India triggers an arms race
SIPRI report indicates that “India’s imports of major weapons increased by 38 percent between 2002-06 and 2007-11. “Notable deliveries of combat aircraft during 2007-11 included 120 Su-30MKs and 16 MiG-29Ks from Russia and 20 Jaguars from the United Kingdom.”
Yet once again, India has announced a 17% raise in its defence expenditure over the previous year. The hike comes a year after India had increased its budget expenses by 11 per cent. A cumulative outlook over the past two years shows that India has increased its military spending by a third. It is indeed a substantial raise. Indian defence outlay for 2012-13 is US$ 42 billion (Rs.1,93,007 crore /Rs.1.93 trillion). Pakistan’s defence budget is less than US$ 6 billion.
The capital expenditure of the Indian armed forces – that goes towards purchase of equipment – was set at around $ 17.5 billion, a 15.7 per cent hike from last year’s capital allocation. Seventy per cent of this amount will go towards servicing already signed military purchase contracts. The rest will be reserved for the procurement of new equipment, including new Rafale aircraft from a French company.
The revenue component of the Defence budget amounts to $21.67 billion. This part of the budget goes towards paying salaries. Commenting on the ballooning revenue aspect of the defence budget, Dr Laxman Behera of the ‘Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses’ said: “Pay and allowances are obligatory in nature and the government has little control over their growth, given the mandatory increase in annual pay and dearness allowances. Moreover, most of today’s pay and allowances constitute tomorrow’s defence pensions, over which also the government has little control. The uncontrollable growths in these two components have great implication on other aspects of the defence budget.” However, India like many other countries does not pay its pension out of defence estimates.
The raison d’être of geo-strategic compulsions that the Indian Government often refers to while increasing the military expenditure is not logical at all. Pakistan does not present a military threat to India. Budget of other smaller countries neighbouring India is also comparatively meagre. Most of these countries do not have requisite military prowess to pose any meaningful threat to a country that boasts to be a mini super power. Certainly, India is justifying its military build-up in the Chinese context. However, Beijing has consistently followed a policy of reconciliation and is focused on economic well being of its people. Though, China is a global power with attendant roles and responsibilities, even then it jacked up its defence budget for the new year only by 11%, to $106.41 billion.
India is one of the biggest importers of military hardware in the world. It is a country where more than 440 million people live in poverty that exceeds half of the world’s poor. These military expenditure hikes will only accentuate their miserable conditions. Additionally, it would put a strain on the national budgets of adjoining states. CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury has rightly pointed out that the budget would increase financial burden on the common man.
Developmental projects worth US$ 17.5 billion include 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), 145 Ultra Light Howitzers (ULH), 197 Light Utility Helicopters, 75 Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer for its air force and others weapons and systems for the three services. International consultancy firm KPMG estimates New Delhi will hand out military contracts worth $112 billion by 2016. This would certainly fuel an arms race in Asia.
The question arises as to what Indians have in mind in the long term. It is obvious that besides encirclement of China, the huge military preparations are meant to intimidate Pakistan and extend Indian sphere of influence to Middle East, Central Asia and beyond. Pakistan has its legitimate concerns on this arms purchase spree. India has fought both China and Pakistan, but it has fought three wars with Pakistan, and only one with China. Hence, increase in defence spending by India on the pretext of Chinese threat cannot be ignored by Pakistan. The hike in India’s military budget thus gives the wrong message to its neighbours and it would contribute towards perpetuating tensions in South Asia and beyond. The neighbours’ concerns are not baseless, because India is not on the best of terms with them, and it has a history of military conflicts with Pakistan and China.
India tries to justify its defence spending on the plea that its major threat is China. However, this is not true because most of its weapons, especially huge armour inventory is Pakistan specific. Most of its combat aircraft and ballistic missiles have a short range and hence are better suited for usage against Pakistan. India is also developing its Ballistic Missile Defence system focused on a missile threat from Pakistan. Likewise, its military structures field dispositions and command organisations are poised for employment against Pakistan.
This hike in the Indian defence budget is certainly a food for thought for our analysts who eagerly engage themselves in propaganda campaign against Pakistan’s defence budget. Pakistan does not want to indulge in an arms race, but India’s military preparations cannot be ignored, especially when it is busy stirring trouble wherever it can, particularly in Baluchistan, to which it was given access by the USA through Afghanistan. Thus if Pakistan was to increase its defence expenditure this year, it would be by compulsion and not by choice.
—The writer is Consultant Policy and Strategic Response, IPRI Islamabad. He is a former assistant chief of air staff of Pakistan Air Force.