be referred to the original equipment manufacturer in France for advice.
The four-day conference would focus on 'optimisation of weapons' and would have the commanders carry out review of issues relating to operations, infrastructure development and capability enhancement, personnel, training, aviation safety, maintenance and administration.
The meet provides a forum for the IAF commanders to take stock of the force's progress, identify course corrections and chart out a future road map. The conference is also scheduled to have Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai to interact with the commanders.
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