NEW DELHI: India's tank fleet lacks ammunition, its air defences are "97 percent obsolete" and its elite forces lack essential arms, the country's army chief wrote in an explosive letter leaked Wednesday.
The letter to the prime minister dated March 12 - widely reported by the Indian media - lists the shortcomings of the armed forces in embarrassing detail in a blow to the government and the Asian giant's military prestige.
Its publication also ups the stakes in a public battle between army chief General VK Singh and the government which began with a dispute over Singh's retirement earlier this year.
"The state of the major (fighting) arms i.e. mechanised forces, artillery, air defence, infantry and special forces, as well as the engineers and signals, is indeed alarming," Singh wrote in the letter, DNA newspaper reported.
The army's entire tank fleet is "devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks", while the air defence system is "97% obsolete and it doesn't give the deemed confidence to protect... from the air," he wrote, according to DNA.
The infantry is crippled with "deficiencies" and lacks night fighting equipment, while the elite special forces are "woefully short" of "essential weapons".
Singh also told The Hindu newspaper this week that he had informed Defence Minister A.K Antony of a $2.8 million bribe offered to him in 2010, leading to embarrassing questions as to why the government did not order an enquiry.
Antony told parliament on Wednesday that he was aware of the letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and he would reply appropriately.