Changing role of Women Officers in Indian Defence Forces

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.indiandefencereview.com

India is advancing forward by crushing the gender discrimination in the armed forces. Last year in June during the passing out parade of Indian Military Academy (IMA) Chief of Army staff General Bipin Rawat hinted towards the induction of women in combat role in the Indian Army.

(Picture Courtesy: http://www.telegraphindia.com)

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Major Priya Jhingan

Priya Jhingan is the first lady officer of the Indian Army. She was commissioned into the army on 6th March 1993 and after completing 10 years of service she retired as a Major in 2003.

(Picture Courtesy: http://www.storypick.com)

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Lt Gen. Punita Arora

Punita Arora is the first woman in India to reach the second-highest rank, Lieutenant General of the Indian Army. She was commissioned in the army in 1968. She became the commandant of the Armed Forces Medical College in 2004. Lt. Gen. Arora also co-ordinated medical research for the armed forces as additional director-general of Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS). Later, she moved from the Army to the Navy as the AFMS has a common pool that allows officers to migrate from one service to another depending on the requirement. She served as Vice-Admiral in the navy.

(Picture Courtesy: http://www.zeenews.india.com)

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Captain Divya Ajith Kumar leading the contingent

Captain Divya Ajith Kumr is the first woman in the history of Indian Army who received the coveted sword of honour and also got the opportunity to lead the first all-women contingent of the Indian Army on Republic Day in 2015.

As on 1st January 2018, total of 1,548 lady officers (excluding medical, dental and nursing) were serving in the army.

(Picture Courtesy: http://www.zeenews.india.com)

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Flying officer Avani Chaturvedi

Positive change can be witnessed in the Indian Air Force (IAF). Women officers can be seen in a combat role. Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi becomes the first woman IAF officer to fly the fighter jet. Padmavathy Bandopadhyay is the first woman Air Marshal of the IAF. As on 1st Feb 2018 total of 1,598 lady officers were serving in the IAF. This figure excludes lady officers serving in medical, dental and nursing.

(Picture Courtesy: http://www.indianexpress.com)

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Sub Lieutenant Shubhangi Swaroop with three other women officers

Sub –Lieutenant Shubhangi Swaroop becomes the first women pilot of the Indian Navy. Last year in November three other women officers got commissioned into Naval Armament Inspection (NAI) branch. These four women officers script history. As on 1st February total of 493 lady officers were serving in the Indian Navy.

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.news18.com

We also should not forget the fact that our defence minister is also a lady. Nirmala Sitharaman is the first women defence minister of the country.

In addition to women officers in three wings of the armed forces, our central police forces are also moving a step forward. Indo-Tibetian Border Police get its first woman combat officer. Prakriti cleared her UPSC examination for the recruitment of officers in Central Armed polices force and becomes the first women combat officer.

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Naval Exercise ‘MILAN – 2018’ Begins

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The much awaited naval exercise ‘Milan – 2018’ hosted by the Indian Navy begins in Port Blair on Tuesday. In this week long naval exercise 38 contingents from 16 navies will display their skills. The theme of ‘Milan- 2018’ is ‘In Pursuit of Maritime Good Order – Need for Comprehensive Information Sharing Apparatus’, so the main focus will be to create a cordial environment in the region to  check unlawful activities and to strengthen the ties

For the first time Oman is taking part in this exercise.  The main aim of this exercise is to enhance regional cooperation and to check unlawful activities.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Naval Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba will visit Port Blair for this international event.

DEFEXPO 2018 – Government’s initiative to promote Defence Manufacturing Capabilities.

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Picture Courtesy : http://www.brahmand.com

 

For the first time ever India will project its Defence Manufacturing capabilities to the world in DefExpo 2018 which is to be held in Chennai from April 11 to 14. The tagline of the DefExpo2018 is ‘India : The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub’. India will exhibit weapons and military hardware along with showcasing its potential to be an exporter of military platforms.

According to an official statement, India will display indigenous built military weapons including helicopters, fighter jets, missiles and Air Defence systems. DefExpo 2018 will also showcase its capabilities to manufacture naval vessels such as frigates, corvettes and other ships.

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India will exhibit fourth-generation Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) – Tejas and Advanced Light Helicopter – Dhruv which are domestically designed and manufactured by state run Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL). Missile and Rocket manufacturing capabilities will also be showcased in DefExpo. Brahmos and Akash Missiles and Pinaca rockets will be also be highlighted in exhibition.

