Defense spending directly reflects upon a country’s offensive, defensive including defensive-offensive potential capability. It is an indirect way of estimating a country’s intent, largely political in nature, in terms of near and mid-term political goals. Clausewitz’s approach that ‘war is a mere continuation of policy by other means’ has a relevancy with increasing trended index towards military spending by great and major powers including those who are aspiring to join the major powers’ club, if not great power inter alia India.
It can, thus, be conveniently deduced from the defence spending data that a strong military in tangible gives it an edge in political realm as a real political instrument or in other words ‘continuation of political commerce’ with an ability to exercise it directly or indirectly.
Notwithstanding, there is always a continued need to carry out a realistic comparison of the defence spending between countries who have been rubbing their shoulders with respect to their strategic interests or foreign policy objectives in terms of extending their regions (area) of influence so as to have an assured kind of access to the resources while keeping an eye on the political economies besides retaining their status of global powers.
One will hesitate to deny that it is truly a realpolitik era where no morality exists but a game of survival for the weaker states while the stronger states seek assured strategic interests and extension of their power. The article in hand is an effort to carry out a brief but reality-based analysis of the defense spending by the top ten states besides Pakistan so as to keep an account of what is going to unfold on the near-, mid- and long-term strategic canvas. The defence spending comparison can also be used to ascertain the geopolitical and strategic reasons which prompted the states to maintain their leading defense spending.
Comparison – Global Defense Spending (2019-20)
A bird’s-eye view of the defense spending during 2019-20, reveals that it has been increased overall by almost 2.6% and costed 1981 billion USD as compared to 2018-19. It is the highest since 1988 as revealed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) fact sheet. Besides that, global military spending vis-à-vis global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) indicated a rise by 0.2 points mainly because of the severe impact on global economics caused due to the COVID-19 pandemic that brought the economic activities to almost a grinding halt during the covered period. As per the SIPRI fact sheet of 2020, the military spending comparison is tabulated below (table 1).
Analytical Conclusions. From the matrix, as quoted by SIPRI, following can be concluded:
Pakistan’s Defense Spending Vis-à-vis Security Challenges
Foregoing the above listed analytical conclusions, Pakistan maintained its position at number 23 among the global defense spending of countries, despite the fact that it maintains the 6th largest armed force in the world for the obvious security compulsions. It has a meager defense spending i.e., merely 10.4 billion USD. Although, its defense budget has been increased by 55% from 2011-20, yet it is nothing vis-à-vis its staunch enemy India which poses a perpetual natured threat to its existence.
Although the world at large has widely appreciated Pakistan Armed Forces’ performance in fighting Global War on Terror (GWoT), during the tenure from 2011-20, it has paid a heavy price in terms of soldiers’ martyrdoms, economy and huge expenditure to detect and neutralize an unseen enemy.
From the above debate, it has been clearly identified that the top ten defense spending states have opted for heavy defense spending primarily for two reasons: one, for addressing the security issues and threat to their existence; and two, for status at the global level. Pakistan fits in the first category i.e., primarily for the sake of securing its existence. Yet, the defense budget of Pakistan is on the extreme lower side, in spite of the fact that it is surrounded by quite a few hostile neighbours as well as the extra regional forces in and around the Indian Ocean. Particularly India which has still not accepted Pakistan’s creation and is maintaining a stubborn approach towards resolving territorial border disputes with Pakistan. Besides immediate neighbors, another noteworthy fact is that Israel entered into top 15 defense spending states’ club which has strong defense and ideological ties with India.
