Defence Budget needs to focus on commonality of equipment, interoperability among the three services

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Updated: January 30, 2021 2:31 PM

Union Budget 2021 India: “The ad-hoc procurements initiated to meet the immediate requirements of the Defence forces are expected to be well addressed as regular Capital procurements,” opines an expert.

indian armyThe technology within the Nation has not yet evolved to be able to support `Atmanirbhar Bharat’ or self-reliant India in Defence.

Indian Union Budget 2021-22: The 2021 Defence Budget outlay is expected to reflect the geo-political world scenario emerging post pandemic and the very Budget constrained on the Nation itself. Procurement of newer assets for land, sea and air operations under Capital outlay are likely to be similar in nature as was seen earlier but more organized and efficiently sourced. “The ad-hoc procurements initiated to meet the immediate requirements of the Defence forces are expected to be well addressed as regular Capital procurements,” opines an expert.

Pending Deals

Due to budgetary constraints several big deals are delayed for all the three services.

Indian Army: Artillery guns, assault rifles, snipers and specialized vehicles and armed drones, helicopters. FICV (Future Infantry Combat Vehicle), TCS (Tactical Communication System) and BMS (Battle Management System) which are expected to come through the `Make’ route are required on urgent basis, especially since Indian troops are deployed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Also read| Union Budget 2021 expectations for defence: Budgeting India’s national security

IAF: New transport and fighter aircraft, helicopters, and drones.

Indian Navy: Helicopters, UAVs, Aircraft Carrier, Submarines, Guns, and new warships. Discussions are going on with the US arm of BAE Systems for the $600 million 127 mm medium caliber guns. India intends to buy 11 such guns.

India-China Border Standoff

“With the Chinese perceived threat alive today, the Defence Budget is expected to see a major tilt towards safeguarding Sino-India land and sea borders. The border skirmishes has highlighted the need for a focus shift to tactically aggressive deterrence, especially for Naval and Indian Air Force (IAF) deployments,” says Milind Kulshreshtha, C4I expert & Strategic Analyst,

“But these activities shall incur additional expenses in the Revenue budget section. For example, enhancements of Combat Air Patrol by air assets can put a heavy strain on the operational Budget available with IAF. With two volatile borders, IAF and Navy are expected to extensively deploy their ISR assets for enhanced air and sea patrols to thwart any Chinese ship or trawler intrusion near Indian waters,” he states.

Theatre Command Focus

Ideally, the budget needs to be focusing on commonality of equipment and interoperability among the three services as the basis of planning. Unfortunately, such mature processes are yet to be seen in the Indian Defence Budget philosophy.

Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, the C4I expert & Strategic Analyst says, “The much required Theatre Commands need urgency of implementation and the technology shortcomings to enable jointness are glaring. A well planned Defence Budget to bring jointness of operations shall be the much needed top-down approach to drive this initiative. It may be a misnomer to state that Theatre Command creation is expected to be a zero additional budget activity and more of an administrative re-alignment.”

“In fact, a well-planned Theatre Command plan can assist in hardware interchangeability within the three services and a resource optimization. Defence Budget is one single point where such intricate plans can be put to action. A marked difference if not seen now in the budget to acknowledge Theatre Level Command implementation essentially may indicate only paper work on the concept,” Mr Kulshreshtha observes.

Atmanirbhar in Defence & Negative List

The technology within the Nation has not yet evolved to be able to support `Atmanirbhar Bharat’ or self-reliant India in Defence.

According to Milind Kulshreshtha, “The creation of a Negative List for Defence imports needs actual alternatives being available on the ground as each equipment piece counts for Defence forces. Resorting to ad-hoc procurements from overseas to fulfill the existing gaps results into de-motivating the local private suppliers and this vicious loop needs to be addressed in the Project funding stage. Indigenous Defence MSMEs have reported an intermittent equipment induction approach towards their products and only a few companies which are already well funded usually find the going smooth.”

Overall, India needs to be extremely cautious of avoiding an arms-race kind of mind-set with China since economical might of the adversary is far superior. This means that at any given stage, India can only afford to maintain a highly efficient war-fighting asset but with a technological edge. This force is required to be highly adaptable to meet the challenges of any hostile environment emerging in the near future.

“However, if the Defence Budget is just about sufficient to meet the present essential requirements, the modern technology to maintain India as a strong regional power may remain beyond the reach of the Armed forces,” the C4I expert concludes.

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