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India will unveil its 155mm Advanced Towed Artillery Gun (ATAG) in DefExpo 2018. This is the first time that India has its own ATAG which has been designed and developed by DRDO in partnership with Kalyani Group, Tata Power and OFBs. Tank making capabilities are also likely to be showcased in this exhibition. India will also be showcasing 155mm artillery gun ‘Dhanush’.  DefExpo 2018 is seen as an opportunity to showcase India’s plans to go global in terms of manufacturing of small arms manufacturing with its decision to manufacture about 7.5 lakh Assault Rifles, 3.5 lakh Carbines and about 40,000 LMGs.

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.zeenews.com

In a statement Defence Ministry said, “India as a defence exporter of several defence systems and components for all three Services – Army, Navy and Air Force. While showcasing strengths of India’s substantial public sector, it will also uncover India’s growing private industry and spreading MSME base for components and sub-systems.”

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As DefExpo will be held on a sea Shore, so it will provide an opportunity to the Indian Navy to brandish its capabilities to manufacture naval vessels. Domestically built frigates, corvettes and ships will be showcased along the sea shore.

The ministry said, “The exhibition will also unveil India’s capabilities in manufacturing Scorpene class submarine. Naval shipyards in public sector including Mazagon Docks, GRSE, Goa Shipyards, Hindustan Shipyard and private shipyards will bring to view their capabilities in manufacturing and servicing ships.”

India is one of the largest importers of military equipment. So the government is promoting domestic defence industry so that dependency on the foreign manufacturing companies can be reduced.

 

 

‘Milan – 2018’ – Indian Navy’s strategic move to counter China

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.brahmand.com

India is going to host navies from at least 16 countries across the world for eight-day mega naval exercise, ‘Milan’ starting from March 6 to March 13. Biennial exercise Milan is going to be hosted by the Indian Navy at Port Blair. The main aim of this exercise is to expand regional cooperation. India has a long history for its contribution with respect to Indian Ocean and maritime domain. India’s involvement in wider multilateral groupings such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Naval symposium (IONS) and carrying out series of exercises with other countries puts the case in point.

 

The first edition of ‘Milan exercise was held in 1995, with just four countries participated in the exercise. Till now it has only been held nine times.

The ‘Milan’ is to be held by Andamn and Nicobar Command, this area is positioned at the entrance of Malaca Starits. This is a strategic move which clearly shows India’s intentions to build strong ties with South-East Asian countries. ‘Milan’ will improve India’s interoperability and relations with the participant countries such as Indonesia and Singapore.

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.defpost.com

Smaller countries like Myanmar will be benefited by this exercise as it will give an opportunity to such countries to interact with significant strategic players of the world other than super powers.

‘Milan – 2018’ can be seen as New Delhi’s strategy to counter China’s operations in the South China sea. In the latest development Maldives has rejected India’s invitation to participate in the ‘Milan’. There have been reports that China is looking to establish ‘Joint Ocean Observation Station’ in the Maldives. Earlier in February Chinese warships were seen sailing into the East Indian Ocean. Maldives has signed a Free Trade Agreement with China in December 2017.

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.zeenews.com

The 16 countries confirmed by the Indian Navy which are participating in ‘Milan – 2018’ are Australia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Vietnam, Thailand, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya and Cambodia.

Exercises like Milan will have India to enhance its stature in maritime realm.

 

 

 

F-16 Block 70 or Gripen E for Indian Air Force

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Picture Courtesy: IndianAirforce.nic.in

Current strength of our Air force is 34 squadrons against the authorised strength of 42 squadrons. Initially Indian government signed to buy 126 Rafale Fighter jets from French Company Dassault Aviation.Out of 126, 18 jets were to be purchased in ‘ready to fly’ condition and rest 108 were to be manufactured in India, but after general election in 2014 when the NDA government came to power the entire deal was scrapped and fresh deal was signed to buy 36 in ‘ready to fly condition’

According to the report of Institute of Defence Studies and analysis which was made public in November 2017, out of 34 squadrons 11 squadrons have Sukhoi – 30 MKI. The MIGs will get retire by 2020, which means that almost 14 squadron will retire by 2020. We will get three new squadrons of Sukhoi – 30 MKI. So by the year 2020 Indian Air Force (IAF) will be left with only 23 squadrons which is far less than the authorised strength.  IAF will be getting two squadrons (36 Jets) of Rafale. Indigenous built Tejas is not that efficient to rely upon. Taking all this into consideration we need around 400 fighter jets to attain the full authorised strength.

