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Government committed to modernise armed forces: President

President Pratibha Patil spoke about the modernisation of armed forces while addressing the joint session of the Parliament in New Delhi on Monday. PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): Government said it would accord the highest priority for the modernisation of the country's defence by providing its armed forces with the latest weaponry, equipment and platforms.

"Government is fully committed to the modernisation of the armed forces. We will accord the highest priority for modernisation programmes to equip our armed forces with the required weaponry, equipment and platforms," President Pratibha Patil told Parliament.

In her customary address to the joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to mark the beginning of the Budget session, she hailed the recent successful test of Agni-III missile and the induction of the indigenous Arjun main battle tank into the Army as examples of capability demonstration and self-reliance.

"The successful launch of the Agni-III missile is a shining example of the capabilities of our scientists and engineers who deserve full praise.

"Efforts to enhance our technological self-reliance received a new impetus with the commencement of the handing over of the main battle tank, Arjun to the Indian Army," she added.

Declaring that the nation was proud of its armed forces, she said they had distinguished themselves in preserving the country’s unity and territorial integrity and in defending the borders.

On the issue of welfare of personnel, Patil cited the establishment of an Armed Forces Tribunal for adjudication of complaints and disputes regarding service matters and other appeals.

"The government has accepted the recommendations regarding substantial improvements in the pensionary benefits of personnel below officers’ rank and commissioned officers," she noted.

The government's commitment to the armed forces modernisation comes at a time when the Army, Navy and the Air Force's plan to induct latest weapons have been delayed.

While the Army has been waiting for modern towed, self-propelled and light artillery guns for the last two decades, the government had agreed to the trials of these weapons systems only recently.

The nod for the trials came after the Law Ministry agreed to a company, blacklisted following the CBI naming it in a corruption case against former Ordnance Factories Board chief Sudipto Ghosh, being part of the tests, pending contract awarding.

The Navy's plans to have Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier has now been rescheduled to 2012 due to slow pace of work at the Sevmash shipyard in Russia, which has been demanding USD 2.9 billion instead of the originally contracted USD 974 million for the warship. It is also facing a delay in construction of second line of diesel-powered submarines.

The IAF is awaiting a decision on the 126 medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) which has only reached the flight trails stage and is now likely to be inducted only by 2015.

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