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Maritime Woes

The Indian Navy’s share of the budget has been declining and is bound to impact naval upgradation

Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd) Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd)

In his speech presenting independent India’s first budget, R.K. Shanmukhan Chetty, India’s second finance minister (the first was Liaquat Ali Khan, who migrated to Pakistan in 1947 to become that country’s first prime minister), acknowledged, “India has never had an adequate navy or air force and the effect of Partition has been to reduce them still further”. The defence budget for 1947-48 was Rs 92.74 crores, just under 47 per cent of the budgeted government expenditure of Rs 197.39 crores. The Indian Navy’s (IN) share of the defence pie was less than 2 per cent. Comparing this with the 19.29 per cent of the defence budget allocated to the navy in 2012-13 and coupling it with India’s maritime outreach in the Indian Ocean and beyond, as well as the oft-stated desire to be a ‘net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region’, one could be pardoned for thinking that the nation’s leaders are at last paying adequate attention to the maritime matters and (IN) force levels are destined to rise.

Reality, however, is different. The navy’s budget share has shown a declining trend during the last decade. From a high of consistently above 18 per cent of the defence budget at the BE stage during the years 2006-2009, it dropped to around 15 per cent in the years 2009-2012. The years from 2012-13 was the aberration where it shot up to 19.29 per cent; but subsequent years saw the declining trend setting in again. The share was 17.84 per cent in 2013-14, 16.51 per cent in 2014-15, and dropped to below 16 per cent in 2015-16. More important, allocation for the navy’s ‘new schemes’ dipped to just Rs 1,112.78 crores and that for ‘land and works’ (i.e. infrastructure), was just Rs 720 crores, as against committed liabilities of Rs 22,248.12 crores in BE 2015-16. Thus, 95.4 per cent of the total capital expenditure planned for the navy was for committed liabilities, leaving only crumbs for accretions. There can be no disputing the fact that current needs of other claimants are high, but the paucity of allocations inevitably entails postponement of plans for IN expansion.

The Eighth Report of the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence (PSCD) states (sic), “The Committee opine that Navy has huge requirement for capital induction as it is short of vessels, aircraft and helicopters. In addition to this, manpower shortage and presently prevalent inadequacies in training can also not be ignored. Therefore, reduction in share of Naval Budget is not desirable, especially in view of the fact that India’s larger chunk of trade takes place through sea routes. Besides this, the new challenges of the navy are enormous, as the hostilities in sea by neighbouring countries have increased over the years. Hence, in order to equip our navy with high level of tactical proficiency would indeed require ample budgetary support. While taking into account the tremendous training requirements and modernization drive of navy as envisaged in accordance with Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) 2012-27, the plummeting budgetary trend appears to be dichotomous, in view of the Committee”.

Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya
Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya

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