The Indian defence forces seeking a long-planned modernisation programme is likely to wait longer as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is expected to get a meagre rise in defence spending in the 2019-20 budget. All the tri-services have requested for an urgent modernisation to remain effective in war.
For instance, the Indian Airforce is in dire need of hundreds of fighter aircraft to fight a two-front war. It is already operating below its sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons. The navy has a long list of submarines and patrol ships to counter Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Similarly, the Indian Army has requested for almost every modern equipment from assault rifles to surveillance drones and body armour to increase its lethality.
But all these plans have been kept on hold since a long time as the governments have been unable to allocate funds for modernisation programme due to a major chunk of money going for a 1.4 million standing military, the world's second largest after China. The government allocated Rs 4.31 trillion ($62.27 billion) for defence, a 6.6 per cent rise as against last year in the interim budget announced in February before national elections. The allocations clearly meant that the amount would not be enough to add lethality to its forces.
News agency, Reuters reported that upcoming budget to be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is also going to be on the similar lines and any major jump in fund allocation to MoD is highly unlikely. One of the officials close to the development said, "Defence is our major spending and we give it as much as the budget allows. But this year, a significant rise to what has already been allotted looks difficult."
Indian military commanders have been planning to restructure the forces for the last two years to reduce manpower costs but the snail-paced development has halted any decision. Currently, more than 2.4 million retired defence personnel are getting pensions from MoD with around 55,000 being added every year. Laxman Behera, a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, added, in last four years, the military's spending on pay, allowances and pensions had jumped from 45 per cent to 56 per cent. In contrast, capital procurement sunk to 18 per cent from 21 per cent during the same period.