INDIA’S NEW GOVERNMENT ACCELERATES DEFENCE ACQUISITION
By Bulbul Singh
09 Jul 09. India’s new government is to accelerate defence acquisition.
Whilst tenders worth over $8 billion have been floated in the last 12 months, the government has now announced a substantial hike in defence spending.
Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, in his annual budget allocations, has increased funds for defence by 34 per cent. A total of $28.9 billion (calculated at One USD = 49 Indian Rupees] has been given to the Indian defence forces. However, nearly 60 per cent will go towards paying the salaries of 1.2 million troops and around 40 per cent or $11.8 billion will be spent on buying new weaponry and equipment. India buys nearly 70 per cent of its defence platforms and equipment from overseas.
However, as in the past, the Indian defence ministry was not able to spend all the money allocated last year to the Equipment Budget and the Ministry returned $1.42 billion of unspent money.
Though there are scores of defence procurement programs underway, the unspent money was on account of delays in finalizing defence contracts for which the money was allocated. The delays are mainly as a result of bureaucratic red tape.
Of the Equipment Budget, the Indian Army gets $3.62 billion, the Indian Navy $2.4 billion and the Indian Air Force gets $4 billion.
Some of the major defence programs in the acquisition process include a variety of 155mm/52 calibre towed, tracked, wheeled and ultra-light howitzers for the Indian Army, Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) Protection and Counter Measure Systems, joint development of laser-based Directed Infrared Counter Measure System (DIRCM) to protect aircraft against ground-launched infrared guided missiles.
The Indian Army will also procure Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missiles (QRSAM), multi-utility helicopters, new Air Defence Systems to replace aging Russian systems, advanced weapons and equipment for the Indian Infantry soldier, Nag anti-tank guided missiles, precision guided ammunition and Battle Management Systems,
The Indian Air Force is in the process of procuring attack, heavy lift and multi-utility helicopters, additional mid-air refuelers, air-to-air missiles and upgrade of the MiG 29, Mirage 2000H and An-32 aircraft.
The near term Indian Navy procurement program includes buying maritime patrol aircraft, additional stealth frigates. In addition paying additional price for the Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshokov, purchasing Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft, UAVs and dedicated satellites.
The Indian Navy is also negotiating for the purchase of submarines from overseas countries, other than Scorpene submarines, to shore up defences against the Chinese Navy build-up which includes nuclear submarines. India’s homegrown ATV nuclear submarine is also under construction and is expected to be inducted by 2012.
“However, even the increased defence budget is only around 2.10 of the Indian GDP.” said an Indian defence ministry official who said that defence spending should be around 3 per cent of the country’s GDP.
The official said that India needs to replace all field guns with 155mm guns and all the aging Russian air defence systems, equip around 15000 rapid action troops, buy a variety of radars, and shore up the falling fleet strength of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. “To meet these and replacement of aging Russian equipment, India will need to make a quantum jump in its defence spending.” Added the Indian defence ministry official.
“Whilst funds are one part of the story, rapid finalization of defence contracts is the most important task before the Indian defence ministry which suffers from bureaucratic delays.” said an anonnymous source in the Indian Army.