Defence budget: Budget artillery for deep tech, LAC roads

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The defence budget saw only a modest hike despite the continuing confrontation along the frontier with China, though the govt announced an ambitious new scheme to bolster “deep-tech” technologies for the armed forces.
The overall defence outlay for the next fiscal has been pegged at Rs 6.2 lakh crore ($75 billion), which marks just a 4.7% hike over the 2023-24’s budgetary estimates and actually goes into negative if revised estimates are taken into account.
Capital expenditure of Rs 1.7 lakh crore for military modernisation, however, registered a 5.8% hike over last year’s budgetary estimates and 9.4% over the revised ones. The revenue allocation meant for operational sustenance and commitments, in turn, stood at Rs 92,088 crore.
The defence budget works out to just 1.9% of the projected GDP for 2024-25 if the huge defence pension allocation of Rs 1.4 lakh crore for the 32 lakh ex-servicemen and retired defence civilians is considered. It drops to less than 1.5% if the pension bill is excluded.
The FM said a scheme will be launched for “strengthening deep-tech technologies for defence purposes and expediting ‘atmanirbharta’ (self-reliance)”. With deep-tech areas like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), quantum computing, blockchain and advanced materials becoming increasingly critical for wars of the future, India certainly needs to go the whole hog in this arena. AI-driven surveillance and warfare, for instance, will enable much faster decision-making. Cohesive integration of soldiers with niche technologies becomes all the more crucial given that China has been assiduously focusing on areas like AI, ML, lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), robotics and cyberwarfare.
On the land frontier with China, the “jump” in the capital budget allocation to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) will continue in the coming fiscal due to the “continued threat perception” all along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control. “The allocation for 2024-25 is Rs 6,500 crore, which is 30% higher than the allocation in 2023-24. This indicates the govt’s commitment to improve border infrastructure,” an official said.



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