India’s defence budget 2020 increased 9% but not enough to meet the defence needs

  • ₹4.71 lakh crore allocated to defence in Union Budget 2020.
  • ₹1.33 lakh crore allocated to defence pensions.
  • According to World Bank, India is the fourth largest military spending nation.

The Union Budget 2020-2021 allocated ₹4,71,378 crore towards defence expenditure this year. Despite the “marginal” increase, resources aren’t nearly enough to meet the department’s requirements.

Last year’s budget made the headline for being the lowest since 1962, which was when India went to war against China.

A lion’s share of the budget has been allocated to the Army, followed by the Navy and the Airforce. The majority goes towards paying the pensions and salaries of personnel.
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Pensions, alone, have doubled over the last five years. It’s gone from ₹60,000 crore to ₹1,33,825 crore. It’s not only the magnitude of the allocation that’s a cause of concern but the fact that it’s a recurring future impact.

This leaves marginal amounts left over for the Ministry of Defence to upgrade its equipment. This is particularly harrowing for the Air Force and Navy, which are more tech-intensive than the Army.

The issue of modernisation

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Most of this year’s defence expenditure will go towards acquiring the new Tejas Mk 1A aircraft. Although indigenously developed, the aircraft took over three decades to reach fruition and match the capabilities of the MiG-21 aircraft.

Even so, its capabilities pale in comparison to other fighter jets around the world. Nonetheless, India plans to order 83 Tejas Mk1A jets, according to ICICI securities expectations.

Acquiring new equipment has been a pain point for the defence sector for a while. According to Sameer Patil, a fellow in international security studies with Gateway House — a think tank based out of Mumbai — the Armed Forces currently prefer to import rather than buy homegrown tech.

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The technology produced in India isn’t up to the mark and better versions of it are available off-the-shelf from foreign suppliers.

Patil explains that India’s military research branch — the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) — also discourages private participation, claiming that they have superior expertise and should get priority in the strategic sector.

Despite its shortcomings, India is the fourth largest military spending the world according to the World Bank.

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