A cut in India’s defense budget will not halt the acquisition programs of the Indian air force (IAF), Defense Minister A.K. Antony says.
“The government is committed to the modernization of the IAF and funds are not a problem to ensure that it remains at the forefront of technology,” Antony says.
Sluggish growth in the Indian economy in recent years has had a cascading effect on the country’s military; the government was forced to trim the defense budget in the last fiscal year to 1.78 trillion rupees ($32.8 billion) from the original allocation of 1.93 trillion rupees.
Several major military acquisition programs are feared to be affected by the cuts. The government has allocated 2.03 trillion rupees for defense in the current fiscal year, a modest hike of just more than 5% over the last year.
As the government scrambles to cut costs given the dismal growth rate, defense spending is one of the hardest hit areas, with the budget touching up to barely 1.79% of the country’s gross domestic product. This is a record low for India in at least three decades, with the figure dropping considerably from 3.16% of the GDP in 1987.
But a defiant defense minister says,”Though availability of funds shall never be an issue, we need to strictly observe austerity measures circulated by the Ministry of Finance. Efforts must be made to cut down expenditure on non-core activities and avoidable ceremonial formalities.”
He expressed satisfaction that the budget allotted to the IAF is being fully utilized.
“At the same time, I am sure all of you appreciate the need for indigenization and [the] move toward self-reliance in defense production. We must minimize the overreliance of our armed forces in general and [the] Indian air force in particular on foreign original equipment manufacturers for procurement of major aircraft and equipment,” he says.
The Long Term Infrastructure Prospective Plan clearly lays down the road map for the IAF’s growth plan, he says.