(Online Course) Contemporary Issues for IAS Mains 2012: Yojana Magazine - Defence Budget [India’s Monsoon Strategy]

Yojana Magazine

Defence Budget: India’s Monsoon Strategy

Q. Write a Comparatively short notes on India & China’s defence Status.

Answer: While China earns a hefty 39.5 percent of its GDP from exports alone, India earns a not insignificant 22 percent fromits sales to the rest of theworld. Similarly, India depends on imported oil for about 80 percent of its crude oil requirement, needed to drive its $ 1.8 trillion economy The giant Chinese economy which accounts for roughly 13.5 percent of the global economy, also depends on foreign crude imports for at least 50 percent of its needs and this figure is expected to move upwards as China has a mere 1.2 percent of global proven reserves of oil and gas.

In ancient times, with the Monsoon winds, Indian fleets used to travel westwards to the Arabian peninsula and eastwards to the spice islands of Indo-China. Chola, Pala and much later Mughal fleets used to protect these shippers. In much the same way, as vast Indian and Chinese fleets scour the seas for trade and resources, naval fleets of these two nations need to follow to provide security in far flung seas. China is believed to be laying the groundwork for a naval presence along maritime chokepoints in the South China Sea, the Malacca Straits, the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf through acquisition of naval bases. While India, similarly, gears up to protect routes through which its oil supplies must traverse from the Middle East, Australia, Africa and Russian Siberia’s Sakhalin. China’s interest in the port of Gwadar in Balochistan and in Arakanese ports in Myanmar along with oil pipelines and roads from these ports to mainland China is but natural. A casual look at the map of the Indian Ocean will show that the Straits of Hormuz, patrolled by the US and the Straits ofMalacca, straddled by India’s

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Andaman Islandwhich boasts of a newintegrated command, are the natural choke points for China’s oil supplies. China wants to reduce risks and costs run up by its oil tankers, by offloading Middle Eastern crude at Gwadar and piping it to Sinkiang. Similarly, crude from South East Asia could be piped out from Arakan instead of being brought through the Straits of Malacca and then through the contested South China Seas. It would be but natural, to expect India to respond to China’s strategy, termed by one writer as `String of Pearls’ (in reference to the far off Ocean ports the giant nation wishes to control) by seeking friendly access to the Vietnamese, Taiwanese and Japanese ports for deploying its Naval assets to protect India’s shipping and trade routes to the Far East and to access its equity oil at Sakhalin. India’s race to reach out and defend its sea-lanes is supported by its neighbours in South East and EastAsia. Asean and Far East powers found themselves increasingly worried about China’s maritime claims, which cover about 3 million  square km. Most of this is in two areas—the South China Sea, where Beijing’s claims overlapmainly with those of Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, and the East China Sea, where its claims are contested by Japan.
Beijing has described its territorial disputes with Japan and Southeast Asian countries as ones involving its “indisputable” or “inalienable” sovereignty. Though it has not ruled out compromise, it has at the same time increased it naval presence in these areas and flexed its muscle from time to time.

No wonder then that some 31 percent of the `79,198 crore capital budget for the defence forces have been earmarked for Indian Navy, hitherto the most neglected of India’s armed forces. The Air Force which wants to buy new French made fighter aircraft to replace ageing jets is slated to spend slightly more with an allocation of over 38 percent of the capital budget. India’s vast land army withmore than 1.2million soldiers will, by contrast, be getting a relatively lower capital outlay. Some 89 percent or Rs 66,459.43 crore of the total capital spend has been kept aside for capital acquisition or modernisation. In the case of the navy this represents a huge build up – it has managed to garner a 72 percent increase in its budget on this count at Rs 24,151 crore. The Air Force’s modernisation budget is pegged at `28,503 crore and Army’s at just `13,804 crore. Navy’s demands for building new ships have been given more priority to the Army’s demand that new guns be bought to replace the more than two decades old Bofor’s 155 mm howitzers.

China in contrast, will be spending around $25 billion for 135 vessels. However, in contrast to Air Force’s buy of Rafael or Army’s purchases of night vision equipment from Israel or search for an artillery gun abroad, the Navy has been depending largely on Indian dockyards to build its fleet. This obviously gives it more bang for the rupee. Foreign equipment is costly. China realised this long ago and adopted the path of reverse engineering to build its missile forces, jet fighter crafts and assault rifles. Just one and half decade back, China, like India was a major importer of weapons. However, in the last decade and a half, it very consciously worked to `catch up’. It reverse engineered British missiles, worked on Soviet era fighter jet platforms to work in improvements. It used students and scientists sent abroad on exchange programmes to spy on rival systems, a few of which were openly available, some commercially buyable. It hired out of- work Soviet weapons scientists and specialists and restructured its own defence research and production labyrinths. The Middle Kingdom has also strategised by coming up with innovative ideas to take on its arch rival – the US – whose military size, strength and spending - dwarfs everyone else. Beijing is believed experimenting with `bugs’ in telecom and power
equipmentwhich could cause power systems in client countries to collapse. It has again reportedly trained armies of hackers and is perfecting satellite warfare capabilities to take out the communication lines of the enemy.

