Pakistan-India Defence Spending A Relentless Widening of Disparity

Written By: Dr. Farrukh Saleem

National power is the “sum of all resources available to a nation in the pursuit of national objectives.” There are three natural determinants – population, geography and natural resources – and five social determinants – military, economic, political, psychological and informational – of national power. To be certain, one element alone cannot determine national power – it is the sum of all eight.

Having said that, “the ultimate yardstick of national power is military power.” Countries around the world allocate national resources to their military organizations for these organizations to evolve specific war-fighting capabilities enabling their “leaders to impose their will on enemies, existing and potential.”

There is no single measure of military power. Governments provide ‘resources’ to their military establishments and the establishments are then required to convert those ‘resources’ into “effective military power”.

National resources fall in four broad categories: financial, human, physical and technological. As far as human resources are concerned, the two factors that really count are the “size and quality of military manpower”.



Yes, sheer numbers are important but in this day and age what is even more important are three qualitative measures: the “educational levels of the officer corps”; the “educational levels of the enlisted ranks”; and the “levels of technical proficiency demanded of the recruiting base”. Under physical resources, it is the overall military infrastructure that includes: military facilities that “house military personnel and their equipment; bases and installation; number and quality of test ranges; medical facilities; level of protection provided to military assets; command, control and communication; munitions; petroleum, oil and lubricants; and the defence industrial base.” Next; ‘war-fighting inventory and support’. Yes, the number of infantry weapons is important and so is the number of explosives, rockets, missile systems, utility vehicles, air defence and engineering support.

Yes, the number and quality of naval ships is important and so is the number of submarines, electronic warfare, weapon systems, frigates, destroyers, corvettes, naval satellites and the number of exercises.

In 1988, India’s defence budget stood at $16.7 billion (in constant 2010). By 2011, India’s defence allocation had shot up to $44.2 billion (in constant 2010). In 1988, Pakistan’s defence budget stood at $3.6 billion (in constant 2010). By 2011, Pakistan’s defence allocation had gone up to $5.6 billion (in constant 2010).

As per records kept by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), “India remains the biggest buyer of arms in the world… Indian imports of major weapons rose by 111 percent in the last five years”.

Why is India accumulating tanks, for instance? Here’s India’s land boundaries: Bangladesh 4,053km, Bhutan 605km, Burma 1,463km, China 3,380km, Nepal 1,690km, Pakistan 2,912km. After all, tanks cannot run over the Himalayas.

According to a report by Stratfor, the Texas-based private intelligence agency, “China has been seen as a threat to India, and simplistic models show them to be potential rivals. In fact, however, China and India might as well be on different planets. Their entire frontier runs through the highest elevations of the Himalayas. It would be impossible for a substantial army to fight its way through the few passes that exist, and it would be utterly impossible for either country to sustain an army there in the long term. The two countries are irrevocably walled off from each other. Ideally, New Delhi wants to see a Pakistan that is fragmented, or at least able to be controlled. Toward this end, it will work with any power that has a common interest and has no interest in invading India.”

As far as military spending is concerned, the balance has always tipped in favour of India but over the years Pakistan still managed to meek out marginal budgetary enhancements.

Over the years, Pakistan’s military establishment has tactfully and efficiently converted allocated resources into “effective military power”. Red Alert: Pakistan’s military spending as a percentage of GDP has been steadily declining.

Red Alert: Since 2003, there has been a definitive, relentless widening of disparity in military spending. “War does not determine who is right – only who is left” – Bertrand Russell

P.S. This analysis uses Rand Corporation’s “Measuring military capability” as a guide.

The writer is an analyst who regularly contributes for national and international print and electronic media. Twitter: @SaleemFarrukh
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