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 the State of International Affairs – #DiplomacyDialogue. The discussion was opened by the chair, Dr Simi Mehta who is currently serving as the CEO and Editorial Director of IMPRI. She began with a brief introduction of how Defence and Foreign Policy play a crucial role in the Indian Budget and how it impacts the geopolitics of India.
Taking the discussion further, Samriddhi, a researcher at IMPRI presented a brief overview of the budgetary allocations for defence and foreign policy claiming an allocation of ₹5.4 lakh crores with a hike of 13% as compared to last year. She further stated that the Indian army was allocated funds with a hike of 15.6 % whereas Indian Air Force gets the largest share of the Indian budget giving thrust to a rise in defence infrastructure. As a whole, she summarised the budgetary allocation towards defence by saying that genuine efforts have been taken to revamp the Defence sector through considerable investments in innovation and R&D that were the need for the hour.
Prof Sanjukta Bhattacharya, a retired Professor of International Relations at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, threw light on how there is a deficient allocation of available resources along with the emphasis on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the defence budget. She also mentioned that the economy of any country is responsible for promoting the military of that country. She applauded the government for promoting a people-first policy as well as focusing on improvement in innovation and digitalization regarding foreign policy. She concluded by saying that the Indian budget should not be measured solely based on the quantum of funds but should be measured based on the needs of required modernization across different domains, especially in hypersonic missiles.
Talking about the capital outlay for the defence sector, Major Gen. (Dr) P K Chakravorty, VSM (Retd.), Strategic Thinker on Security Issues, focussed on increasing the pace of modernization exclaiming that defence is not just limited to borders and that the Indian Navy, Army and Airforce need to emphasize building assets and infrastructure. Then, he took upon the pensions that don’t form part of the defence budget but it has increased considerably. He raised an issue regarding the slow transmission of budget details to the public and suggested encouraging defence export to thrive in the long run. He further touched upon the revenue part of the budget as well as innovation concerning the defence sector. Further talking about the recent developments based on the Ukraine war he stressed the importance of outsourcing. He ended 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, Professor and Chairperson of the Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament (CIPOD), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, expressed his views on the 13% growth rate of India in terms of defence that express India’s outlook for growth and modernization in the long run. However, he raised his concern that the bulk of budget allocation goes to maintenance, salaries and pensions, and only a minuscule part is left for ammunition so we need to prioritize our research and development and 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.
Focusing the discussion on Optopolitics and Weaponising Peace, Mr Robinder N Sachdev, President, The Imagindia Institute, New Delhi and Founder, The Lemonade Party, 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 which he clarified 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.