During the Kargil conflict, stocks of a particular type of vital ammunition were running frightfully low. A delegation was rushed to the supplier nation to obtain additional supplies urgently. The said nation willingly offered what it had in its inventory. Unfortunately, the latest lot available was six years old. As the total shelf life of the ammunition was ten years, it meant that the said lot had a residual shelf life of only four years.
The delegation was in acute dilemma. It was aware of the criticality of the ammunition and dreaded the thought of own troops running short of it if the conflict continued for some more days. On the other hand, it was wary of buying ammunition with partial shelf life, as it would certainly have invited adverse comments if the conflict ceased before the ammunition arrived in India. The delegation would have been blamed for buying outdated ammunition and aspersions cast on its diligence leading to enquiries. It was a predicament that offered no easy choice.
It is a true incidence and amply demonstrates the perils of decision- making in defence procurements. It is very difficult to justify in retrospect decisions taken in ‘good faith’ at a particular point in time under certain circumstances.