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India’s superpower dreams take a beating

Monday 2 May 2005, by PANDIT*Rajat

NEW DELHI: India might nurse ambitions of becoming a superpower but its defence planning still remains extremely ad hoc, with no concrete long-term plan to build military capabilities in pursuit of strategic and political objectives.

Consider this shocking fact. The core 10th Defence Plan (2002-2007) is yet to be finalised despite the lapse of more than three years. This has led to overall uncertainty about the availability of committed finances for long-term plans for weapon acquisitions and modernisation of the armed forces.

Consequently, the draft long-term integrated perspective plan (LTIPP) of the armed forces for the period 2002-2017 has now been junked. The defence ministry (MoD) and the integrated defence staff are now working on a new 2007-2022 LTIPP.

It was in 2001-02 itself that MoD based on the projections of Army, Navy, IAF and other departments had asked for Rs 4,97,000 crore for the 10th Plan period. The finance ministry (MoF), however, refused to entertain any such projections, and the files just kept moving up and down.

Then, some months ago, the MoF finally gave an "indicative" figure of Rs 4,18,000 crore to the MoD. But the defence allocations in the 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06 annual budgets total up to just a little over Rs 2,76,000 crore.

"This gap between the demand and allocations has adversely affected defence planning and our preparedness," says the latest report of the parliamentary standing committee on defence.

In the 2005-06 budget, for instance, MoD had projected an expenditure of Rs 1,00,960 crore but got only Rs 83,000 crore. With submarines, 155mm artillery guns and other weapon systems in mind, MoD wanted Rs 44,123 crore as capital outlay in the allocation but was granted only Rs 34,375 crore.

Defence experts say this haphazard planning does not augur well for a country which wants to become a superpower. "A clear-headed strategic orientation to defence planning is desperately required to correlate military capabilities with long-term political objectives," said one.

The 11th Finance Commission had recommended that India’s defence expenditure should be raised to around 3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. But it continues to hover around 2.5 per cent. In contrast, Pakistan and China continue to spend over 4 per cent of their GDPs on defence.

The comprehensive 2001 GoM report on reforming the national security system had held, "The defence planning process is greatly handicapped by the absence of a national security doctrine, and commitment of funds beyond the financial year. It also suffers from a lack of inter-service prioritisation, as well as the requisite flexibility." The problems still continue.

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