Challenging Reasons for an Increase in Pakistan’s Defense Budget Between 2011-20
As per the SIPRI fact sheet of 2020, there has been an increase of about 55% in Pakistan’s defense spending over the last decade. The apparent increase in the defense spending over the decade of 2011-20 happens to be primarily for multiple challenging reasons: one, engagement in GWoT which costed heavily on its equipment and needed either an upgrade or replacement in order to maintain battle worthiness in case conventional war is initiated along its eastern border; two, to fence the western borders along Iran and Afghanistan to permanently restrict cross-border movement of terrorists which used to be porous and traversed through extremely difficult terrain; three, the Indian side heavily invested in Afghanistan (to an extent in Iran also) to fund the terrorists to carry out terrorist activities inside Pakistan that created a kind of two-front war scenario; four, maintain a strategic balance in terms of strategic counter-force and counter-value target engagement capabilities besides having an assured second strike capability; five, securing Balochistan by raising an additional Frontier Constabulary Division in Southern Balochistan for checking the infiltration of anti-state elements, for instance, capturing of a serving RAW officer from Indian Navy who masterminded terrorist activities in Sindh and Balochistan, neutralize smuggling in the Balochistan and KP areas which had severe negative impact on Pakistan’s economy; and lastly, to ensure viability of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor by providing security to goods carriers plying between China and Gwadar Port.
Why Pakistan Has a Relatively Less Defense Budget Vis-à-vis Especially India (2019-20)?
Pakistan is a rational actor and has no ambitions for expanding its territorial boundaries. It believes in peaceful, friendly coexistence. Its defense spending is purely for the defensive purposes primarily against India – a regional hegemon which is not only detrimental to its physical borders but to ideological foundations as well – and thus, needs to have and maintain potent and viable armed forces. There are plenty of strong reasons which support the logic behind maintaining the world’s 6th largest armed force with minimal resources and expenditures.
First, Pakistan Armed Forces are a true reflection of being a national army, air force and navy, maintaining a strong deep-rooted respect among the masses. Its leadership strongly believes in austerity with no extra burden on the national exchequer. Similarly, the political government equally recognizes the security needs vis-à-vis threats being confronted. Thus, the two institutions work closely to ensure the motherland’s security demands and provisioning of resources. No side has ever been at odds with each other over defense budget. For instance, due to the COVID-19 affected economy, armed forces declined to have even a meager pay rise since 2018.
Two, Pakistan has strong trust and belief in its Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) derived from its strategic assets. It clearly reflects upon the state-of-the-art development, maintenance and most importantly security of its strategic arsenal besides related material. On the other hand, in India a recent catch of enriched Uranium worth millions and weighing about 7 kgs tells the story about the kind of nuclear security they have been championing across the globe. It is a slap on the Indian nuclear security framework. Whereas Pakistan maintains a robust nuclear safety and security infrastructure with utmost accounting procedure of every gram of radioactive material based on the concept of ‘Cradle to Grave’. Pakistan’s defense budget plays a major role in maintaining its stature of being a potent nuclear weapons state.
Three, as once rightly said by the former Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Pakistan’s military leadership is known to have studied its enemy, India, from day one of their professional careers. Without getting complacent to their professional expertise, all likely contingencies and counter moves have carefully been worked out and war gamed. Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division is also determined to maintain Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD) to counter the possibility of any Indian military adventure which misperceives to have an opportunity below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold, though ambiguous. Yet, the Indian adventure in February 2019 along the Line of Control (LoC) and its doctrine of Cold Start besides an indirect strategy reflects upon Indian military planners’ thinking. Hence, if the Indian side opts for a limited conventional war under the nuclear overhang, Pakistan’s military stands tall to address it across the length and breadth of its land, sea and air boundaries.
Four, Pakistan’s military strongly believes in hardened battle worthiness. Since 2004 to date, Pakistan Armed Forces have played their respective role in combatting war on terror. The soldiers and officers alike are fully trained to respond to any evolving and surprising situations. The performance has been excellent against an invisible enemy and it is expected that the battle performance will be substantially more plausible when pitched against a known enemy in a conventional conflict.
Pakistan Armed Forces bear a national character and draw their strength from the people. They are considerate of their national economy’s status which has further worsened due to COVID-19 the pandemic. Pakistan Armed Forces’ leadership believes in countering resource constraints by exponentially investing in their training and motivational standards. The constraints related to defense budget is thus not an issue for them, however, the rising trend at global and regional level is alarming. Peace has to be given a chance. Maintenan ce of peace is urged through dialogue and on equity basis. Earning peace by arm twisting and coercion should not be an option and must be curbed at all levels.
The writer is Pro-Vice Chancellor and faculty member at DHA Suffa University (DSU), Karachi. He is an expert on strategic and security issues and frequently writes for international and local journals, magazines and newspapers.
E-mail: [email protected]
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