Budget 2020: Will the armed forces get their due in the budget?

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Updated: February 01, 2020 9:38 AM

Budget 2020 India: Due to the efforts of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Indian Armed Forces are getting ready to induct Made in India platforms and equipment.

Budget 2020 India expectationsBudget 2020-21: Both the Indian Army and the Air Force have inducted Aakash missile has been inducted in large numbers.

Union Budget 2020 India: With just a few days left to go before the presentation of the Budget by the Finance Minister, the anticipatory excitement one sees every year is strangely absent and seems to have been replaced by a resigned pessimism at least amongst those who keenly observe the allocation for defence.

Due to the efforts of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Indian Armed Forces are getting ready to induct Made in India platforms and equipment. Both the Indian Army and the Air Force have inducted Aakash missile has been inducted in large numbers.

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There is now an active eco-system with MSMEs participating actively, Astra Beyond-Visual-Range air to air missile, a number of ground-based radars have been designed and manufactured locally. AEW&C, LCA, NLCA, ALH and LCH all are on track.

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However, sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Commodore Anil Jai Singh (Retd), says “In the last few years, there has been a marked reluctance on the part of the Government to allocate sufficient resources to the defence sector. Similarities are drawn with similar allocations in the period before the Sino-Indian war of 1962 when a poorly equipped army tasted a humiliating defeat. As a result of this insufficient allocation over the last few years, there is inadequate money for either modernisation or augmentation. This has led to critical capability deficits beginning to appear in all the three services.”

“Of the three, the Navy seems to be the worst hit because of the navy’s share of this paltry allocation has been steadily reducing. In the early years of this millennium the navy’s share was about 14%. The recognition of the important role the navy would be required to play in the emerging geopolitical scenario with its distinct maritime orientation and India’s dependence on the sea for its security and economic well-being led to this budget increasing slowly to about 18% or so a few years ago,” Singh who is the Vice President and Head-Delhi branch, Indian Maritime Foundation opines.

Regrettably, while the Prime Minister’s foreign policy thrust has increased the navy’s commitments considerably in the last few years, its share of the defence budget has slipped back to less than 14%.

In his opinion it is to the credit of the navy that despite these constraints, deft financial planning has enabled it to keep its head well above water but sooner rather than later the strain is going to tell. “There are already glaring capability deficits and the chances of developing any new capabilities seem increasingly remote.”

In December 2017, the Chief of the Naval Staff spoke of a 200 ship navy by 2027 which did seem rather optimistic but two years later, in December 2019, that number has now been revised to 175 or so by the turn of the decade, or perhaps even later.

Navies do not get built in a day. “Capability gaps once created take time to fill. This requires an assured and incremental budgetary support. It is hoped that the Chief of the Naval Staff’s professional inputs will be taken heed of and the prevailing pessimism will be replaced by a guarded optimism,” adds Singh.

Says another former officer on condition of anonymity, “Since a major procurement scheme takes between 3-5 years after the contract are linked, it is not easy to predict how the budget allocated under Capital Expenditure be spent.”

However, comparatively, government to government, Foreign Military Sales of the US take less time to fructify, but these too take almost a year to close.

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