India’s rising defence expenditure is not too high if compared to that of other countries
There are indications that India might double its defense budget. Some of these expenses include sophisticated NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) defence technology to counter terrorist attacks (both Pakistan and China possess this), smart vests impregnated with silver nano particles to protect against biological agents and NBC suits with thermo-electric cooling. India also wants to establish a “strong defence-industrial base” and is willing to allow up to 49 percent foreign investment in the defence sector on a “case-to-case basis”.
Britain spends around 3 percent (2007 figures) of its GDP on on Defence, but it’s not Britain that we have to worry about, but China and Pakistan. Although China does not spend too much of its GDP on defense, no one believes it (this is explained later).
Official (2007) figures: (Defense expenditure as a percent of GDP)
- China – 1.4 percent
- United States – 4.6 percent
- Britain – 3 percent
- France – 2 percent
- Russia – 2.63 percent
- India – 2.5 percent (reduced this year to 1.9 percent)
Another way to see Defence expenditure in perspective is to see how much money goes into defense spending as compared to other spending. These are the defense spends in percentage terms (as a proportion of all fiscal expenditure, 2007 figures)
- China – 7.2 percent
- United States – 16.6 percent
- France – 13.5 percent
- Russia – 15.1 percent
- India – 14.1 percent
Now here is the expenditure in real terms from a study by Jane’s Industry Quarterly.
Defense budgets across the world (2008 in USD Billion)
1 United States 696.30
2 United Kingdom 79.27
3 France 65.74
4 China 58.07
5 Japan 48.10
6 Germany 43.55
7 Saudi Arabia 38.32
8 Russian Federation 36.73
9 Italy 31.40
10 Korea, South 28.30
11 India 27.21
12 Brazil 24.62
13 Australia 19.74
14 Spain 19.37
15 Canada 16.19
Defense budget figures are deceptive
Even democratic countries are known to be devious when it comes to revealing their defense budgets and it’s worse in the case of other regimes. Pakistan’s defense expenditure is $4.39bn, but the country’s defense budget was revealed in their parliament for the first time in 40 years this year! And like China, it is believed that even this is only half of what it actually is.
In Pakistan, certain expenses – military pensions, costs of acquisition of major weapon systems, earnings from export of arms and ammunition from ordinance factories and defense credits from various Muslim countries – are not included in the budget. Surprising isn’t it that even major weapon acquisitions are not made from the defence budget! All to ensure secrecy.
Where China is concerned, the budget does not appear to include expenditure on Chinese-made weapons and equipment, some R&D expenses, paramilitary police, funds for special large weapons purchases from abroad, funds for some military factories, funds for defence industry conversion and for military aid. A long list!
India too has certain defense expenditure (defence pensions, para military forces and the defence ministry itself) which is not reflected in the budget.
Why India needs to spend more
There is much discussion about whether India should increase its defense expenditure. An argument against it is that we could be escalating the arms race. Well, one needs to keep that delicate balance between genuine requirements and simply getting into a race…what that delicate balance is something that even experts do not agree on. But the experts decide by comparing the defense budgets of the world (in real and percentage terms) and evaluating threat perception.
Another argument against increasing defense spending is that being a developing country we need the money for our development. Agreed, because our defense spending as compared to our other spending seems too high but I feel that reducing corruption will go a long way in freeing funds for social development. Why not go after corruption hammer and tongs?
We need to spend because of our border problems and unpredictable neighbours. Here are some obvious reasons:
- Huge country (great number of kilometers to guard physically)
- Neighbours eyeing Indian land (Pakistan is after Kashmir and China is eyeing parts of Arunachal Pradesh)
- Aggressive neighbors spending huge amounts on defense, much of it secretly.
(Credits: Graph is from Business World)
(Tip for this article has been given by Vishal Sharma)