Defence secretary G Mohan Kumar has admitted before a parliamentary panel that India’s military spending for 2016-17 “is not as per the requirements of the services”, contradicting defence minister Manohar Parrikar who has publicly said that the budget allocation is adequate.
In a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the standing committee on defence said the meagre increase in this year’s defence spending was insufficient to fulfill the military’s basic needs, let alone modernisation. In February, India announced 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 committee expresses agreement with the ministry that this growth in the budgetary allocation is not sufficient and woefully inadequate for modernisation,” the panel, headed by BJP MP Major General BC Khanduri (retd), said.
The report said India’s defence spending as percentage of government expenditure had “nose-dived” from 15.24% in 2000-2001 to 12.59% in budget estimates (BE) for 2016-17. “This is highly alarming and needs to be rectified,” the report said, noting that the BE for the year stood at Rs 2.7 lakh crore (gross). The committee said if the government cannot provide additional budget, it should ensure efficiency of spending.
This year’s defence spending, excluding pensions, accounts for 1.7% of the country’s gross domestic product. Experts believe the figure should be around 3% of the GDP to counter China’s rapidly growing military might.
The panel expressed disappointment with the government over its failure to clinch the Rafale fighter deal and bolster the air force’s offensive potential.
The panel was “unhappy to note that although a considerable time has elapsed, negotiations with France on Rafale could not be taken to a logical end”.
The panel also asked the government to create the post of chief of defence staff (CDS) – a single-point military adviser to the government – at the earliest. Ten out of 24 political parties have given their views on the matter.