India's defence spending has more than doubled in the last five years — from Rs96,000 crore to Rs1,93,407 crore — but the military establishment still feels that the financial outlay should be further increased to beef up capabilities.
However, government sources argue that in a country where half of the population is below 35 years age, it is necessary to strike a balance between the allocations for the defence and social sectors.
The allocation for social sector this year is close to Rs2,00,000 crore, with most of the money being pumped into areas such as health, education and social security.
Now, Army chief general VK Singh's leaked letter to the prime minister, underlining the force's deteriorating war-waging capabilities, has brought the ‘guns-versus-butter’ debate back into the spotlight.
Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, said the government should cut down on wasteful subsidies and increase the defence outlay to 3% of the GDP for building military capacities. The defence budget for 2012-13 is less than 2% of the GDP.
Strategic affairs experts are of the opinion that not only should the armed forces exhaust the allocated resources, but also demand more funds for meeting rising responsibilities in view of the feverish pace of China’s military modernisation.
The chief had written to the Prime Minister on March 12, stating that obsolete air defence systems, shortage of tank ammunition and deficiencies in night-fighting capabilities had dented the Army’s capabilities. Concerns raised by army chief in leaked letter
Strategic affairs expert commodore Uday Bhaskar (retd) said, “Despite the financial allocation, we have not been able to create tangible and credible military capacities. There seems to be a lack of strategic vision.”
Harsh Mander, a member of the National Advisory Council, said there was no justification for hiking defence expenditure at the cost of the social sector.