Defence budget — compulsion or choice
SURVIVAL of any nation largely depends on its defence capability and there is no exemption to this fact even in the modern sophisticated world.
The unassailable defence has always been a dream of mankind throughout history.
History remembers those nations that successfully defended their territorial integrity not only against external threat but also effectively controlled internally emerging perils.
Though, developed civilization always promoted winning hearts and minds of public over coercion, yet the notion “might is right” still leads the world in one way or the other, either militarily or economically.
Existential threat may not be an issue for many nations in modern world, but there always are chances of internal disorder and foreign backed anarchy.
Nations unable to control the internal chaos and militancy lose their position and value in the comity of nations.
Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Libya are some of the examples. Weak nations always have to please the intimidating nations having military might, especially in immediate neighbourhood.
South Asia has always been in the focus of superpowers throughout history being at crossroads to energy rich Central Asia, they always tried to either conquer this region or keep it under strict control using every tactic.
This wrangling of titans always keeps the region instable. US troops with coalition forces have recently withdrawn from Afghanistan after 20 years.
On the other hand, Hindutva followers are ruling in India and they have ambitions to enjoy hegemony in the region and keep all others under thumb.
This ruthless pursuance of regional dominion is impetus of arms build-up by India that always results in imbalance of power in the region and other nations in the region always remain striving for maintaining the balance.
Pakistan is always seen as an interruption by India in its dream of supremacy in South Asia, hence feels most insecure in the continuous arms stockpile policy of India.
Pakistan’s caution is valid keeping in view the three wars already fought between the two countries and the unresolved Kashmir issue.
Hence, maintaining the balance of power becomes imperious for Pakistan. However, the economic crunch always becomes a strain in this scenario and Pakistan spends relatively quite less on defence as compared to archrival India.
Defence forces of Pakistan have to maintain their might against external as well as internal threats in the meagre resources.
Acquiring up-to-date sophisticated technology is not possible in the continuous economically risky milieu of the country.
Keeping the military capacity intact in the paltry resources becomes pretty tough.
There are often voices against the large chunk of the defence budget in the country as compared to spending on development and education.
There is no doubt to this aspect, but security becomes first and foremost concern for anyone.
There can be no compromise to the emanating existential threats external or internal.
In this volatile security situation of the region and continuous stemming threats, defence forces of Pakistan are spending fairly less amount and maintaining all their activities including training and operations meticulously.
At a time when Pakistani government is trying its best to mollify the economic challenges, defence forces also have adopted austerity measures to shoulder the government efforts which is very positive gesture.
There is also news that defence forces didn’t ask for any increase in the annual budget keeping in view the economic crisis country is facing at present without IMF deal.
In budget 2022-203, rupees 1523 allocated for defence which is merely 16.02% of the total budget.
In the finance bill 2021-22, the defence allocation was 1370 billion rupees out of total budget worth 8487 billion rupees which was also 16.14%, that means no increase in defence budget.
In the given scenario of regional security environment, the training, military equipment purchasing & maintenance, and the ongoing operations in different parts of the country, the 16% share of budget is fairly justified.
Situation in the region if improves, external and internal threats if diminish with passage of time, these resources can be readjusted towards development and social wellbeing.
Outcries for less spending on development and education are valid indeed if there are no security threats, but everything else can be achieved in a peaceful environment, free of terrorism and external interferences.
Comparing globally, Pakistan spends merely $40 on a per capita basis and only $ 13400 on per solider basis as compared to immediate neighbour Iran that spends $ 2300 per solider basis.
Comparison with other countries of the world with better economy is unjustified. Economic situation in Iran is also well-known by all of us.
Besides, a lot of resources of the defence forces also go to helping the nation amidst calamities as civilian institutions in the country lack capacity to effectively work in such catastrophes.
Constructive criticism is valid if facts and figures and the regional as well as internal security scenario kept in view.
Criticism sans facts for political gains or any other purpose should be avoided to keep the morale of soldiers intact who are rendering sacrifices for the motherland day and night.
—The writer is Islamabad based media analyst & quasi columnist.