To plug in the gap, The Indian Government prepares to issue global tender of worth $10 Million for single engine fighter jets. Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 and Sweden’s Gripen E are two leading competitors to get the tender.

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F-16 Block 70 ( Picture Courtesy: http://www.defenceupdates.in)

F-16 block 70 is the most advance variant of F-16 series. United States of America has wrapped up the production line in Fort Worth, Texas, to give way to F-35 Lightning II, a single-engine all-weather stealth multi-role fighter. The F-16s, will now be produced from Greenville, South Carolina. USA is ready to transfer the production line to India if Lockheed Martin gets the deal. Around 27 countries including Pakistan is using F-16 fighter jets, so India will become an exporter of this fighter jet which will put India into the centre-stage of defence production industry. Lockheed Martin is the largest Military production organisation, where as Gripen E is comparatively new in the field. But SAAB’s Gripen E is the most advance fighter jets in the modern times. It has also the lowest flight cost of $4,700 per hour as compared to F-16 block 70, which will costs around $7,700 per hour.

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Gripen E (Picture Courtesy: http://www.sputniknews.com)

SAAB has also agreed for 100% technology transfer, but SAAB owns only 30% of the technology. It will be a big deal if SAAB appeases other technology developers to share the technology.

India will get single supply chain in case of F-16 block 70 which is not in the case of Gripen E. this will be of great help in wartime situation. Secondly, easy availability of Spare parts of F-16.

If we look at the other side Gripen E is the most sensors packed fighter jet. SAAB has also offered to develop indigenous LCA Tejas and also offers Naval version of Gripen.

Our Government needs to close this deal quickly, so that our Air force should not fell short of fighter jets in the near future.

 

 

 

Rafale Deal Controversy: A political fight to demoralise our forces

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Congress launched fresh salvo on the government over the Rafale deal during the winter session of the parliament. Congress slammed the deal, terming it a scam of Rs 50,000 crore.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rejected opposition’s demand to disclose the breakdown price of the Rafale deal.

Opposition refused to accept the reason given by the government. Congress president Rahul Gandhi took a swipe on the government and termed this deal as a scam and alleged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for personally getting this deal done.

During UPA government, deal of USD 12 billion which amounts to Rs 78,000 crore (approx.) was inked for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), Rafale Fighter jets. Out of these 126 jets 18 were to be procured in ‘ready to fly’ condition and rest 108 fighter jets were to be produced in India by Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL). UPA government failed to conclude the deal before the elections 2014.

After coming to power NDA government scrapped the old deal and signed fresh deal to procure 36 fighter jets in ‘ready to fly’ condition for Euro 7.8 billion which amounts to Rs 59,000 crore (approx.). According to this new deal 75 percent Rafale fleet will always be operational as compared to UPA’s Rafale deal which was only 48 percent.

Congress also alleged that cost of each Rafale fighter jet rose to almost three times from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,570 crore.

Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said, “It is a very opaque government. It is absolutely astounding, if you read the agreement, secrecy clause applies only the issue of technology, intellectual property right. It cannot be applied to price. Price is in the public domain, after all it is a biding.”

Jha further added, “We are only asking the government for the breakdown of the cost. We were getting it for Rs 526 crore and they are paying Rs 1,500 crore. We want to know what government is hiding.”

Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) spokesperson Krishna Sagar Rao hits back at Congress. Speaking on the entire controversy, Rao said, “Rahul Gandhi and his party have hit a dead end. They are approaching elections with no issue against the government. No wonder the search for issue has redirected him to Rafale deal which is driven by his own government in 2005.” Clarifying government’s stand on the issue of confidentiality Rao said, “While the confidentiality argument and the overall choice of Rafale is made by the Congress regime. Government has nothing to hide. In fact UPA government had given the same answer when they were in power when the same issue was raised in the parliament.”

Opposition is also raising questions over the 50 percent offset deal between Dassault and Reliance Defence Ltd. Congress blamed PM Modi for favoring Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Ltd. for getting Rs 30,000 crore deal as a Indian partner to Dassault  as Reliance has no expertise in this field.

Jha said, “Large section of those defence offset has been given to a private contractor and not to HAL. HAL is a public sector company with expertise and earlier also had working agreement with Dassault .The agreement was signed on 13th March 2014.”

