The standing committee on defence has in its report submitted to Parliament lamented the perilous condition of defence finances. It has found that the defence forces won’t be able to buy operationally critical equipment like artillery guns, carbines, missiles and anti-tank systems for the army as well as patrol vessels and surveillance helicopters for the Coast Guard. The reason is not far to seek. They do not have enough funds to purchase these equipment. This is a sad state of affairs, which does not show government planning in a good light. India is a large country with thousands of kilometres of border and coastline to protect, not only from inimical forces but also terrorists who are looking for opportunities.
When it comes to protecting the nation’s integrity, no cost is too big. Yet, the fact remains that there has been a serious flaw in the allocations made for defence over the years. The present government is not wholly to blame for the situation, though it cannot escape responsibility. It is entitled to some measure of satisfaction that the money earmarked for military purchases this year marks an increase of 7.9 per cent over the last year’s allocation. Allowance, of course, has to be made for the fact that the increase takes care of only inflation. True, inflation has been contained to some extent thanks to the fall in the oil price. But, then, there has also been the depreciation of the rupee against the dollar and other currencies. A better way of understanding defence allocation is to find out how much it is in terms of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Alas, the defence spending this year constitutes only 1.7 per cent of the GDP, which is the lowest since the sixties. The Indian Army is not jingoistic when it says defence spending should not be less than 3 per cent. Comparative data certainly favour the army. For instance, China’s defence spending is 2 per cent of its GDP, which is much more than India’s, Pakistan’s 3 per cent, America’s 3.8 per cent and Russia’s 4.1 per cent. The comparative data suggest that India does not spend as much as it should on defence. There is no reason why India’s defence spending should be less than any other country’s save the US, which has its global concerns. It is time the defence forces are given their due to keep them fit for fighting.