New Delhi, April 17 (Agency)
Stung by Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over gaps in defence preparedness, the government Tuesday decided to fast-track army acquisition and projects and as a first step, empowered the army to buy equipment for special forces commandos.
The army will buy the specialist equipment on its own, as it at present does with regard to equipment for troops posted in Siachen Glacier, the world's highest and toughest battlefield.
This decision was taken at a two-hour meeting to review army's procurements and infrastructure development plans chaired by Defence Minister A.K. Antony here, attended by Gen. Singh and other senior officers from the force, defence ministry officials said here.
Antony also asked his ministry officials to immediately refer to the planning commission, the army's demand for laying of 14 strategically important railway lines to enable troop mobilisation close to the Indian borders with China in the northeast.
With regard to the road and infrastructure development in the northern borders with China and Pakistan, the defence minister also set up an empowered committee under Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma that will look at speeding up these projects in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, officials said.
"The army has been given authority to buy equipment for special forces and an empowered committee has been set up under army vice chief, Lt. Gen. Shri Krishna Singh," they said.
The army chief had flagged deficiencies in the the special forces equipment too in his letter to the prime minister of gaps in defence preparedness.
On army's demand for helicopter gunships, the review meeting decided to refer it to a joint committee of the army and the air force, which will submit a report after studying current practices being followed by modern armies.
At present, the Indian Air Force operates two squadrons of attack helicopters under the operational control of the army's Strike Corps.
But the army wants its own squadrons of attack helicopters in it aviation wing so that each of its corps could operate one unit that provide close air support to the troops and armoured vehicles during battle.
Tuesday's review was the third since Feb 28 and the second since Gen. Singh's letter to the prime minister.
The meeting also noted that the decks have been cleared for one more squadron of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles for the army, which already operates two squadrons.
The army's plans to get additional Pinaka multi-barrel rockets too has been fast-tracked with price negotiations with the vendors completed recently.
The defence ministry, at the meeting, also recorded the fact that an army proposal for additional manpower for its Military Engineering Services, which handles civil constructions and projects for the services, has been sent to the finance ministry for approval.
Another demand for eight mule companies to assist in border road projects too has been sanctioned, officials added.