Difficulties in analysing India-Pakistan defense Budgets?

by Abbas Adil

Pakistan Army says defence budget for 2022-23 decreases from 2.8per cent of the GDP to 2.2 per cent

India’s GDP ($2.95 trillion) for 2021 is while Pakistan’s is $347.743 billion. With Gross Domestic Product in trillions, India’s the volume of defence outlay becomes much greater than Pakistan’s. India’s GDP is behind that of the US ($22.9 trillion), China ($16.9 trillion), Japan ($5.1 trillion), Germany ($4.2 trillion), and the UK ($3.1 trillion) but ahead of France’s 2.94 trillion (International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, October 2021).

Pakistan’s defence outlay

India showcases its defence expenditure on web sites, but, Pakistan mentions thm in one line in the demands for grants. The legislators apathetic to knowing the details. The defence officials, including the defence secretary has in the past expressed keen desire to show any detail to legislators.

The parliamentarians lack the ability to scrutinise the budget. Budgetary analysis is a technical task which could be done only by qualified people in ministries. Lt Gen Attiqur Rehman in Our Defence Cause says: “In a democracy, the defence services belong to the people through their representatives in parliament. Thus, the people have the right to know what is going on, how their money is being spent, and how the defence services are being managed and administered. In fact, they have a right to know everything, except details of the actual war plans.”

Pakistan’s defence demands undergo a rigorous scrutiny by relevant parliamentary committees and audit bodies.  Legislators and MoD babus are properly briefed about need for provisions.  Whenever demanded, the details of the defence budget for the current, as well as for the coming, financial year were placed before the parliament.  Even the expenditure on Zarb-e-Azb appeared more than once in media.

Most legislators lack acumen to analyse numerical rigmarole.  So they themselves do not wish to be bothered with the job being done by competent professionals in various ministries and parliamentary committees.

Pakistan should separate expenditure of forces to defend China Pakistan Economic Corridor and key installations including parliament from normal demands for defence grants.

A bitter lesson of history is that only such states survived as were able to strike a balance between constraints of security and welfare. Garrison or warrior states vanished as if they never existed.

A common feature of all strong states had been that they had strong military and civil institutions, de jure capability to defend their territory and policies that favoured the citizenry rather than dominant classes — feudal lords, industrial robber barons and others.

No standard definition of India’s defence budget

Take military pensions. They are clubbed under provisions of “civil ministries”, or separately. Many provisions of quasi-military nature are excluded from the defence outlay. Examples of such provisions are border and strategic roads, public sector undertakings mentioned under the Defence ministry separately. The provisions in MoD have capital outlays. They are not classified under military expenditure of the three services. The The nuclear research  (bomb making) expenditure is not treated as a military expense.

After a tiff with China, considerable money was spent on infrastructure in Ladakh, and Arunachal Pradesh. This expenditure is of military nature. Presenting the Union Budget 2022-23 in Parliament on February 1st, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced, among many others, an increase in allocations for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by 9.8 percent to INR 5.25 trillion (USD 70.6 billion). The near double-digit rise in the defence allocation comes amidst India’s ongoing military stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh, which is yet to be diffused at the time of writing this article.

India has a vast array of para military forces like the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force. They are as good as the “regulars”. Expenditure on them is of military nature.  The para-military forces spare the “regulars” for other duties.

Military ambitions

At us prodding, India revised its maritime strategy in 2015 to “Ensuring Secure Seas”. The previous strategy was “Freedom to Use the Seas. To implement the new strategy, India built the

India took up the development of the Sittwe Port in Myanmar as part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project for building a multi-modal sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar through Sittwe. India upgraded its existing listening post in northern Madagascar. India has obtained access to the US naval base in Diego Garcia, and to the French naval bases in Mayotte and Reunion islands, besides the Australian naval base in Cocos (Keeling. Robert Kaplan, in his book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and Future of American Power, argues that the geopolitics of the twenty-first century will hinge on the Indian Ocean. Waters of the Indian Ocean reach 28 countries which together account for 35 percent of the world’s population and 19 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. Sixty per cent of the world’s oil shipments from the Gulf countries to China, Japan and other Asian countries pass through these waters which host 23 of the world’s busiest ports.

A US proxy

India is emerging as the US proxy against rising China, which is determined to surpass the USA in GDP by 2027. India is opposed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Besides, it uses its aid, trade and border contiguity to obstruct Chinese influence in Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

At India’s bidding, those countries toe the Indian line in SAARC and other international forums like G-20. In 2005, Washington expressed its intention to help India become a major world power in the 21st century (according to K. Alan Kronsstadt, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, 13 February 2007). It was later re-affirmed by Ambassador David Mulford in a US Embassy press in 2005. The USA’s resolve later translated into modification of domestic laws to facilitate export of sensitive military technology to India. The Nuclear Supplier Group also relaxed its controls to begin exports to India’s civilian nuclear reactor (enabling India to divert resources to military use).

Raj Mohan, Shyam Saran and several others point out that India follows Kautliya’s mandala (concentric, asymptotic and intersecting circles, inter-relationships) doctrine in foreign policy. It is akin to Henry Kissinger’s `spheres of influence’. According to this doctrine ‘all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies’. However, short-run policy should be based on common volatile, dynamic, mercurial interests, like the intersection of two sets.

