Indian Defense Spending To Grow

The Indian Armed Forces are to receive a 28% increase in their fiscal 2000-01 budget, reflecting support from the coalition government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for paying back funds allocated for last year's Kargil operations, and prompting cries of alarm from neighboring Pakistan.

A long-sought wish list of acquisition, development and upgrade projects is to benefit from the additional funds-—the Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT), unmanned aerial vehicles, Tu-22 bombers, modernization of MiG-21 fighters, the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and T-90 tanks. Senior defense officials' greatest concern is they will not receive timely approvals to spend and end up forfeiting the money.

The $13.6-billion defense budget is the largest in the country's history as

well as its largest year-to-year increase in defense spending. Rising from $10.6 biliion last year, the defense budget represents 3.32% of India's gross domestic product.

Pakistan's foreign ministry responded to the budget proposal by saying it is "yet another proof... of India's hegemonic designs in the region and beyond."

Saying that India already has "amassed a huge arsenal of nuclear and conventional weapons," the ministry predicted its proposed increases "will result in induction of more arms in an environment where India faces no threat from any direction."

A week before the release of the defense budget on Mar. 2, President K.R. Narayanan said Pakistan is sponsoring cross-border terrorism in India. "We are prepared to meet any challenge to our territorial integrity and to our open democratic way of life," he said. Pakistan had a military coup last year.

Narayanan said he looked forward to extending India's "time-tested, comprehensive" relationship with Russia into a "strategic partnership." His address came less than a month before U.S. President Bill Clinton is to visit India. A dialogue with the U.S. was predicated on India maintaining a credible minimum nuclear deterrent, he said.

Narayanan said India has successfully flight tested the Trishul, surface-to-air missile and the Nishant, a remote-controlled missiie.

India's army, which bore the largest share of the May-July fighting with Pakistan in the Kargil region last year, is to receive a $1.2-billion increase in spending, for a total of $6 billion. The army's aviation wing is to receive $120 million, nearly double last year's $68-million allocation. The increase is to pay for new helicopters.

The defense proposal includes $1,8 billion for the air force, up from $1.4 billion last year. It includes capital outlays of $ 1 billion. The air forces priorities include 66 AJTs, 10 Mirage 2000s to cover attrition losses and a rnidlife upgrade of 125 MiG-2 Ibis fighters.

The British Hawk is regarded as the leading AJT candidate, but competitors could include the Yak-130, MiG-AT, Czech L-159, CASA C-101 or Aermacchi MB 339 .

The MiG-21 bis upgrade program by Hindustan Aeronautics and Russia's Sokol aircraft plant is behind schedule by about 18 months. It is expected to be completed by late 2003. As of January, test flights of two prototypes in Russia had accumulated about 70 hr. each.

THE MiG-2 Is WERE to be replaced in the late 1980s by the Light Combat Aircraft, but project delays and the high cost of acquiring alternative, more modern aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-30 and Mirage 2000 prompted the MiG-2 Ibis upgrade program at a cost of $280 million.

A series of accidents involving the aging MiG-21 has underscored the need for an early completion of the program. The air force lost 28 aircraft last year, including 14 MiGs.

Navy spending is to be $940 million, up from $835 million last year. Besides acquiring the Admiral Gorshkov, it wants Mig-29K fighters and Kamov Ka-28 and -31 helicopters. Electronic warfare equip-

ment is also to be acquired and the service's Delhi-class guided missile destroyers are to be modernized.

The navy expects to spend 60% of its budget on acquisition and weapons modernization programs, including upgrades to its eight Tupolov Tu-l42 long-range and five Ilyushin 11-38 medium-range maritime patrol and antisubmarine aircraft. They are to be sent to Russia for upgrades in surveillance, ASW and electronic warfare capabilities. The Tu-142 upgrades were described as including modern, lightweight sensors and added range.

"The Tu-1.42s can remain in flight for a long period..., but the heavy sensors and other equipment carried by them now prevent us from putting an additional crew on board," the navy said. The upgrades will permit two full crews to be flown.

Following up on an earlier offer by Russian Vice Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, the navy is to lease "some numbers" of supersonic Tu-22M3 Backfire-C strategic bombers from Russia for 3-4 years, with an option to buy. The aircraft are capable of carrying a 12,000-kg. (26,400-lb.) nuclear or conventional weapons payload with a maximum range of 2,000 km. (1,240 mi.).

Such enhancements of its maritime surveillance and strike capabilities are in line with the navy's plans to transform itself into a blue water force. The navy does not currently have a nuclear strike capability, according to defense officials. India's nuclear deterrence is based on a triad strike capability from land, sea or air.

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