The IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted an interactive panel discussion on the topic “The Defence, Foreign Policy and Union Budget 2023-24” on 7 February 2023, under the IMPRI 3rd Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Union Budget 2023-24, as part of IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk. The session was chaired and moderated by Dr. Simi Mehta who is currently serving as the CEO and Editorial Director of IMPRI.
The session was inaugurated by Ms. Fiza Mahajan, a researcher at IMPRI, who welcomed and briefly introduced the chair and panelists of the discussion. The Panelists for the discussion were Prof Sanjukta Bhattacharya, who is a retired Professor, International Relations, at Jadavpur University, Kolkata; Major Gen. (Dr) P K Chakravorty who is VSM (Retd), Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; Prof Swaran Singh, who is currently serving as the Professor and Chairperson at the Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament (CIPOD), Jawaharlal Nehru University and Mr. Robinder N Sachdev, who is the President, The Imagindia Institute, New Delhi, and Founder of The Lemonade Party.
The discussion was opened by Dr. Simi Mehta with a brief introduction of how Defense and Foreign Policy play a crucial role in the Indian Budget and how it impacts the geopolitics of India.
The discussion was carried forward by Samriddhi Sharma, a researcher at IMPRI who presented a brief overview of the budgetary allocations for defense and foreign policy. She exclaimed that defense has been allocated 5.4 lakh crores with a hike of 13% as compared to last year. On the same hand, the Indian army was allocated funds with a hike of 15.6 % whereas Indian Airforce gets the largest share of the Indian budget giving thrust to a rise in defense infrastructure. As a whole, she concluded by saying that genuine efforts have been taken to revamp the Defense sector through considerable investments in innovation and R&D that were the need for the hour.
The first panelist for the discussion was Prof Sanjukta Bhattacharya who threw light on how there is a deficient allocation of available resources along with the emphasis on MSME in the defense budget.
She further said that India will soon become a developed economy by 2047 which will mark 100th year of independence as well. Also, she mentioned that the economy of any country is responsible for promoting the military of any country. She further emphasized that the government is promoting a people-first policy as well as there is improvement in innovation and digitalization in regards to foreign policy. She concluded by saying that the Indian budget should not be measured solely into the quantum of funds but should be measured in the needs of required modernization across different domains, especially in hypersonic missiles.
Continuing with the discussion Major Gen. (Dr) P K Chakravorty focused on the capital outlay for the defense sector and emphasized increasing the pace of modernization. He exclaimed that defense is not only restricted to borders but the Indian Navy, Army, and Airforce needs to emphasize building assets and infrastructure. Then he took upon the pensions that don’t form part of the defense budget but it has increased considerably.
Moreover, he raised an issue about the slow transmission of budget details to the public that later has considerable impacts and encourages defense to export in order to thrive in long run. He further touched up the revenue part of the budget as well as innovation. He further stressed the importance of outsourcing elaborating it with the help of the Ukraine War. He ended up by putting his remarks that the economy itself needs a minimum of three submarines one under refit, the second ready for firing, and the third one owing to be ready for war.
Prof Swaran Singh expressed his views on the 13% growth rate of India in terms of defense that express India’s outlook for growth and modernization in long run but he raises his concern that the bulk of budget allocation for defense goes to maintenance, salaries, and pensions some part goes for capital expenditure and only minuscule part goes for ammunition so we need to prioritize our research and development as well as weapons. He further said that there are limitations in the Indian budget as compared to the global level. He ended up by saying that during the pandemic India was not able to fully utilize the expenditure allotted to it so it needs to be taken into consideration also India should push its economy in terms of trade and commerce with foreign countries.
Mr. Robinder N Sachdev presented his presentation on Optopolitics and on Weaponising Peace. He presented three constructs. First was Optopolitics which he exclaimed by giving an example of a Chinese balloon. The second construct was the Lemonade Mindset that he explained with the help of the union budget that we have to make lemonade that is best out of what we have. The third construct was Weaponizing Peace he clarifies with the help of two examples of Pakistan and China.
After a question and answer session, the program was concluded with closing remarks by Dr. Simi Mehta, who thanked and praised the team at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute for hosting a successful panel discussion and for ensuring the smooth functioning of the event. The event was concluded with a final vote of thanks by Ms. Fiza Mahajan on behalf of the IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS).
Acknowledge: Bhanvi, a researcher at IMPRI