New Delhi: With the armed forces modernisation drive sputtering ahead in fits and starts, the finance minister today announced a steep hike of 34 per cent in budgetary allocation for defence to Rs141,703 crore. The increase in real terms amounts to Rs36,103 crore over previous year's allocation of Rs105,600 crore.
The impressive hike notwithstanding, India's defence spending is still at about 2 per cent of the GDP, compared to China's 7 per cent and Pakistan's 5 per cent.
The increase is apparently aimed at speeding up procurement of defence equipment and plugging security gaps in the country's vast land and sea borders. These were pitifully exposed by the 26 November Mumbai terror attacks last year.
Though the 34 per cent increase is a substantial jump, as compared to the increase of only 10 per cent affected in last year's budget of over Rs 96,000 crore, it may be noted that the defence ministry has persisted with its tradition of returning funds unused. So a notable jump, such as that affected this year, may still end up looking impressive only on paper at the end of the fiscal.
The defence ministry returned nearly Rs7,000 crore as unspent money from last year's capital outlay of Rs48,007 crore with plans to procure light utility helicopters and 155mm artillery guns getting embroiled in scandals and blacklisting of firms.
The defence forces would like to fast track purchases for special force commandos even as the government has ordered a massive revamp of the nation's security structure, which includes creation of a Coastal Command.