It has specifically designed Dong Feng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile which can strike US aircraft carriers in the event of a battle near Chinese coast. Similarly, it has worked on low cost `swarm tactics’ which would use smaller, cheaper and more manouverable craft to attacks larger US fleets, somewhat akin to what the Somali pirates now do transnational shipping off the East African coast. iIndia has yet to fully realize the potentials for  indigenous manufacture of high tech weapons or for innovating new attack systems which could be cheaper and involve less high tech inputs. Its creaking research and development organisation has been struggling to  build a good main battle tank, a fighter jet and even a good assault rifle, even as its best brains have managed to break tech barriers to produce world class missile systems and rockets. Even today, India depends on Bulgarian and other former Soviet Union states to procure assault rifles for its crack commando forces, while successfully building nuclear shields and 3,500 kmrange nuclear capable missiles.

This inability to build `nuts and bolts’ while making far more sophisticated weaponry, has meant a huge drain on the treasury and far less `bang’ for the rupee for the Indian armed forces. Attempts are being made to remedy it, partly by introducing the private sector to defence production, partly by letting them rope in foreign partners to build systems and sub-systems for aircraft, armoured carriers and other weapon systems. However, an  overhaul of India’s basic defence R&D set-up and more extensive and leveraged use of India’s ordinance factory network are still awaited.

However, in terms of overall defence spending, despite the Chinese depending on low cost indigenous manufacture as opposed to India’s starategy of purchase of equipment from abroad, India’s spending on its armed forces will still be drawfed by China. India’s defence budget this year (2012-2013) will be just $40 billion compared to China’s gigantic spend of $106 billion for the current year. While India’s spend in rupee terms is 17 percent more than last year’s, China’s is 11 percent more in Yuan terms than last year’s. An analysis of this year’s budget papers show that out of the money sanctioned last year (2011-2012), large chunks remained unspent on the capital account. Some `3,055 crore remained unspent from last year, which was surrendered. The unspent budget surrendered would have been higher by over `2,800 crore, but for the fact
that the Navy spent more than what was initially allotted to it.

The main head under which money has been surrendered is aero engines for the Air Force and Army. The surrender of monies on this account reflects poorly on a professional force which is trying to rapidly modernise to face up to multiple threats. The natural question which follows any discussion on India’s defence budget and its comparision with China’s is : Will this rise in spending on both sides of the border necessarily fuel an arms race or worse, a conflict between two rising powers? Not necessarily. Both are mature nations and both are aware of their vulnerabilities. It would be wise on the part of both to be ready, and wiser to be even more
ready to negotiate points of conflict.

Railway Budget at a Glance

  • 50 percent concession in fare in AC-2, AC-3, Chair Car & Sleeper classes to patients suffering from `Aplastic Anaemia’ and `Sickle Cell Anaemia’.

  • SMS on passenger mobile phone in case of e-ticket to be accepted as proof of valid reservation.

  • Introduction of satellite based real time train information system (SIMRAN) to provide train running information to passengers through SMS, internet, etc.

  • Upgradation of 929 stations as Adarsh Stations including 84 stations proposed in 2012-13; 490 stations have been completed so far.

  • Specially designed coaches for differently-abled persons to be provided in each Mail/Express trains.

  • 75 new Express trains to be introduced.

  • 21 new passenger services, 9 DEMU services and 8 MEMU services to be introduced.

  • A wagon factory to be set up at Sitapali (Ganjam District of Odisha)

  • A rail coach factory with the support of Government of Kerala to be set up at Palakkad; two additional new manufacturing units for coaches to be established in the Kutch area in Gujarat and at Kolar in Karnataka with active participation of the State Governments.

  • Setting up of a factory at Shyamnagar in West Bengal to manufacture next generation technology propulsion system for use in high power electric locomotives. Setting up of 200 remote railway stations as `green energy stations’ powered entirely by solar energy.

  • Providing solar lighting system at 1,000 manned level crossing gates.

  • T hree `Safety Villages’ to be set up at Bengaluru, Kharagpur and Lucknow for skill development for disaster management.

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