[ By Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
I] n the next one month or so, the second defence budget is to be announced by the present government, which will also be the first defence budget under the present Defence Minister. 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 $42 billion of Japan in face of Chinese aggressive posture – that we too face.
Logically India should have a defence budget of three per cent or more of the GDP for next few years. The tragedy in India in the past decade plus has been that the economy slumped with deep rooted corruption despite announcement of some high sounding schemes. The economy has begun to look up somewhat under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government albeit its future would have to deal with dynsmics of factors like global oil prices, levels of energy security, instability and conflict situations, etc, that is unpredictable, world economies having become interdependent. But the fact remains that defence has been the most neglected in India despite every government making thunderous announcements that there will be no dearth of money for defence. The Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) for period 2012-27 that stood approved by the Defence Acquisition Council headed by the Defence Minister, as also the Twelfth Five Year Plan, was based on a defence budget allocation at 3 per cent of the GDP. But the allocation of defence has always been much below that.
Defence expenditure for 2013-14 had been kept at ` 2,04,000 crore. Yes, the first Union Budget presented by this government in July 2014 boosted defence spending by 12 per cent in 2014-15 over the previous year and further opened the domestic weapons industry to foreign investment to help rebuild the military and narrow the widening capability gap between the Indian military and the China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA); setting the military budget at ` 2,29,000 crore for 2014-15, ` 50,000 more than what the previous government had agreed in an interim budget in February 2014. Impressive on first look but this has to be seen in the backdrop of not only the enormous shortages in the military including in ammunition but government website admitting that 50 per cent of defence equipment held by the army, navy and air-force is obsolete and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) reports of last five years pointing out that the equipment provided by the DRDO is substandard and provisioned at excessive costs besides enormous amount of money and time spent on R&D without even consultation of the user (military) and some even without the Ministry of Defence (MoD) sanction.
Raising of the Mountain Strike Corps itself will entail an yearly expenditure of ` 7000-10,000 crore for next seven years, in addition to about an overall ` 25,000 crore required for infrastructure to support the Mountain Strike Corps. Then we also have some 60,000 personnel retiring from the army alone and the snowballing effect since