2 Dec : India’s defence budget in terms of percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is inadequate and the growing costs of military hardware necessitate that fund allocation is increased, Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said in New Delhi on Tuesday.
"As a percentage of the GDP, we are constantly going down. Because the hardware also gets more expensive and there is a requirement to perhaps move up a little bit," Mehta told reporters in New Delhi ahead of the Navy Day on 4th December.
India has allocated just over Rs 1 lakh crore for the defence forces in its 2008-09 budget, which is less than two per cent of the GDP.
The government has been maintaining this percentage point for its defence spending for years now.
Mehta said the armed forces had already put across the point of low budgetary allocations to the government, but maintained that he agreed there was no shortage of funds for defence.
"But if the armed forces do not have enough money to start with (while purchasing military equipment), they keep taking the same steps over and over again," he noted, referring to the procurement procedures adopted by government to induct modern weaponry and platforms for the Services.
"For, example, if the Navy wants five ships and it has money only for three, then it is told to take three now and two later. The Navy has to start the whole procedure once again to take the two ships later. If it starts with five, even though the money is spread over several plan periods (it would help in better procurements)," Mehta added pointing out that the security environment in the South Asian region was often described as fragile.
"And what the Navy does is to develop capability to operate across the full spectrum of conflict, which means from the benign role to full-scale war. These are the capabilities that we need to build for ourselves," he said.
Noting that there were many threats in the region, the Navy chief, referring to Pakistan, said the armed forces certainly have shifted focus from threat-specific to capability-specific development.
"For many years, we have been very centric on specific threats. If Pakistan gets something, then India too should get something in return or vice versa," he added.
"We have gone well past that stage. We develop capabilities, work on our maritime capabilities plan, a long-term plan, which we have for the next 15 years and it keeps adding as we move along with the intention that we have the capability to do multi-tasking".
Stating that Navy strongly favoured indigenisation, Mehta said it has 32 warships and six submarines under construction in India’s own shipyards.
"We also have orders for many more and we also have some coming in from abroad. As you know, we have INS Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier) and follow-on frigates from Russia, and two tankers, which are being built with Italian help. In the future, we will have more submarine orders," he stressed.
Expressing satisfaction over the progress of the 11th Plan for the defence forces, Mehta said there would be major capability development by 2022, when Navy plans to have about 162 warships in its inventory comprises 60 per cent blue water platforms and the rest with smaller warships.
On the need for blue water capabilities to operate far away from the Indian shores and outside of the Indian Ocean Region, the Navy chief said it was important because energy security is paramount for any nation to develop into a major power.
"Security of energy is important during its transit. We will be required to play an important role for our energy’s security while on transit and to stop other’s energy," he said.
On the naval aviation front, Mehta admitted that there had been gaps, particularly for surveillance, a few years ago, but the Navy had come a long way since.
"We have reached quite some way in replacing our long-range maritime patrol aircraft. Shortly, we will also have medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and Electronic Warfare aircraft, apart from helicopters and other assets," he said.
On one of his key result areas identified as network centric operations when he took over the mantle of heading the Navy, Mehta said the force had come a long way with India’s own indigenous development of communication systems enabling warships and aircraft to exchange data as they want to in a limited manner at this point of time.
"The means of transmission continues to remain wireless if we put over our high frequency sets. As we go along, we will develop our own satellite capability and then we will be able to transmit without the wireless facility also and all our ships and aircraft will be well networked to exchange information to carry on and do the task that are required to be done," the Navy chief said.
The satellite, Mehta said, would be a dedicated military satellite for which an order was placed with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently and it would available to the defence forces in about a year-and-half.
On other infrastructure projects, the Navy chief said the Karwar naval base had been operationalised recently and that more warships would be based there very soon.
The Ezhimala Naval Academy, he said, was ready for commissioning in January 2009 and the first course for the newly recruited naval officers would begin there from June that year.
The Navy, he said, has introduced a B Tech syllabus for all executive officers passing out of the Naval Academy from next year and there were indications that the four-year course would have a good response.
A similar scheme was already being offered for officers at INS Shivaji, he added.
On the proposed maritime commission, Mehta said the idea was to have a proper, decent infrastructure in place for exchange of information among organisations sharing the maritime space and the proposal had been moved about seven or eight years go.
"We will now push the proposal further through the paper I am working on right now very soon," he added.