Navy may seek more funds to meet needs
With its budget under pressure and critical modernisation programmes underway, the Indian Navy will not only seek additional money from the government but also make a case for its share in the defence budget to be raised in coming years, navy vice chief Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar said on Tuesday.
The capital expenditure of Rs 23,156 crore earmarked for the navy in the defence budget for 2019-20 isn’t sufficient to meet its requirements and the service plans to demand at least Rs 20,000 crore more to support its modernisation efforts, Kumar added.
“We will certainly seek more money from the government at the revised estimate stage. The existing budget poses a challenge for modernisation,” he said.
The decline in the navy’s share of the defence budget over the years has also emerged as a cause for concern. “It has slipped from 18% in 2012-23 to 13.66% in 2019-20. We have to convince the government that naval budget has to go up so that modernisation does not suffer. We would like it to go back to 18-20%,” Kumar told reporters during a briefing on key projects being rolled out this month-end.
These are the commissioning of Khanderi (the second of the six Scorpene submarines being built at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited), the launch of Nilgiri (the first in a series of seven P-17A stealth frigates to be built in the country) and the commissioning of an aircraft carrier dry dock in Mumbai on September 28 --- projects worth almost Rs 75,000 crore.
Running into billions of dollars, the navy’s modernisation goals include new aircraft carriers, maritime fighter jets, next-generation submarines, mine counter-measure vessels, a variety of helicopters, hi-tech unmanned aerial vehicles and amphibious warships.
Former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash said the navy’s demand for additional funds was justified keeping its growing role and requirements in mind but it was for the government to decide where maritime security stood in its scheme of things at a time when land borders have emerged as a bigger concern. It’s just not the navy that is demanding more funds.
The Indian Air Force is also grappling with a spending crunch and has sought an additional ₹40,000 crore this year to buy new equipment and also pay for weapons and systems it has already contracted to purchase, as reported by Hindustan Times on September 14.
The capital expenditure of Rs 39,300 crore earmarked for IAF in this year’s budget is not enough to upgrade capabilities and more money needs to be pumped in to avoid a funding crisis. Admiral Prakash said the military might feel strongly about getting more money for modernisation but the economy was in bad shape and social sector schemes also have to given high priority. “Almost 16% of the total government expenditure goes into defence. We have to tighten our belt and prioritise our requirements,” said Prakash. He said it was also critical for politicians and diplomats to ensure that India doesn’t have to go to war for the next 10 to 15 years. “There should be no war mongering,” he added.
India’s defence budget for 2019-20 stands at Rs 3.18 lakh crore, including a capital outlay of just Rs 1,03,394 crore. Measured against the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), India’s defence spending currently stands at around 1.5% of the GDP, the lowest in decades. Several experts have argued that India should spend 3% of its GDP to build military capabilities to counter a combined threat from China and Pakistan.