LONDON: The size of Britain's military budget is set to be surpassed by India's in the next few years, a development that would see the United Kingdom spend less on defense than its former colonial subject, a defense analysis firm said on Wednesday.

HIS Jane's said that projections show that Britain — once No. 4 in terms of global military spending — had fallen into fifth place behind Russia this year and is due to slip into sixth place behind in India in 2017.

“The UK's standing is not a strong as the public perceive it to be”, Ben Moores, an IHS Jane's analyst, said in a statement. Britain, like many other European nations, has cut defense spending in a bid to deal with burdensome debts even as developing nations boost their military budgets to catch up with Western powers.

The Sun newspaper, Britain's top-selling tabloid, said the figures make a mockery of UK leader David Cameron's recent assurances to the military that, “we have the fourth largest budget in the world and we have some of the finest armed forces in the world. While I'm prime minister that is the way it will always stay”.

In a statement, Britain's Ministry of Defence disputed some of Jane's figures and described the prediction that India would soon overtake its former imperial master as “baseless speculation”.

But independent analysis of budgets, growth forecasts, and inflation figures suggests that Jane's prediction was well founded, according to Samuel Perlo-Freeman, whose Stockholm International Peace Research Institute tracks governments' defense spending.

Perlo-Freeman confirmed that Britain had fallen behind Russia, and said his analysis showed that India's defense budget — now pegged at $46.9 billion compared to the $49.3bn projected for Britain in 2015-16 — would only have to grow by about 6 per cent in nominal dollar terms to overtake that of its former ruler.

“Given that they have projected real GDP growth rates (from the IMF) of 5.7 per cent this year, 6.3 per cent next year, and 6.6 per cent in 2015, this would seem fairly likely,” he said in an email.—AP