By Anil Bhat
The annual conference of Indian Army Commanders, chaired by Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, began in New Delhi April 17, with the agenda to deliberate on the management of the extant security dynamics, mitigation of future security threats and enhancement of combat edge over potential adversaries. Other issues like infrastructure development for capacity enhancement along the northern borders, review of strategic railway lines, optimization of limited budget to ensure making up of critical deficiency in ammunition, issues related to Border Road Organization projects, as also other matters relevant to operations, administration and welfare of troops will be discussed in detail for planning and execution.
Most countries spend between 2-2.5% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defence. As per the North Atlantic treaty, North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries are expected to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence. India’s two neighbours, China and Pakistan, consistently spend over 2% of their GDP on defence. Yet, India’s defence budget for the year 2017-18 was 1.63% of GDP—the lowest in the past 50-odd years in terms of percentage of GDP.
According to Live Mint, the shortfall of equipment in all the three services is much more than what is reflected in the strategic partnership chapter of the Defence Procurement Procedure 2016. The Indian Navy has already “requested for information” on naval utility helicopters, naval multi-role helicopters, submarines through Project 75(I) and multi-role carrier-borne fighters for its aircraft carriers.The Indian Air Force has been awaiting procurement of fighters as replacements for the impending retirement of its old fighter aircraft for over a decade. Despite the induction of 36 Rafale and 83 indigenous Tejas fighter aircraft, by 2025, the air force will have only 31 squadrons of fighters as against the overall requirement of at least 42. This is due to the impending de-induction of 10-odd squadrons of MiG 21 and MiG 27 aircraft. The Indian Army has also been running mostly on obsolescent equipment. Other than upgrading its tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, the army urgently needs the future infantry combat vehicles.
Each of these proposals is for more than $3 billion (or more than Rs20,000 crore each). All the three services have various other proposals which have been accorded in-principle approval—known as the acceptance of necessity—but are pending signing of contracts. And all of this equipment is not only required, but required to be manufactured in India, which increases the cost of each equipment manifold.
(The author, an Indian Army veteran and strategic analyst, can be contacted at email@example.com)