Minister hints at more allocation for defence in the coming budget
New Delhi : Describing the slow pace of military purchases as ‘a major concern’,
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said several decisions in the pipeline need to be expedited, reports IANS.
Jaitley also indicated a higher allocation for defence, though he did not clarify what to expect from the coming budget. “Key matter of concern is the slow pace of acquisition of equipment and assets that are required. Several decisions in the pipeline are good cases for these processes to be expedited,” he said.
“Hope of the forces is that their requirements should be fulfilled and the process should also be expedited. The effort of the government would be to work in that direction,” he said, adding that the files did not need to ‘move up and down’ several times.
“The entire resources of the country, notwithstanding various pressures, have to be made available in significant amount for those in defence of the country,” he said. The minister, however, did not clarify what kind of a hike the general budget would see in defence expenditure.
Jaitley said, “We will have to wait for July 10 for that. We will see that the needs and expectations of the forces are fulfilled.” On a question on whether there will be an increase in percentage of defence expenditure in the budget, he said, “As the base of economy expands, even a small hike in terms of percentage may increase the amount.”
The minister, however, added that there is no adverse impact on the preparedness of the armed forces because of the slow processes, and India is fully equipped to defend itself. “As far as safety of the country is concerned, the soldiers are always ready and whatever their needs are, the exchequer will fulfill them,” he said.
India is one of the world’s biggest arms importers but cancellation of several defence deals due to charges of corruption during the last decade of the UPA rule has left the military short of key equipment.
In January, India cancelled a deal with the Italian-owned AgustaWestland to buy 12 luxury helicopters amid allegations the company paid bribes to win the $753 mn contract.
The country’s defence forces have increasingly grown frustrated in past some time with the pace of defence acquisition and scrapping of defence deals. The navy in particular needs an urgent revamp, with barely a half of its fleet of 14 submarines operational at any one time because of regular repairs.
Jaitley said the economy grew at sub-five percent rate for two consecutive years, adversely impacting revenue collection. The new government is likely to present ots maiden budget early next month and has held talks with various stakeholders, including industry and agricultural bodies.