Defence budgeting in India and the objective of deterrence


  • The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) programme is facing issues, with just 36 Rafale jets purchased rather than the expected 126, resulting in a decreased squadron strength in the Indian Air Force (IAF).
  • The article expresses concern about the impact of fiscal constraints on defence readiness, particularly with India in election mode and probable defence budget cuts.
  • The importance of prudent defence planning and budgeting is emphasised in order to confront challenges on the northern frontiers and strengthen sea power against China.

Key Challenges:

  • The recurring issue of funding restrictions affecting defence acquisition and readiness.
  • The difference between the Indian Air Force’s required and actual squadron strength.
  • Concerns about anticipated defence budget cuts in the midst of election priorities.

Key Terms and Phrases:

  • Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program
  • Squadron strength
  • Budget constraints
  • Defense preparedness
  • Northern borders
  • Sea power
  • Atmanirbhar Bharat
  • Innovations For Defence Excellence (iDEX)
  • Ordnance Factory Board
  • Negative lists for imports

Statements and quotes:

  • “Mother of all procurements” – The MMRCA programme, which cost roughly $10 billion in 2007.
  • During the Kargil conflict, General V.P. Malik said, “We will fight with what we have.”
  • “You go to war with what you have, not what you want” – From the War on the Rocks article, emphasising the importance of the existing industrial base.

Examples and resources:

  • The procurement of 36 Rafale jets rather than the 126 required under the MMRCA programme.
  • The Indian Air Force currently has a squadron strength shortfall of 32.
  • The Global Innovation Index 2022 highlights India’s low investment in research and development.

Facts and figures:

  • Defence spending in India has fallen from roughly 16.4% of total government spending in 2012-13 to 13.3% in 2022-23.
  • The Ministry of Defence requested 1,76,346 crore for capital acquisitions in 2023-24, but only 1,62,600 crore was allocated, resulting in a 13,746 crore gap.
  • In 2022, China will spend $421 billion on research and development, or 2.54% of its GDP.

Critical Analysis:

  • The paper emphasises the difficulties in combining electoral imperatives with national security concerns in defence budget distribution.
  • It emphasises the importance of striking a careful balance between imports and indigenous contributions in order to achieve technical modernization.
  • Concerns highlighted concerning the extended gestation period for indigenization projects and the need for policymakers to maintain pace.

Way Forward: 

  • Emphasises the significance of bipartisanship in making defence budgeting election-proof.
  • To address national security imperatives, advocates for a continuity in policymaking and adequate defence budgeting.
  • The importance of maintaining momentum in the Atmanirbhar Bharat push and other indigenization activities is emphasised.
And get notified everytime we publish a new blog post.