|By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
The Fiinance Minister has announced a defence budget of Rs 2,46,727 crores for FY 2015-16. This announcement has come in the backdrop of a few other defence related news items:
Coming to the announcement of the defence budget of Rs 2,46,727 crores (US$ 40 billion) for FY 2015-16 against Revised Estimates of Rs 2,22,370 crores for the year 2014-15, the increase is Rs 24357 Crore or 10.9% from the Revised Estimates and Rs 17727 Crore or 7.74% from the Budget Estimate of Rs 229,000 Crore announced in July 2014 by the same Finance Minister. Unfortunately, the announcement of Rs 2,46,727 crores as defence budget for FY 2015-2016 will not amount to much considering the fall in the value of the rupee against the US dollar vis-à-vis continuous rise in prices of arms and weapon systems that are imported. Yes Make in India will eventually catch up but the long gestation period cannot be ignored and in the interim and the pathetic state of Armed Forces modernization too cannot be ignored in the face of mounting threats to national security. When General Charles de Gaulle became President of France in 1959, France was militarily not very strong. Though France was member of NATO, the Commander in Chief of the NATO forces was even prohibited from revealing to national authorities like the French President, which bases in their own countries housed the Alliance's nuclear weapons. What de Gaulle ensured was that the Defence Budget of France was to ensure defence allocations remained greater than 2 percent and touching 5% of the GDP, resulting in France emerging as a militarily strong nuclear power. That trend has continued with current French military expenditure standing at 5.4% of the GDP. In India, though the Long Term Integrated Procurement Plan (LTIPP) is based on a hypothetical 3% of GDP, defence allocations have never really touched that mark. Even post the Kargil Conflict and public exposure to massive equipment shortages in the Army, the one time high 1999-2000 Defence Budget allocation was made at 2.41% of the GDP. However, there has been a downslide since then, not to talk of the thousands of crores of Rupees that were surrendered by MoD annually barring an odd year when budgetary allocations were fully utilized.
The close interrelation between economy and security of any country is an accepted fact. Both need to be fine-tuned. The rising threats particularly from China and Pakistan too need to be taken into account. We need to take a cue from the record US$ 42 billion of Japan in face of Chinese aggressive posture — that we too face. Logically India should have a defence budget of 3% or more of the GDP for next few years. Sure, India can become a global manufacturing hub for arms and defence equipment but as mentioned above what of the interim period. The bottom line is that an allocation of Rs Rs 2,46,727 crores for FY 2015-16 is disappointing and does not augur well for the government's commitment to defence modernisation. The 'India First' commitment of the present government is unquestionable but how is the Defence Budget allocated and how is the long term integrated procurement plan (LTIPP) chalked out in absence of a National Security Strategy, without defining National Security Objectives and without a Comprehensive Defence Review? This vital anomaly in India's defence setup cannot be resolved unless the higher defence structures of India are remodeled and military professional brought into the MoD and the defence industrial complex. Unfortunately, the government has made no move in this direction yet.