India’s new defense minister said July 10 the military would be short of funds within months despite an 18-percent hike in the national budget to modernize the armed forces.
“Almost from the month of October onwards, we will be short of funds, I am told,” Pranab Mukherjee told a press conference in New Delhi.
“Therefore I am afraid I may have to go the finance minister for begging money... which I do not want to do but at the same time it may be necessary,” he said.
India’s Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, presenting the new left-leaning government’s first budget on July 8, alloted 770 billion rupees ($16.7 billion) for the military from 653 billion rupees in 2003-2004.
Chidambaram said the rise had become “necessary” because of low hikes in defense spending in previous years and a massive military acquisition programme.
But Mukherjee said the funding was not enough to acquire new hardware.
“Not much money has been provided for new programs this year. And it is also not possible because, after all, when the entire budgetary exercise will be over it will be by the middle of September,” Mukherjee said, referring to time needed for final parliamentary approval of the finance bill.
India has long-standing plans to buy a Russian aircraft carrier, British jet trainers and French submarines, besides a proposed $900 million project to boost the firepower of its infantry.
Indian military acquisitions frequently trigger concern by rival Pakistan, although the nuclear-capable adversaries are now engaged in a peace process.