National and International Issues

Pakistan’s Defense Expenditures: Debunking the Misconceptions

Pakistan Army is relentlessly vigilant in protecting the motherland from both internal as well as external challenges. The essence of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, unlike India, is that despite the decline in defense allocation as s percentage of GDP in the past few decades, in order to develop the non-defense sectors, it encompasses an unmatchable spirit of solidarity and a well-organized logistical and supply chain management, eveready to face the odds at all fronts.

Last year, the global economy produced goods and services worth $96 trillion. As per the 2022 Fact Sheet developed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the global military spending stood at $2,112 billion, or 2.2% of the global GDP. The same year, Pakistan produced goods and services worth Rs. 62 trillion and allocated Rs. 1,370 billion for defense, or 2.2% of the GDP.
Interestingly, the U.S. spent $801 billion on defense which amounts to nearly 40% of the global total defense expenditure. India’s defense expenditures, at a colossal $76 billion, amount to over 3.5% of the total global defense expenditure. Intriguingly, of the top 40 defense budgets in the world, SIPRI has placed Pakistan at number 23.
Interestingly, on March 9, 2020, Lebanon could not repay a $1.2 billion Eurobond. That day Lebanon defaulted, witnessing the first sovereign default in Lebanon’s 77-year history. That day, the Lebanese pound, officially pegged to the dollar, lost 40 percent of its value in the black market. On an average, a Lebanese soldier is paid 1.2 million Lebanese pounds a month, which is ‘$800 at the official exchange rate, but only about $80 on the black market.’ At $80 a month, soldiers are now living below the line of poverty. In June 2021, France hosted a virtual conference in order to gather donations for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). According to the French Ministry of Defense, “the crisis was alarming because the Lebanese military was the key institution in maintaining security.” The LAF highlighted “very specific needs for milk, flour, medicine, fuel and spare parts for maintenance.” Among the LAF, the main food donors are France, Egypt, the UAE and Turkey while Spain offered medical assistance.
As far as ‘annual expenditure per soldier’ is concerned, the United States spends $577,000 per soldier, which is the highest in the world, while Pakistan spends a mere $17,000 per soldier and still manages to maintain the ‘7th most powerful military’ in the world as per Global Firepower (GFP) Index. Amazingly, the Pakistan Army at a mere $17,000 per soldier has still managed to maintain a high morale and a strong sense of camaraderie among the personnel. Moreover, in addition to adequate training and preparation of personnel for their roles and responsibilities, Pakistan Army has an efficient logistical and supply chain management to ensure that resources are available when needed.
Next to the United States are Saudi Arabia, Israel, India and Iran, each spending $247,000, $118,000, $53,000 and $41,000, respectively.
India has allocated $76 billion for defense, becoming the third-largest defense spender in the world, after the United States with a defense budget of $801 billion and China with a budget of $293 billion. Over the past six years, India has jacked up its defense budget by more than 35% in dollars, while Pakistan’s defense budget has increased from $8 billion to $10 billion.
India has now set aside $19.64 billion to buy new weapons and platforms. The Indian Armed Forces, even at $76 billion a year, are faced with severe challenges of dealing with obsolete equipment, lack of adequate ammunition and over-reliance on foreign imports. A few years ago, a leaked letter from the country’s army chief stated that “India’s tank fleet lacks ammunition, its air defenses are 97% obsolete and its elite forces lack essential arms…” The letter further stated that “the state of the major fighting arms, i.e., mechanized forces, artillery, air defense, infantry and special forces, as well as the engineers and signals, is indeed alarming. The army’s entire tank fleet is devoid of critical ammunition to defeat the enemy tanks, while the air defense is 97% obsolete and it doesn’t give the deemed confidence to protect… from the air. The infantry is crippled with deficiencies and lacks night fighting equipment while the elite special forces are woefully short of essential weapons.” More recently, issues related to rampant corruption and internal discipline have also come to light.
For the record, since the 1960s, Pakistan’s defense allocation as a percentage of GDP has actually declined from 6.5% of GDP in the 1970s to the current 2.2% of the GDP. Typically, 16% of the yearly Pakistani budget is earmarked for the defense sector, while the remaining funds are allocated to the non-defense sectors.

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

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