Written By: Dr. Minhas Majeed Khan
Various myths about the defense budget of Pakistan have been created, not only at international forums but national as well, which need to be looked at from the perspective of its internal as well as external security challenges.
Concepts like state survival, security and national interest are termed to be some of the principal objectives of foreign policy of any country. National interest is the fundamental interest of a state, of which survival is the first and foremost interest. A state's independence and territorial integrity come above all other interests. Therefore, the supreme duty of the state is to preserve itself. If the state disappears, then no other interest remains. For survival, security, and securing its national interests, states increase their military might by spending more on defense. A country’s defense spending depends on different factors that include: war or the perceived risk of war, security environment such as military expenditure acquired by its neighbours keeping in view the relationship between the two neighbours; the impetus of the regional and international arms race; geo-strategic considerations; and the availability of economic resources.
The violent conflicts in different regions of the world help explain the one-year military spending growth in nearly all of the nations with the largest spending increases. For example, the apparent threats from Russia, which used its colossal military strength to annex Crimea in 2014, likely prompted Poland to increase its military spending. The Philippines is another example that swelled its military budget by over 25 percent due to territorial dispute and heightened tensions with China over the South China Sea. However, Sam Perlo-Freeman, Olawale Ismail and Solmirano, in their findings compiled in June 2010 in Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SPIRI) Yearbook, mention the U.S. to have led the rise in military spending along with other regions in these words:
“The USA led the rise [in military spending], but it was not alone. Of those countries for which data was available, 65% increased their military spending in real terms in 2009. The increase was particularly pronounced among larger economies, both developing and developed: 16 of the 19 states in the G20 saw real-terms increases in military spending in 2009.”
The general perception about Pakistan is that it has increased its military expenditure than other sectors over the years. However, as opposed to the general perception, the percentage of its GDP 'vis-à-vis' various challenges, Pakistan’s defense spending has remarkably declined. It is particularly so when viewed in the light of Pakistan Army’s additional responsibilities in recent years, like countering extremism and terrorism, and fighting separatists supported by foreign agencies besides many other challenges.
The current article assesses the defense expenditure of major powers including Pakistan. The numerical data for the purpose of this article has been collected from diverse sources with minor differences in numbers of the defense expenditure of the major powers. While scholars and thinkers debate on the lack of success in promoting strategic restraint among nuclear armed states, for example the relations between and among the U.S., China, Pakistan and India, whether on unilateral or bilateral or plurilateral basis.
Taking the case of the four nuclear states mentioned above, the reasons are long-standing conflicts, changing concepts of the national interest and its needs, prevalent mistrust among them, domestic pressures, and resentment toward foreign interference. But one factor that has been ignored is the strategic chain that links Pakistan to India, India to China, and China to the U.S. Pakistan is unlikely to restrict its nuclear programs unilaterally if India continues to build up its arsenal. Without Chinese restraint, India will be reluctant to limit its programs unilaterally or engage in bilateral controls with Pakistan that, according to India, would limit its options vis-à-vis China. And without U.S. constraints on capabilities of concern to China, Beijing may continue to resist curbing its strategic modernization efforts.
In this scenario, according to figures from 2016 in a report by SIPRI, the U.S. has the highest annual military expenditure. In 2016, it grew by 1.7 percent and reached $611 billion. China remains in second place, by increasing its military spending by 5.4 percent, or $215 billion. Russia ranks at number 3 in the world by increasing $ 5.9 percent in military spending, overtaking Saudi Arabia. The U.S. and China maintained their top positions and Europe presented a progression in military spending for the second consecutive year. India's military expenditure reached $55.9 billion in 2016, making it the fifth largest spender. The report showed the military spending to grow continuously in Asia and Oceania, Western, Central and Eastern Europe, in North America and in North Africa. At the same time, North America saw its first annual increase since 2010.
The countries perceived to be most powerful in the world, including Germany and UK also rank in the top 10 for military spending. The defense budget of UK after 9/11 has increased yearly, reaching £ 45 billion in 2011. Since then, the defense budget has remained steady at £ 44 – 45 billion per year. In terms of GDP, its defense spending from 2002 to 2009 was constant at about 2.65 – 2.70 percent of GDP. However, since the Great Recession, defense spending has been in steady decline, breaking below 2.4 percent GDP in 2016. The above figure illustrates the military spending of countries in billions in 2014.
Indo-U.S. strategic partnership has changed the balance of power in South Asia and has significant implications for Pakistan. While India and the U.S. are expressing their concerns about the longstanding Pakistan-China cooperation in important areas, such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan is also concerned about Indo-U.S. cooperation in areas like U.S.-India nuclear civil deal, which is also viewed with suspicions by many states in the region.
In case of the U.S., the current President, Donald Trump during his election campaigns asked the NATO members to allocate more budget to defense spending so as to help reduce international commitments of the U.S. However, he expressed that he would be willing to intensify the war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, which could be very expensive. According to the SIPRI report, more than 10 percent of the U.S. defense budget goes toward developing and testing products. Even if U.S. military spending was cut by 10 percent, it would still be more than double to China's military spending which is the second largest. According to the report when it comes to military spending per person and as a percentage of total government budget, the U.S. falls behind Israel that spends nearly $2,000 per person annually on defense, and Saudi Arabia where more than a quarter of government spending goes to defense. While the above figure shows the ranks and the defense budget of major powers in billions in 2016, it also mentions how India has increased its defense expenditure and was ranked at number 5 in the year 2016.
