Defence budgets and national security
For over a decade, allocations for defence in the national budgets have been below 2 percent of GDP. Towards the end of each financial year, instead of allotting additional funds, as regularly promised during the budget speeches, a couple of thousands rupees are taken back. The current budget, allocation for defence is 1.79 % of GDP. During the budget speech FM, as usual, remarked that if required more funds would be allocated for defence. Surely the FM ought to know that, it is not an issue of ‘if required’ but one of crying need for adequate allocations. Nearly two weeks have passed since the budget was laid before the Parliament and still these dismally low allocations have not been debated : in and outside the Parliament. Some time ago Parliamentary Committee on Defence had recommended allocation of 3 % of GDP on regular basis.
The current budget, allocation for defence is 1.79 % of GDP.
Comparison with defence spending by China or even Pakistan, two neighbours with unresolved borders, China continuing to lay claim on Arunachal Pradesh, makes a depressing revelation. China has enormously upgraded its military capabilities, extensively developed military infrastructure in Tibet, extending railway link to Khatmandu, increasing its influence in that country and lately moved into the Gilgit region of PoK are issues of much concern to us. China is relentlessly pursuing the policy of laying a string of pearls around India. It has moved far ahead of India in the field of military technologies and helped Pakistan built strong nuclear and missile capabilities. Chinese forays into the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean are too well known to need recalling.
It is argued that, given the current economic scenario, compulsions of approaching national elections, FM had few options. But such contrived compulsions have persisted now for a full decade. In matters of national security, countries have to make hard choices. While policies can change overnight, military capabilities takes years to build. Given the current procedures, it will take a decade to acquire and operationalise the new equipment and systems. All this while, China will continue to forge ahead at a furious pace.
The peaceniks of this country, ignoring the developing security scenario, have been advocating that there is going to be no war, so why bother about external threats but instead focus on internal turmoil. This is merely a throw back to the fifties, where Nehru ruled out a conflict with China.
The peaceniks of this country, ignoring the developing security scenario, have been advocating that there is going to be no war, so why bother about external threats but instead focus on internal turmoil. This is merely a throw back to the fifties, where Nehru ruled out a conflict with China. They forget that strong military is a surer guarantee of dissuading an aggressor and thus avoiding a war while a militarily weak nation invites aggression and looses the freedom to pursue national interest: territorial, economic and diplomatic.
Service chiefs must have periodically briefed the defence minister on the appalling state of their forces, but in all probability all this appears to be outside the grasp of the RM. All that, he has succeeded in achieving is, blacklisting one arms supplier after another. The procurement procedures for new equipment are so convoluted and intriguing that these can tire out both the seller and the buyer. It takes anything from 8 to 10 years to induct new equipment into the defence services. Every now and then a new committee is formed to simplify procurement procedures, which ends up making the process more tortuous. Even the very first stage of proposal to acquire new equipment, ministry takes two to three years to clear the case
It was during my presentation on the ‘future shape of the army,’ to Arun Singh Committee, constituted soon after the Kargil conflict that I recommended raising of a mountain corps for a viable defence of our Himalayan borders. This proposal is still being considered and inappropriately termed as an ‘offensive corps.’ When and if raised, this corps will help successfully conduct a defensive battle and no more.
Since no substantial increase in defence allocation can be expected, there is perhaps a need to cut down wasteful expenditure related to defence forces. In brief some of the obvious areas where this must be done are:-
Most of the DRDO establishments are busy inventing the wheel and lack ability to even undertake reverse engineering of imported equipment.
- Ordinance Factories employ work force of 1.69 lakhs in its 39 factories and all of these need to be shut down/auctioned out to the civil industry. These not only overcharge the defence forces but produce what is already being produced by industry in the country.
- Most of the DRDO establishments are busy inventing the wheel and lack ability to even undertake reverse engineering of imported equipment. Though these establishments have been in existence for over half a century, yet the country imports over 70 percent of it its weapons and equipment. Majority of these establishments need to be closed down and private industry brought into development and production of high end defence equipment in a more positive and purposeful manner.
- All facilities for major repair of high end defence equipment and manufacture of ammunition etc need to be shifted closer to where such equipment is deployed to save on transportation charges and down time of equipment.
- Large scale induction of simulators can result in much saving in wear and tear and running of expensive equipment and the connected expenditure.
Security scene is discomforting and only the very focused and concerted attempts are required to meet the emerging challenges and ensure safe future for the country: its territorial integrity, economic and diplomatic interests.