Defence and Security

A disrupter’s guide to India’s defence budget

Feb 13, 2017
The latest Union budget unveiled on 1 February by finance minister Arun Jaitley has been widely commended as a “defining” and “watershed” moment, as providing “stability and predictability”, and as being “pragmatic”. However, this euphoria is distinctly lacking among Indian and foreign experts who have keenly tracked the budget as it pertains to defence salaries, pensions, expenditure and military modernization programmes. Indeed, the tone among strategic experts on the defence budget is distinctly sombre.
 
They have variously warned that the budget has “top-line growth and diminished spending for procurement”, reveals an “over-manned, poorly equipped, early twentieth century force”, with “constraints that impede significant capacity-creation and inventory modernization”, under which “operational preparedness will deteriorate further even as the threats and challenges continue to increase”.
There are three factors that have, justifiably, driven the experts to such depths of pessimism. First is the ballooning personnel expenses (including pensions). With a standing force of nearly 1.5 million personnel, manpower costs, according to Laxman K. Behera of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, account for over 83% of the overall growth in the defence budget. Ajai Shukla, another expert, notes that in the manpower-intensive army, personnel costs account for a whopping 72% of the budget while in the leaner air force and navy, personnel costs account for 34% and 28%, respectively.
 

 

Livemint, February 13, 2017 

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