The poor quality of ammunition supplied to the army has been a matter of concern. The ammunition supplied by the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has seen a slow down grading of the quality. The OFB with its 41 factories is the main supplier of ammunition. However, the army has told the defence ministry that ammunition related accidents are causing deaths, injuries and damage to equipment. Regular accidents are occurring with 105mm Indian field guns, 105mm light field guns, 130mm MA1 medium guns, 40mm L-70 air defence guns, as well as the main guns of T-72, T-90 and Arjun main battle tanks due to defective ammunition. In fact, the army has stopped all training firing of the 40mm high explosive ammunition after the latest accident in February in which an officer and four soldiers were seriously injured. The downgrading of the quality in ammunition certainly would undermine the army’s operational preparedness. Failing to ensure basics such as quality ammunition belies all the tough talk of the Narendra Modi government on national security. Defence modernisation is not just about inducting big-ticket weapons platforms (on which, too, there has been more controversy than movement). It necessarily includes an efficient ordnance network. In this context, PM Modi recently accused previous Congress governments of making India dependent on foreign defence imports, even as China became a strong exporter of defence equipment over the same period. However, we have had a BJP-led government for five years – blaming Congress for today’s ills will not wash for much longer. It’s time to stop playing politics over the army and institute serious reforms to boost indigenous defence production by bringing in the private sector. India should not make the mistake of underestimating its enemies and rivals – they are smart enough to judge it by its deeds, not by its words.
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