When it comes to international relations, nothing quite pushes the mind to anxiety like defence spending. Perhaps it is the immediacy of its violent potential that triggers a slight tinge of panic. Merely imagining the images of war is enough to convince one that the tools to wage it are a bad idea. Even so, as bitter as the pill may be to swallow, spending on defensive capabilities is an inevitability for some nations at least. In an ideal world we would all get along but the ideal exists only in the imagination.
The problem to deal with when designing defence policies is the problem of information. As various internal and external pressures driving competing states’ leaders to certain actions, it becomes virtually impossible to figure out intentions even in the best of cases. And then there is fact that one nation’s actions are seldom perceived by another as the former intended.
The annual report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) revealed that India last year moved to the third spot on the list of the world’s biggest military spenders, behind just the US and China. Although its military budget actually contracted as a percentage of its overall outlay, the development nonetheless shows where New Delhi’s ambitions lie. Some of it may be chalked down to Narendra Modi’s personal obsessions, but as last year’s misadventure revealed, much of India’s populace too supports a more belligerent approach to the region.
The Sipri report also revealed that Pakistan’s own defence spending has risen by 70 per cent over the course of the previous decade. Last year, it was one of the four countries outside of the Middle East to spend over four per cent of its GDP on defence. Until February last year, it would have been easier to be critical about this. But certain actions and reactions lock rival nations on a course that grows harder and harder to change.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2020.
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