Defence analysts are busy demystifying the defence budget presented by the Finance Minister in his budget presentation to the Parliament on February 1, 2017. We are using the term ÒdemystifyingÓthe budget because the government functionaries take a vicarious pleasure to so position the - one who wishes to analyse the defence budget has to go through derive any meaningful deduction. Perhaps this is the reason that our parliamentarians are unable to discuss the defence budget and the expenditure of ₹ 2,74,114 crore (approximately $42 billion) of the taxpayers money. The total defence budget of ₹ 2,74,114 crore is 1.63 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 12.77 per cent of the Central Government expenditure (CGE) without counting the defence pension.
Notwithstanding the above facts, this yearÕs defence budget is once again woefully inadequate for the type of replacements of weapons/modernisation required by the three Services. Currently in this editorial we are concerning ourselves mainly with the ArmyÕs requirements. These range from the lowest category of weapons (personal weapons) in the hierarchy of weapons which is the as battle carbine to the crew served weapons such as the anti-tank guided missiles, artillery howitzers (towed, truck mounted and self-propelled) air defence weap - siles and surface-to-air missiles).
Obsolescence of the weapons held by the army and the existing voids in infantry combat vehicles and battle tanks and the poor upgradation status is an ongoing story which is repeated every year. Last but not the least is the extremely poor state of which needs complete replacement of nearly 200 obsolete Cheeta and Chetak helicopters. The gravity of the situation can be gauged by the fact that even - ing these machines had met the Defence Minister to express their fears and apprehensions regarding the safety of their husbands.
From time to time our Chiefs and political leaders remind us that they take pains to put the nation at ease by stating that we are ready for all eventualities. Should the people not be told the truth about our potential to undertake defensive and offensive military opera- tions, with the existing high degree of obsolescence in our weaponry?
Many among us seem to feel that the region being nuclearised we do not need to worry about conventional military operations. If that be so why are we still keeping such large armed forces which we can ill afford to maintain. In fact a 40 division army, a 44 squadron air force and a 150 ship navy cannot be maintained on 1.63 per cent of the GDP and thus maintenance and modernisation of such a large force with this allocation is not possible.
On the other hand, there are other equally competent military analysts who say that in view of unresolved borders we not only need to look after our western, northern and eastern frontiers but we also need a separate force to cater for insurgencies, terrorism and proxy wars which would present a simultaneous challenge and this implies not just two-front but two-and-a-half-front capabil- ity. The latter capability (half-front) is for the asymmetric wars mentioned above which would have to be fought simultaneously. So if the latter are to be believed then where do we stand today?
Our analysis is that as pres two-front war against our potential adversaries. This should be of serious concern for the government. It is high time that the government took a complete review of our defence capabilities and current security doctrines and take appropriate measures to protect national interests.
Please visit SP Guide Publications at Hall AB (AB3.46) during Aero India at Bengaluru from February 14-18, 2017.
Lt General V.K. Kapoor (Retd)