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Defence, Foreign Policy, And Interim Union Budget 2024-25 – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

Defence, Foreign Policy, and Interim Union Budget 2024-25

Press Release

Anubhuti Mahante

The IMPRI Center for ICT for Development, IMPRI, Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, hosted an interactive panel discussion on the topic “Defense, Foreign Policy and Interim Union Budget 2024-25” on 5 February 2024, under IMPRI 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberation and Analysis of Interim Union Budget 2024-25, as part of IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk.

The meeting began with Bhanvi, a researcher at IMPRI providing an overview of the budget allocations for the defense sector in the fiscal year 2024-25. She highlighted that the budget for the Ministry of Defense has increased by 4.72% compared to the previous year, with a focus on capital expenditure. She also mentioned the increased allocation for education and healthcare for ex-servicemen, as well as the budgetary provisions for infrastructure development in border areas and the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

Following her presentation, Dr. Laxman Maharaj initiated a discussion on the strategic environment and security challenges faced by India. He emphasized the threat posed by China and the need for strong defense and security measures. He also mentioned the evolving geopolitical dynamics and the implications for India’s defense planning, particularly in light of the US’s involvement in the Indo-Pacific region and the challenges posed by the Suez Canal blockage.

Dr. Maharaj raised questions about the adequacy of the defense budget and the allocation of funds. He highlighted the significant portion of the budget dedicated to manpower and pensions, which limits the resources available for modernization and procurement of defense equipment. He also emphasized the importance of efficient utilization of allocated funds and the need for sustained support for defense modernization.

Concepts and Strategies for India’s Defense and Manufacturing

There was a discussion on the need for India to focus on serious implementation strategies for defense and manufacturing sectors, where the importance of quickly delivering positions that benefit both the defense forces and Indian manufacturing and technology was emphasized. There was a mention of the government’s efforts in promoting the ‘Make in India’ initiative, which is focused on domestic rather than global manufacturing.

Defense Economics and Acquisition Studies

The speaker highlighted the establishment of the Defense Economics and Industry Center in 2016 and recommended visiting the center’s website for materials and key issues on defense economics. The center was set up to question defense spending and explore cost-saving measures through integration and harmonization. The speaker mentioned having written two books on defense economics and suggested looking into policies and details that aid in understanding defense economics.

India’s Security Concerns and Budget Analysis

Professor Sanjukta Bhattacharya took over the session, discussing the interim budget and its implications for foreign policy and defense. She noted that the interim budget is a temporary allocation of funds until a new Union Government is formed post-elections. The budget avoids major policy announcements that could influence voters due to the code of conduct. The defense system’s link to foreign policy was emphasized, as well as the impact of international trade on the economy. The professor analyzed the defense budget allocations, noting a modest increase and the need for more spending on capital expenditure for modernization. She also discussed the importance of innovation in defense and the challenges in allocating sufficient funds for research and development.

The Dynamics of Arms Procurement and Security Domains

Major General Dr. PK Chakraborty expressed concerns about the adequacy of the defense budget, inflation, and the need for numbers in warfare. He stressed the importance of involving the private sector and startups in defense technology and innovation. The general highlighted the ongoing cyber warfare and the expansion of security domains, including space and maritime. He also discussed the importance of sustaining border infrastructure and the challenges of building in difficult terrains like the Himalayas.

Defense Equipment Trade and India’s Global Position

Mr. Ravindra Sachdev discussed India’s potential to become the world’s armory, given the atrophied defense industrial base of the US and the need for defense supplies globally. He suggested that India could fill the gap in defense production and become a key exporter, which would also provide strategic advantages. Sachdev emphasized the importance of increasing the defense budget, enhancing India’s image abroad, and promoting tourism for better cultural understanding and economic benefits.

MEA Budget and Foreign Policy

Mr. Sachdev also touched upon the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) budget, suggesting the need for more development aid, increased staffing of diplomats, and the creation of an agency similar to Japan’s METI to support Indian businesses abroad. He highlighted the importance of understanding adversaries and allies through cultural and language studies, suggesting increased budget allocation for these areas.

Questions and Discussions

Participants raised questions about the progress of border villages announced last year, the push for a feminist foreign policy, and the importance of improving India’s image to attract more foreign tourists. The panelists provided their insights on these topics, with varying opinions on India’s role in the Quad and the effectiveness of current policies and initiatives. There was also a discussion of the escalating tensions between India and Maldives and the reduction in development assistance to Maldives. The participant highlighted India’s efforts to maintain diplomatic relations and its neighborhood first policy.

In response, Dr. Bahara acknowledged the strained India-Maldives relationship and emphasized the importance of strategic diplomacy. He mentioned that India has been working on improving relations with various countries despite the challenges. Regarding the India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor, he expressed uncertainty about its progress due to the current regional crisis and the involvement of other countries like Saudi Arabia.

Overall, the meeting touched upon various topics including diplomatic efforts, regional tensions, and infrastructure projects. The participants provided insights and perspectives on these issues, highlighting the challenges and potential opportunities for India.

IMPRI’s 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Interim Union Budget 2024-25

Watch the event at IMPRI #Web Policy Talk

Anubhuti Mahante is a research intern at IMPRI.

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