Defence budget up by 11.9% amid tensions with India
Rs1,289 billion earmarked for military spending in federal budget
ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Friday proposed an 11.9 per cent increase in the defence budget despite the earlier announcement that military spending would remain unchanged in view of the grave economic situation compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The budget document shows that the defence outlay for 2020-21 would be Rs1,289 billion as compared to Rs1,152 billion earmarked for the ongoing fiscal year. The increase, however, is 5% if compared with the revised spending of Rs1,227 billion in 2019-20.
Part of the excess defence spending in the ongoing fiscal year has been attributed to the continued tensions between Pakistan and India. Relations between the two countries have been spiralling downwards ever since the Pulwama attack in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019.
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The two countries were on the brink of war when India sent its fighter jets inside Pakistan following the Pulwama attack. The Indian incursion invited a tit-for-tat response from Pakistan.
The Pakistan Air Force jets locked several targets inside India but dropped the missiles in empty spaces in order to show that Pakistan had the will and capacity to hit back.
Earlier this year, India raised its defence spending by around 6%. However, the size of Indian defence budget is six times bigger than the total outlay of Pakistan’s defence. In fact, India’s defence budget is equal to Pakistan’s total budget outlay.
In its annual report released in April, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said India had the world’s third-biggest military budget only behind the United States and China.
India’s military spending grew by 259 per cent over a 30-year period stretching from 1990 to 2019 and by 37 per cent over the 2010-19 decade.
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The military sources said that Pakistan spends $9,000 per solider, India $18,000, Turkey $37,000, China $70,000, Saudi Arabia $360,000 while the United States allocates $425,000 per solider annually. The difference, however, between Pakistan and other countries is that the size of their economies is far bigger than Pakistan.
Meanwhile, a closer look at the budget details revealed that Rs1,289 billion figure does not include Rs369 billion allocated for pensions of retired military personnel and Rs324 billion for the armed forces development programme.
According to the budget document 2020-21, of Rs1,289 billion, Rs475 billion has been allocated for employees-related expenses, Rs301 billion for operating expenses, Rs357 billion for local purchases and import of arms and ammunition and Rs155 billion for civil works.
The defence spending has always been the subject of discussions with some seeking greater transparency and open debate about the military’s budget.
In recent years, the government provided more details about the defence budget. However, there has never been an open debate in parliament on the subject.
Apart from fighting militancy, Pakistan’s defence spending is Indian centric given the animosity between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.