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Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 16:59 GMT
India to boost defence budget
Soldiers in Kargil
Last year saw the largest ever single defence increase
By Rahul Bedi in Delhi

India's defence budget is expected to increase significantly in Wednesday's budget for the financial year 2001-02.

Officials say that the rise is required to help meet the cost for new military hardware, negotiations for which are at an advanced state.

The armed forces say that more money is needed to replace or upgrade most of its defence equipment which dates back to the Soviet era and has now become obsolete.

India's defence shopping list
300 Russian T- 90 battle tanks
Licensed production of 150 Su-30 front-line combat aircraft
Upgrade of 125 MiG 21 ' bis ' fighters
British Hawk advanced jet trainers
Mid-life upgrades for MiG 27 and MiG 29 fighters
Soviet Navy aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov
40 sea-based Mig 29 K fighters
The increase over last year's allocation of almost $14bn will also enable India to build a credible nuclear deterrent based on aircraft, mobile missiles and sea-based assets.

The 28.2% increase in last year's defence budget, which lapses on 31st March, was the largest ever single-year increase in military spending.

It raised defence from 2.3% to 2.5% of Gross Domestic Product after several years of relatively flat spending.

Record increase

Officials have hinted that this year's allocation is expected to be even higher.

India is closing negotiations for the import of fighter and trainer jets, an aircraft carrier and submarines worth billions of dollars.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Putin discussed arms deals during visit to India last year
Military officials in Delhi said they needed the higher outlay to develop and build an arsenal of long- and medium-range missiles, as well as constructing an aircraft carrier and at least two submarines.

Defence authorities also want to jump-start India's indigenous nuclear submarine programme, delayed by over a decade.

'Hidden' costs

Payments are due for an order of more than 300 Russian tanks and a contract to produce front-line combat aircraft.

Other combat aircraft are to be upgraded, and a deal for jet trainers is expected to be finalised with Britain over the next few weeks.

Officials hope this deal will bring down the Indian Air Force's accident rate, one of the world's highest for any air force.

The air force has submitted to the MoD a proposal to acquire a " few squadrons " of the hugely expensive French Mirage 2000-5 to fashion its minimum nuclear deterrent and to re-open its local Jaguar assembly line.

Analysts said that alongside the allocation for the massive conventional military build-up, was the "hidden" amount set aside for the development of India's hugely expensive nuclear deterrence and second strike option of using weapons of mass destruction.

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See also:

15 Feb 01 | South Asia
India to buy Russian tanks
01 Mar 00 | South Asia
Indian military boost condemned
29 Feb 00 | South Asia
India's growing defence costs
20 Mar 00 | South Asia
South Asia's nuclear race
22 Jun 99 | South Asia
Analysis: The cost of conflict
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