There is no modernization of the Big Bang for the armed forces in the defense budget

NEW DELHI: With another insignificant walk in it, the modernization of the 1.5 million strong armed forces will continue slowly and messily, leaving critical operational deficiencies on several fronts from helicopters and shells to combatants and submarines. The defense disbursement this year is Rs 3.37 lakh crore, which does not even represent a 2% increase over the revised estimates of the last fiscal year.

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The defense budget of Rs 3.37 lakh crore represents only 1.5% of projected GDP for 2020-2021, which is the lowest figure since the 1962 war with China. Another Rs 1.33 lakh crore has been allocated separately for defense pensions of retired military and civilian personnel.

Even if defense pensions are included in the defense budget, it amounts to only 2.1% of GDP. This when military experts have been demanding that India allocate at least 2.5% to defense spending to build the necessary deterrence against China and Pakistan.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD), by the way, has proposed to the Finance commission (FC) that a non-tradable fund must be created for defense acquisitions, which require large capital outlays, because the nature of the threats facing the country requires complete defensive preparation.

The Ministry of Defense also requested a special cessation levy, monetization of surplus land and other assets, duty-free defense bonds and the use of proceeds from the divestment of defense UPMs for necessary military modernization. The FC says that it will constitute a group of experts to examine the proposed non-transferable fund or an alternative mechanism for the acquisition of weapons.

The wage increase and pension bills of the labor-intensive armed forces is, of course, an important burden on the defense budget. The capital outlay for the new weapons systems and the general modernization of the defense is only Rs 1,18,555 million in the defense budget this year. It is eclipsed by the income expense of Rs 2,100,998 million for daily running expenses, salaries and the like. In addition, the capital outlay is not even sufficient for the liabilities committed or the fees for arms deals signed in previous years.

One of the top priorities for the country's first chief of defense personnel, General Bipin Rawat, will be to promote genuine integration between the Army, the Navy and the IAF, which often take different directions, to cut unnecessary expenses and not sagging operational Of course, one cannot escape the fact that India needs to build a robust industrial defense base to reduce its strategically vulnerable dependence on expensive arms imports.