Various myths about the defense budget of Pakistan have been created, not only at international forums but national as well, which need to be looked at from the perspective of its internal as well as external security challenges. Certain quarters have been assessing Pakistan’s foreign and defense policy to be India centric, this scribe argues that it has to be India or any other country centric if there is a serious security threat from that country. The history of international relations unveils many states whose foreign policies revolved around those states that were a threat to their security and survival. For example, U.S. foreign policy may be called as Soviet Union centric during the Cold War and vice versa, and now it is China centric keeping in view the latter’s rapid rise as an economic giant. In a similar fashion, India’s foreign policy can be termed as Pakistan and China centric. One reason for this argument is Indian belligerent policy towards Pakistan since its independence as Pakistan has always been a victim of Indian ambitions for hegemony in the region and hence the threat perception is essentially India centric.
It is important to be aware of the reality that Pakistan is sandwiched between a hostile neighbour on its East (India) and neighbour on the West (Afghanistan) that relies more on India than on a its immediate neighbour. While the Indian threat has been there permanently, the border escalation with Afghanistan is also a concern. Therefore, it is understandable that Pakistan, in the wake of the recent mounting clashes with India and Afghanistan, may push for increase in its defense spending.
Unfortunately, Pakistan is struggling with its economy due to its partnership in the war on terror that brought not only a war that was not its own but also non-state international actors to its territory. The general perception about Pakistan is that it has increased its military expenditure than other sectors over the years. However, as opposed to the general perception, the percentage of its GDP 'vis-à-vis' various challenges, Pakistan’s defense spending has remarkably declined. It is particularly so when viewed in the light of Pakistan Army’s additional responsibilities in recent years, like countering extremism and terrorism, and fighting separatists supported by foreign agencies besides many other challenges.
Moreover, for operations like Zarb-e-Azb, Pakistan needs more funds to tackle the prevailing law and order and security situation within the country. Additionally, for nuclear development program, a continuous resource allocation is needed since Pakistan conducted nuclear test in response to India’s tests, or else India’s conventional superiority facilitated by nuclear weapons would have become an unacceptable threat to Pakistan. It is not Pakistan that will provoke India, keeping in view the asymmetric power situation besides India’s Cold Start Doctrine which means a precipitous strike by India against Pakistan in the event of a terrorist attack in India where it is India that decides whether or not it is sponsored by Pakistan or not. Moreover, Indo-U.S. strategic partnership has changed the balance of power in South Asia and has significant implications for Pakistan. While India and the U.S. are expressing their concerns about the longstanding Pakistan-China cooperation in important areas, such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan is also concerned about Indo-U.S. cooperation in areas like U.S.-India nuclear civil deal, which is also viewed with suspicions by many states in the region.
In view of the threat perception as discussed above, Pakistan’s defense budget is still the lowest in the region. The allocated defense budget for 2016-17 was increased by 11-percent from Rs. 775.8 billions to Rs. 860.1 billions. Out of the total budget, only Rs. 216 billion are earmarked for the operational expense whereas the rest of the amount goes into employee related expenditure and physical assets. Keeping in view the size and range of national security challenges faced by Pakistan over the last two decades, its defense spending as a percentage of its GDP is much less than other countries with lesser threat levels.
On the other hand, India has tremendously beefed up its defense expenditure over the years, which is, an increase from $11.8 billion in 2001 to $ 52 billions in 2016-17 – i.e., 2.25 percent of Indian GDP. That explains that India’s defense budget is much more keeping in view its larger GDP. The Indian defense budget is much more than the one mentioned above, as it does not include pension, border forces, nuclear warheads/missile development. It spends roughly 2.30 percent of GDP keeping in view that its GDP is much smaller than India. India is expected to spend a massive amount of $70 billion in the year 2020 on military power projection, leaving Pakistan more susceptible against the former, which is amassing and developing military prowess. The comparison between India and Pakistan is highlighted in a report by SIPRI that reveals that India outspends Pakistan on defense and China is outspending India. It is in this scenario that Pakistan-China strategic partnership is unnerving India.
India is desperately building and introducing aircraft carriers, Su-30MKI jets, artillery guns, stealth destroyers, stealth frigates, conventional and nuclear submarines, various offensive and defensive missile systems, military satellites, new mountain strike corps, attack helicopters and much more every year. Pakistan’s economy in comparison to India has serious size limitations; nevertheless, in wake of Indian designs and the arms race in the region, it will be imprudent of Pakistan not to develop a credible defense system to maintain its security and above all preserve its sovereignty. It is also pertinent to say that in order to preserve itself, Pakistan needs more funding for its security and to address the internal threats aided by foreign agencies and growing external pressures on its Eastern and Western borders. Another source, while compiling the defense spending of both India and Pakistan, compares the difference in the following figure.
To conclude, as indicated by Kamal Monnoo, “India is about to develop a nuclear missile shield, which will not be a defensive but an offensive deployment of radars and ballistic missiles designed and deployed to take down incoming missiles at a faraway distance; thus neutralizing Pakistan’s strategy of off-setting conventional warfare disadvantage by developing nuclear deterrence. With so much at stake, it is essential that Pakistan does not fall behind in securing its national defense. It is in this context one hopes that even if an increase in 2016-17 is not possible, at least the historic pace of rise in defense spending should continue at any cost.”
The writer is Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations at University of Peshawar, Pakistan.