Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar in his talk on ‘COVID-19, Resource Crunch and Defence Modernisation’ conducted by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), focused on the blue economy. The government is mulling on tapping the waters for not only fisheries but also for energy resources as well as minerals

With more focus on developing India’s blue economy and the Indian Ocean becoming an important theatre of activity, there is a need to have a strong security infrastructure in the region. India is looking at expanding its maritime resources in terms of fisheries and minerals.

At the end of the talk, in response to a question, the defence secretary observed that “Today, China is the global leader in the deep water fishing. India has not stepped out of its territorial waters. The Indian fishermen are not equipped properly and don’t have the training to explore deeper waters. They don’t have the craft, the equipment and most importantly there is no big security umbrella under which they can go out into deeper waters to tap resources in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).”

The government is mulling on tapping the waters for not only fisheries but also for energy resources as well as minerals.

On the Navy Allocation

With the focus on increasing the focus on maritime increasing, the defence secretary stated that “The Indian ocean is an important area, the security of which has to be catered to. There is a need to look at the whole thing in a larger framework.”

Defence Budget

According to Kumar, the allocation for capital procurement has come down from 40% in 2010-11 to 33% in the defence budget. He termed it as a systematic problem due to three big issues including the pension bill, non-revenue expenditure and dependence on imports.

The pensions expenses have gone up from Rs 32,000 crore a few years ago to now Rs 1,33,000 crore.

The government is looking at ways to cut down the pensions and wage bill and free up the funds for modernisation of the armed forces.

“There are plans to possibly extend the service for the Jawans, which will help in cutting down the long term liabilities and also help in reducing the pension bill,” he said.

And for the lateral induction, according to the defence secretary, the matter was being looked into. How the rules for recruitment might have to be changed for `Group B & A’ employees, he stated.

Indigenous Technology

The defence secretary pushed for indigenous technology. According to him, the transfer of technology increases the cost of a military platform from 30 per cent to 60 per cent, which at times is more than the imports.

To cut down expenditure, the Ministry is now looking at leasing, outsourcing and automation of various organisations. Additionally, there are plans to monetise the ministry’s land too.

He also said that there is a need to encourage the software industry to be tapped for the defence manufacturing sector.

And shared that the exports in the defence have gone up to Rs 11,000 crore from a mere Rs 1500 crore a few years ago.