Defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said he would like India to earmark 3% of its GDP for military spending, at a time when the defence budget falls short of meeting the armed forces’ requirements.
The minister’s comments have re-ignited the debate over India’s military spending, which - excluding pensions - accounts for 1.7% of the country’s gross domestic product.
Military experts believe the figure should be around 3% of the GDP to counter China’s rapidly growing military might.
Speaking at the HT Leadership Summit here, Parrikar, however, said the desired defence budget could not be achieved overnight. He also said the backlog of acquisition cases could not be cleared in one go as the ministry would not have budget for it next year.
India announced in February 2016 that it would spend Rs 2.58 lakh crore on defence in 2016-17, a marginal hike of 9.7% over last year’s revised estimates. The armed forces say the money is not adequate to fuel their modernisation drive.
India’s defence spending as percentage of government expenditure has dipped from 15.24% in 2000-2001 to 12.59% in budget estimates (BE) for 2016-17.
Parrikar said he could say with certainty that the cost of military acquisitions had come down under the NDA government. “In one case, the price dropped by 20%. People know things about Pilatus and Embraer...I don’t have to say it,” he said.