The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) registered a $1.7 trillion increase in military spending in 2015. Its depiction in percentage (1%) by news sources worldwide does not paint a proper picture.
‘Military expenditure’ is a wider term compared to ‘arms spending’ as it refers to all government expenses on current military forces and activities, including salaries and benefits, operational expenses, arms and equipment purchases, military construction, research and development and central administration, command and support.
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Last year’s data brings India to the sixth place, moving up a notch from 2014. The spending trajectory is on the rise there too. So will be the case with China, Saudi Arabia and Russia. Interestingly, Pakistan does not rank among top 15 military spenders. Unlike India and Iran, Islamabad has not been able to allocate funds for military modernisation due to domestic financial conditions.
In 2015, India registered an 11% increase in military expenditure, with acquisition of the latest nuclear submarines, INS Arihant, being the highlight. The $3 billion strategic vessel that cleared all sea trials is definitely worrisome for Pakistan as it gives Delhi assured second-strike capability in a nuclear standoff. This was followed with the purchase of 36 Rafael fighter jets from France in addition to 270 Russia-made SU-30MKIs, making the threat more real for Islamabad amid no progress in composite dialogue – renamed after Modi government as comprehensive dialogue – on dispute resolution.
National Security Adviser Lieutenant General (retd) Nasir Khan Janjua highlighted the same in a seminar the other day. He minced no words while stating India’s soaring military expense threatens Pakistan’s and the region’s peace.
The current spending of $9.5 billion does not help maintain a balance of power to preserve the status quo. The Modi government has aggressively pursued a policy of encircling and isolating Pakistan. The recent arrests of over a dozen spies allegedly affiliated with RAW have heightened the existing mistrust.
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Not only does Pakistan Navy need more financing for a modern, conventional fleet to secure its sea lanes in the tense Arabian Sea, but also to meet the undeniable necessity for an assured second-strike capability.
Pakistan spent around $1 billion more in 2015. The trend is likely to continue. Islamabad has never tried to match India’s military spending but has still managed to equip itself sufficiently to match the rival’s arsenal.
Though the domestic arms industry is under-marketed due to a multitude of factors, including bureaucratic ill management, the time to achieve dividends is nearing. With the delivery of JF Thurder-17s to friendly countries and more projected sales, the military will be increasing its share of exports.
The state-owned conglomerate Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) already exports small arms to more than 30 countries worth nearly $100 million. Since Pakistan Army is evaluating various options to replace existing utility arm, G3, Islamabad will be spending significant sums for POF plant modernisation if the decision is made during the fiscal year 2016-2017.
While heavy reliance on the indigenous defence industry may save precious financial resources, the non-stop western technology transfer and next generation arms sale to India does not leave Islamabad with any option but to increase its military expenditure. Some officials believe that Pakistan’s defence outlay for 2016-2017 may register further a increase of $1.5 billion. However, nothing is on the record yet.
Given rising global tensions, Pakistan’s increase in defence spending is unlikely to rank the country amongst top 15 military spenders. In 2016, Iran is set to spend heavily on defence modernisation. If the price of oil bounces back, Gulf States as well as South American countries will be increasing their military expenditure.
Naveed Ahmad is a Pakistani investigative journalist and academic with extensive reporting experience in the Middle East and North Africa. He is based in Doha and Istanbul. He tweets @naveed360
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