Navy’s role as an instrument of Indian foreign policy gets a lukewarm treatment with the latest budget
By Guru Aiyar (@guruaiyar)
The budget presented by the Finance Minister Mr Arun Jaitley surprisingly sidestepped one of the most important components—national security. Not a word was mentioned about defence. The Budget estimate for 2016-17 is Rs 2,95,623 Crores excluding defence pensions. An amount of Rs. 82,332 Crores has been set aside for defence pensions. The total allocation is thus an increase of about 10 percent which compares to the previous year on year (YOY) increases. What is of interest is the allocation for capital acquisitions which is Rs. 90,660 crores.
Capital expenditure indicates the money that is spent on acquiring new assets to enhance combat capability. The defence ministry returned 13.5% allocated to capital expenditure in the last fiscal. This is attributable to the procurement procedures as well as delay by the arms suppliers. The ratio of individual service expenditure approximately is as below.
Service Capital Expenditure (in %) Revenue Expenditure (in %)
Army 10 90
Navy 40 60
Air Force 35 65
The armed forces’ capital acquisition is based on a Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) which envisages acquisition over a period of fifteen years from 2012-2027 (from 12th to 14th five year plans). The individual services then have their own Service Capital Acquisition Plan (SCAP) that are based on the five year plans. The yearly plan that is reflected in the budget is the Roll-on Plan (ROP).
Of the three services, navy is the one which is the most visible as an instrument of foreign policy. It derives this ability from being the most mobile and deployable in any part of the globe when national interests require it to do so. To maintain combat capability, the desirable equipment profile of the armed forces as per defence secretary’s testimony to parliamentary standing committee is 30:40:30 (30 per cent state of the art, 40 per cent current, and 30 per cent nearing obsolescence), the present profile is 15:45:40. As a result, the combat edge is consistently getting weakened.The main reasons for emasculated acquisition budget is the ballooning salaries and pension bill.
The most significantly affected on the acquisition matrix of the navy are the Project 15B destroyers, Project 17A frigates and the two indigenous aircraft carriers which are the fulcrum of the navy’s capability. Another cause for worry is the delay in Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and the Medium Range Reconnaissance Aircraft. According to the latest Defence Procurement Procedure 2016 unveiled by the defence minister, one of the main initiatives to overcome the foreign dependence is the Indigenous Design Development and Manufacturing (IDDM). This would ensure a viable military-industrial complex with spin offs for the civilian sector. At present, is better to be circumspect than sanguine about our acquisition policy.
Guru Aiyar is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institution.
Featured Image: Aircraft Carrier by Steven Weng, licensed from creativecommons.org