SOURCE : Deccan Herald
It is a matter of serious concern that on account of the shortfall in budget allocations for the armed forces the latter is having to “re-prioritise” schemes for modernisation of its weaponry. A written statement to this effect was presented by Minister of State for Defence, Subhash Bhamre, to the Lok Sabha recently.
Apprehensions in this regard are not new; Indian security analysts had drawn attention to such a scenario in February when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented Budget 2018 in parliament. The Ministry of Defence has confirmed these apprehensions now. It says that the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force had asked for Rs 1.60 lakh crore as capital outlay for purchase of new weapons, aircraft, warships and other military hardware.
They were granted only Rs 83,434 crore for 2018-19. This is roughly only half of the stated requirement, a shortfall of a huge Rs 76,765 crore. As for revenue outlay, which is used for salary, maintenance of establishments, etc., the amount allocated was Rs 35,371 crore less than what was demanded. The budgetary gap for the IAF is the most serious; it didn’t get almost 54% of its projected demand for capital acquisition. This figure for the navy and the army is 45% and 40% respectively.
The shortfall in funds will have serious implications for the armed forces. The gravity of the situation was underscored recently by the Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Sarath Chand, who told a parliamentary panel that with this budgetary allocation for the year, the forces will not be able to deal with the various security challenges facing the country. He pointed out that 68% of the army’s equipment is in the “vintage” category. What is more, the shortfall will hit the serviceability of existing hardware and could even impact payment of instalments for old projects.
While the Narendra Modi government frequently engages in high-octane national security rhetoric, it has underperformed when it comes to military modernisation. Extending verbal support to our armed forces may be good for the morale of soldiers temporarily, but if unaccompanied by concrete support, it will in fact undermine both morale and capability in the long run. The shortfall in funds for the armed forces is particularly worrying as India’s relations with Pakistan and China are deteriorating, thanks once again to the government’s inability to match its diplomacy to our economic and military capabilities. Cutting corners with regard to funding military hardware could prove prohibitively costly in the long term. Even if an actual war with Pakistan and/or China doesn’t break out, India’s armed forces need to be fighting fit at all times. They must be equipped with the best equipment to deter our enemies.