Defence anxieties

Published March 2, 2015
A batch of JF-17 Thunder Aircraft being received during the Induction Ceremony of JF-17 Thunder held in the Combat Commanders School (CCS) of Pakistan Air Force in Islamabad on Monday, January 26, 2015. — PPI/file
A batch of JF-17 Thunder Aircraft being received during the Induction Ceremony of JF-17 Thunder held in the Combat Commanders School (CCS) of Pakistan Air Force in Islamabad on Monday, January 26, 2015. — PPI/file

First, the bad news. The Indian defence budget is set to hit a record high of $40bn. That compares with a basic and Pakistani military budget of roughly $7bn.

Moreover, a good chunk of the Indian military budget has been set aside for capital acquisitions, ostensibly to try and keep up with rapid Chinese military expansion – though the security establishment here believes many of the items on the Indian military wish list are there with an intention of increasing its war capabilities against Pakistan.

Now, to the somewhat better news. In percentage terms, the increase in the defence budget is lower than the current Indian fiscal year (April-March).

Take a look: ‘Pakistan’s defence spending lowest in region’

Military expenditure as a percentage of GDP is below two per cent and dropped further this year. And the latest budget suggests, according to Indian defence analysts, that the Narendra Modi-led government has decided to move more slowly than expected in meeting the demands of the Indian security establishment.

There are two aspects here that are particularly worth bearing in mind, one for Pakistan, the other for India.

For Pakistan, the thought of the Indian military pulling out of sight in conventional terms can be an uncomfortable – possibly, unacceptable – one. However, not everything the hawks here perceive is necessarily true.

Consider that while the Indian defence budget is set to cross $40bn, the Chinese defence budget is roughly four times larger.

India also has to compete for control in the Indian Ocean, a formidably expensive proposition.

Moreover, the Indian military’s modernisation project has come after years of under-investment – so the punch it can pack may not be as big as the $40bn figure suggests.

The Pakistani security establishment is right to closely track Indian defence spending because India remains, in terms of its military capabilities, the principal threat to Pakistan’s security. But a rational, logical perspective is really what is needed rather than the wild conjecturing in some hawkish quarters.

For India, there should be a realisation that goes beyond the plain numbers: the further away it pulls from Pakistan in the conventional field, the more it will create pressure on Pakistan to perhaps lower the nuclear threshold to stave off the threat of conflict.

Simply, much as some in India would like to separate the question of competing with China from the need to manage risk with Pakistan, the overall Indian military capability will send a message in both directions. Stability will only come from advancing dialogue with Pakistan.

Published in Dawn March 2nd , 2015

On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play

Opinion

Editorial

Fleeting good news
Updated 03 Dec, 2022

Fleeting good news

Indeed, there is no other option to get out of the economic mess we have created in the last few years.
Battle for spoils
03 Dec, 2022

Battle for spoils

THE spectacle playing out inside a London courtroom shines a light on the struggle for control of the assets of the...
CM Bizenjo’s complaint
03 Dec, 2022

CM Bizenjo’s complaint

BALOCHISTAN Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo’s claim that his province is facing a financial crunch due to ...
Wayward ideology
02 Dec, 2022

Wayward ideology

Anyone who claims his legacy for themselves should not treat his words so whimsically.
Progressive stance
02 Dec, 2022

Progressive stance

THE timing of two encouraging developments in the fight against domestic violence in Pakistan could not have been...
China Covid protests
02 Dec, 2022

China Covid protests

PUBLIC protests are rare in China where the People’s Republic maintains order through a strict authoritarian code...