Online Classes :- Current Affairs Part-3

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Reorganise India’s defence spending

India has been the largest importer of defence equipment for several years. It spends about 2.5% of GDP on defence, slightly above the world average for such expenditure. Yet, the army is short of men, especially officers, and of material.

The army’s testimony before the parliamentary panel on defence and the panel’s own recommendations, ranging from making a five-year stint in the armed forces amandatory for would-be civil servants to invoking the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office, are tinged with a sense of desperation, but lack a systemic approach.

Action is required on multiple fronts. At 2.5% of GDP, defence spending is 2.5 times what the government spends on healthcare and 23% of the Centre’s tax collections. It is neither feasible nor desirable to step up the defence outlay. The goal should be to get more bang out of every defence buck. To raise the share of spending on the equipment needed for modern war fighting, it is necessary to rationalise manpower costs. This can go two ways. Defence pensions should go the way of civil service pensions, and be linked to contributions made while in service rather than to a defined benefit.

The government should offer a top-up to prevent the pension falling below a reasonable level. Simultaneously, the period of service of non-officer ranks should be brought down to the minimum required to optimise the return on spending on training raw recruits.

The idea should be to provide in-service personnel training that would make them ideal members of a multi-skilled workforce sought after in civilian life, minimally dependent on pensions.

Proper planning and coordination can substitute domestic R&D and production for a sizeable chunk of imports. That would lower acquisition costs. Scale is needed to bring down production costs. That calls for cooperative planning by all the three services.

The reality of commissions and speed money favour imports over domestic manufacture. Political will must alter reality. India cannot play the role the world wants it to, with business as usual in defence spending.

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