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Indian Ocean becoming important theatre of activity: Defence Secretary

Dr. Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Defence Production.

Dr. Ajay Kumar, Secretary, Defence Production.   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Efforts on to cut expenditure, pension bill, he says

The whole of Indian Ocean today, after the South China Sea (SCS), is “becoming an important theatre of activity” and it is of great importance, Defence Secretary Dr. Ajay Kumar said on Thursday. He highlighted the increasing focus on blue economy for expansion of maritime resources in terms of fisheries and minerals.

“China today has been the global leader in deep-water fishing and it has been going around fishing around the globe... while we are still not even looking at going beyond our territorial waters. Our fishermen are not trained, they don’t have the craft, equipment and we don’t have the overall security umbrella for our fishermen to be going deeper into waters and tapping resources in our own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),” Mr. Kumar said in response to a question at a webinar organised by a Defence Ministry think tank.

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“As we look to develop the blue economy, we need to have the necessary security infrastructure in place to be able to do this”, he stated.

Asked if the Navy’s allocation would be increased as the maritime focus increases, he said it had be looked at in a larger framework of what the national needs are. “Indian Ocean is an important area, security of which has to be be catered to.”

On the defence budget, he said the allocation for capital procurement had come down from 40% in 2010-11 to 33% which was a “systemic problem” with three factors -- growing pension bill, non revenue expenditure and dependence on imports.

Indigenous technology

Mr. Kumar stressed on indigenous technology development, saying it was an open secret that the current model of technology transfer pushed up cost of platforms from 30% to 60%, compared to direct imports.

Other measures being pursued to reduce expenditure were outsourcing, leasing of equipment, automation in various organisations under the Ministry and monetisation of some defence lands. Process was on for closing down military farms. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) was outsourcing all work worth up to Rs. 300 crore. “We are also looking at leasing of equipment like transport aircraft and vehicles to reduce expenses”, he stated.

In a separate webinar on Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises (MSME), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “The manufacturing sector has been affected the most due to the lockdown and disruption in existing supply chains and the defence sector is “more aggravated than other sectors as the only buyer of defence products is the government.”

To mitigate this, Mr. Singh said, the Defence Ministry had taken several steps for industries, especially the MSMEs, which included an extension of the response dates for procurement tenders, early clearance of the pending payments, among others, in addition to the measures announced by the government and Reserve Bank of India.

In addition, defence public sector undertakings have been asked to clear payments of MSMEs and that their production targets have not been scaled down, the Ministry said.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 8:41:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/efforts-on-to-cut-expenditure-pension-bill-defence-secretary/article31642947.ece

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