Whereas BJP spokesperson Rao termed it as a part of ‘Make in India’ campaign to give boost to indigenous industries in defence sector. Rao said, “We wanted to ensure that Indian companies should get a fair chance to manufacture it locally and that applied to even defence sector.” Taking a jibe at congress Rao further added, “All these are global tenders and biding processes which are transparent and open and not made in family tight rooms like done in UPA regime.”

The deal signed by the NDA government capped inflation at 3.5 percent as compared to that of previous deal which was 3.9 percent.

Defence expert, Air Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak termed the entire controversy as political fight which will have negative consequences on armed forces. Air Marshal (Retd.) Kak said, “It is not that one deal is better or other deal is better, we are just comparing apple and oranges. In case of UPA Rafale deal it was mere speculation of what we could have got, but in case of the deal signed by NDA government we have proper contract with precise details of what we are getting out of the deal.”

Speaking on the issue of government not disclosing the breakdown price of each fighter jet, Air Marshal (Retd.) Kak said, “The government had entered confidentiality pact with the French government as France is also selling the same fighter jets to other countries.”

Now the question arises that if UPA government had concluded the deal, then there would have been any controversy?

Currently our Air Force is short of fighter jets. We need to have 42 squadrons of fighter jets but we have only 33 squadrons.

Our defence forces need modern technology and equipment to counter increasing threat on the borders instead of these controversies. We need to build morale of our defence forces, rather than fighting over a defence deal. Controversies like these will demoralise our forces.

We need to fulfil the gap of rest 90 fighter jets, as we are purchasing only 36 Rafale jets instead of 126 jets, but our leaders busy in questioning each other to satisfy their political motives.

Defence Budget 2018 is another farce, 1.58% allocated for defence

 

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Picture Courtesy: Rediff.com

In the union budget for the financial year 2018-19, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 2,95,511.41 crore for defence.  The defence budget is hiked by 7.81 % by the previous year’s budget.  Out of the total outlay for defence only Rs 99,563.41 is allocated for capital expenditure which includes modernisation expenditure for the forces, whereas Rs 1,95,947.55 for revenue expenditure.

In addition to the defence budget Rs 1,08,853.30 is allocated for defence pensions.

This year’s defence budget is only 1.58% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is lower than last year’s allocation in terms of percentage. After the war against China in 1962 this is the lowest allocation to defence forces.

Despite the recommendation of defence panel that the defence budget for the financial year 2018 should be around 2.5% of the GDP to reduce the shortages of equipment and technology in our defence forces.

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The other major highlight of the budget is that Jaitley in his budget speech said, ”We have opened private investment in defence production and liberalisng foreign direct investment. We have also taken measures to develop two defence industrial corridors in the country and industry friendly defence policy in 2018-19.”

This time around there was no surrender of capital expenditure to the government in 2017-18 unlike that of previous years.

Our forces need modernisation on the priority basis, but this budget seems far too less to fulfil the shortages of our forces.

Expectations from Defence Budget 2018-19 and needs of our Defence Forces

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Picture Courtesy: SSbcrack.com

The defence budget for the year 2017- 18 was Rs 2.74 lakh crore, which amounts to 1.56 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

According to defence experts this is the lowest ever budget allocated to defence forces in terms of percentage. Defence expert Air Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak said, “This financial year’s budget was the lowest since 1956-57. At the time of China war in 1962 we were going at 1.59 percent and for the next 30 years after the war we maintained the average of three percent of the GDP. From 1992 onwards there is a steep downfall in the defence budget.”

Defence budget is utilised to meet revenue expenditure and capital expenditure.

India is a growing super power which is surrounded by arch rivals Pakistan in the west and China in the north. In addition to this, India has to fighter terrorism and insurgency, so defence budget must fulfill all the needs of our defence forces.

Now let us look at the needs of our Defence Forces:

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If we talk about army, Indian Small Arms System Rifles (INSAS) needs to be replaced with modern assault rifles. Currently army is using AK – 47’s and INSAS. Personal kit of an Indian soldier, which includes bullet proof jackets, helmets and shoes needs to be replaced with lighter kit. Defence analyst Mandeep Singh Bajwa said, ”The army doesn’t have modern assault rifles, steel helmets and bullet proof jackets. In addition to this we also need to strengthen our Mountain Strike Core.“ The Indian Army rely mostly on Russian built T-72 and T-90 tanks . The army needs indigenous built tanks to fulfill the gap.  Indigenous built Arjun Mark II is still in trial phase, though this main battle tank has more fire power as compared to Russian tanks. We need artillery guns as our main artillery gun Bofors has become outdated. Defence Experts Maj. Gen. (Retd.) GD Bakshi said,” We need to plug the gap in the artillery. We haven’t had a gun since last 30 years ever since the Bofors scandal hit us.”

