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Saturday, January 5, 2013

cut in defence budget ~ cut short other expenditure not army

The price of 22-carat gold fell by Rs.31 per gram yesterday [4th Jan 2013] following a slump in global demand and international cost fixed for the precious metal. One gram of 22-carat-gold cost Rs. 2,864 against the previous day’s price of Rs.2,895. However, the depreciation of the rupee meant that customers could only reap a limited benefit.  If you are following, the cost had peaked to Rs.3,068 per gram at the end of November.  Now after reading the annexed file, perhaps, you may be inclined to go home via T Nagar visiting your favourite jeweller……… Read this post on  the costliest gold apparel  …..: golden man and costliest saree

At the National level, things are different.  Government has imposed around five per cent cut in the Rs 1.93 lakh crore defence budget this year in view of economic slowdown.  ET reported that the Ministry of Finance recently conveyed to the Defence Ministry that there would be a cut of around Rs 10,000 crore in the Rs 1.93 lakh crore allocated for the defence sector. 

After the cut in budget, several key acquisition plans of the three forces including the procurement of 126 combat aircraft for the IAF are expected to be pushed for the next fiscal, they said. Defence Minister A K Antony had given indications in this regard recently when he said that the Ministry would be struggling to get even the allocated amount.

On this, the editorial of The New Indian Express titled ‘Cut down on populism, not on defence’ makes a good read.  The editorial comments on the Finance Ministry diktat to cut spending by Rs.10,000 crore in the capital acquisitions for the Army, Navy and Indian Air Force, arguing that fiscal adjustment was necessary since the economic situation was grim. It is a matter of concern that the move will lead to a major slowdown in acquisition projects  ranging from aircraft and helicopters to howitzers and missiles and further push back the already much-delayed $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project to acquire 126 fighters which was to be inked by March 31.

The real worry being  the “critical operational hollowness” of the 1.13-million Army, the non-acquisition of  new capabilities and failure to plug the  huge operational gaps in artillery, aviation, air defence, night-fighting, ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) and specialised tank and rifle ammunition would jeopardise defence preparedness. A crucial project during the 12th Plan is to raise the new mountain strike corps, with two specialised divisions for high-altitude areas, at a cost of over `60,000 crore. Dedicated for “rapid reaction ground force capability” against China, this corps will have its HQs in Panagarh (West Bengal) and add to the two new infantry divisions already raised at Lekhapani and Missamari (Assam).

The grim economic situation is no ground for cutting expenditure on defence preparedness, given that our armed forces are already stripped of necessary combat material. Instead, the government should cut expenditure on populist and profligate schemes. Surely, national security cannot play second fiddle to vote bank politics.

Elsewhere there is news that President Obama too announced a new military strategy that will cut the Pentagon budget by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.  Obama is quoted as saying that the tide of war is receding. But the question that this strategy answers is what kind of military will we need after the long wars of the last decade are over. The new military strategy includes $487 billion in cuts over the next decade. An additional $500 billion in cuts could be coming if Congress follows through on plans for deeper reductions. The announcement comes weeks after the U.S. officially ended the Iraq War and after a decade of increased defense spending in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Obama said that the military will indeed be leaner, but the U.S. will maintain a budget that is roughly larger than the next 10 countries' military budgets combined.

The  new strategy turns away from labor intensive wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, analysts say.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
5th Jan 2013.

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