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If we talk about Air force, the picture is not too bright either. There is a major shortage of fighter jets. Currently we have 33 squadrons of fighter jets, whereas IAF need to have at least 42 fighter squadrons. This figure will reduce further as Mig fighter jets will be decommissioned over the coming years. Initially government had signed deal to procure 126 French fighter jets, Rafale, 36 of these fighter jets will be delivered by 2019 in the ‘ready to fly’ and government of India plans to manufacture 90 in India. Induction of Indigenous built Tejas will also narrow the gap, but this aircraft needs improvement to match the requirements of IAF.

IAF is also thinking of buying American fighter jets F-16 or Sweden’s Gripen to increase its strength.

There is a tremendous shortage in the allocation of capital expenditure to the Air force. Even if we induct more air crafts we don’t have proper infrastructure to keep them. According to anonymous defence source, “Runway resurfacing needs to be done, aircraft hangers needs to be build, which requires a lot of funds. The work is getting stalled due to the lack of funds. Minimum RS 700-800 crore is needed to build proper infrastructure. We have bigger carry over liability in year 2018-2019, so the works are going to be stalled.”

According to Air Marshal (Retd.) Kak, In the financial year 2016-17 only 12% of the capital expenditure was used for the modernisation which went into new schemes, rest 88 percent of the capital expenditure was used to payback old liabilities.

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The picture is also gloomy in the Indian navy. There is a shortage of submarines. We have currently 14 submarines in operation; half of them have completed their 75 percent of the service. INS Kalvari has been commissioned into the navy under project-75 and five more submarines will be inducted under the same project in the coming years. Senior defence analyst Commodore GJ Singh said, ”We need to have at least 24 submarines. Currently we have only one aircraft carrier along the western coast, but we need another air craft carrier along the eastern coast also.” Commodore Singh further added, ”If we want our navy to be a ‘Blue water Nay’, attention needs to be paid on the modernisation of the navy.”  Construction of 12 Mine Countermeasures Vessels are also pending at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL). There is delay in importing 16 medium multirole helicopters of 12 tonne each. Our navy requires a replacement of obsolete cheetah helicopters.

These are some of the major requirement by the three wings of our defence forces.

Defence budget in 2016-17 was Rs 2.58 lakh crore which amounted to 1.71 percent to the GDP. The important thing to note is that, almost Rs 6,000 crore was surrendered to the government. The defence budget of the financial year 2017-18 was hiked by 6 percent from that of the previous one. If we talk about the coming budget of 2018-19, Defence experts are of the opinion that it should be around three to four percent of the GDP. Defence analyst Bajwa said, ”Defence budget should be four percent of the GDP to cater to the capital expenditure in terms of buying new weapons and equipment which at the moment is very very discouraging.” Air Marshal (Retd.) Kak estimated the budget to be minimum three percent of the GDP.

Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) national spokesperson Krishna Sagar Rao said, ”There must be a possible rise of two percent i.e. eight percent hike on the previous year’s  (2017 – 18 ) budget allocation. This is only an anticipation.”  Rao further added, ”The increase of eight percent in the budget outlay can also be enhanced as multiple defence panel recommending that it should be around 2.5 percent of the GDP.” Talking on the issue of underutilisation of the capital expenditure Rao said, ”There is an issue in terms of modernisation expense. This expense is not fully consumed year after year. Almost Rs 6000 crore was not spent in the financial year 216-17. This year we are focusing on full utilization of the modernization expenses.” BJP spokesperson also signals that large scale acquisition of fighter jets and submarines are in the pipeline.

According to defence experts, this year the government will be under pressure. This will be the last full budget as elections are approaching in 2019. There are chances that the government will spend more money in social sector. Government will want to bring fiscal deficit under control, so in that case limited budget will be allocated to defence.

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Picture Courtesy: Hindustan Times

It will be interesting to see how the government gives priority to modernise the defence forces in the budget or will appease the voters?