Former Indian foreign secretary, Shyam Saran in his book How India Sees the World says, ‘Kautliyan [Chanakyan] template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.). It appears that Kautliya’s and Saran’s last-advised option is India’s first option, with regard to China and Pakistan, nowadays.

Raj Mohan elucidates India’s ambition, in terms of Kauliya’s mandala (inter-relationships), to emerge as South Asian hegemon in following words:

‘India’s grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighbourhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over actions of outside powers. In the second who encompasses the so-called extended neighbourhood, stretching across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great power, a key player in international peace and security. (C. Raja Mohan, India and the Balance of Power, Foreign Affairs July-August 2006).

Henry Kissinger views Indian ambitions in the following words: ‘Just as the early American leaders developed in the Monroe Doctrine concept for America’s special role in the Western Hemisphere, so India has established in practice a special positioning of the Indian Ocean region between the East Indies and the horn of Africa. Like Britain with respect to Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, India strives to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in this vast portion of the globe. Just as early American leaders did not seek approval of the countries of the Western Hemisphere with respect to the Monroe Doctrine, so Indian in the region of its special strategic interests conducts its policy on the basis of its own definition of a South Asian order’ (World Order, New York, Penguin Press, 2014).

ZbigniewBrzeszinsky takes note of India’s ambition to rival China thus: ‘Indian strategies speak openly of greater India exercising a dominant position in an area ranging from Iran to Thailand. India is also position itself to control the Indian Ocean militarily, its naval and air power programs point clearly in that direction as do politically guided efforts to establish for Indi strong positions, with geostrategic implications in adjoining Bangladesh and Burma (Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power).

With tacit US support, India is getting tougher with China. There was a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau near the Nathula Pass on the Sikkim border last year. Being at a disadvantage vis-à-vis India, China was compelled to resolve the stand-off through negotiations. China later developed high-altitude “electromagnetic catapult” rockets for its artillery units to liquidate the Indian advantage there, as also in Tibet Autonomous Region. China intends to mount a magnetically-propelled high-velocity rail-gun on its 055-class under-construction missile destroyer 055.

The Indian navy wants a 200-ship strong fleet by 2027. The Navy wants to procure six new conventional submarines and 111 Naval Utility Helicopters to replace the vintage fleet of Chetaks. The IAF wants to procure 114 new fighters besides the 36 Rafales ordered in 2015, still in process

Social cost of military spending: Back in 1996-97, British Labour Party Defence Study Group tried to highlight defence burden on public exchequer. In that report, they drew comparisons between the defence and social costs. For instance, £ 7,000 million cost of the Tornado multi-role combat aircraft project was more than the total cost of Britain’s health and personal social services projects for 1976-77. £ 16 million price of the Frigate Ambuscade could provide a new 50S-bed hospital in Bangor. The submarine Superb was more expensive than building 4,000 new homes.

Colossal expenditure on conventional weapons by a nuclear power is not understood. Nuclear deterrence does not mean matching bomb for bomb. India should carry out a similar cost-benefit study of its military expenditure.

Social cost of military expenditure: Miserable lifestyle

During COVID 19 surge people dumped the dead bodies of their kith and kin in rivers. They could not afford to buy costly wood to arrange a decent cremation.

Nearly half of India’s 1.2 billion people have no toilet at home. Yet more people own a mobile phone, according to the latest census data. Only 46.9 percent of the 246.6 million households have lavatories while 49.8% defecate in the open.

Most Indians don’t use toilet paper and consider it cleaner to  use other materials to wipe their bottom, such as newspapers, leaves and sand.Modi’s Clean India (Swach Bharat) remained a tall claim as most toilets disintegrated due to disuse or substandard quality. According to the health ministry’s 2012 Survey, of the 97.3 million toilets `built’, the ministry’s 2012 survey suggests that at least 27.64 million toilets are defunct.

According to India’s census of household amenities and assets, the majority of Indians have a miserable lifestyle.  The survey indicated that the Indian government’s priorities for ameliorating lot of the common man were wrong.  For instance, the government keeps fuming and fretting about the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) subsidy.  But, only about 18 percent of fortunate families use LPG as fuel in their everyday life.  Majority of the surveyed families used dung cakes, or firewood to cook. Only six per cent of the families have a car, with or without the LPG facility.

The survey further indicated: (a) Majority of the people are shelter-less and without any public-health cover.  About six people live in one house. There are 179 million residential houses.  Interestingly, `house’ means one room for about 40 per cent of Indian families.  As such, about 40 percent of married people do not enjoy the luxury of an independent sleeping room.  (b) Most `houses’, so called, are without toilets.  (c) Only half the population (52%) lives in `houses’ with walls and roofs.  The rest live shelter-less in the open air.  (d) Only 56 per cent of the `houses’ are blessed with electricity.    Even in the prosperous Punjab, four lakh households are without electricity. The survey negated the common impression that 100% households in Punjab had electricity.  Not a single state provides electricity to 100 per cent of its households.  The situation in Bihar is the most miserable.  There, only 10 per cent of Bihar state’s 14 million households get electricity, and the 90 per cent remain without it.

The survey found that only 38% families have water.  The tapped water supply, besides being erratic, is generally unhygienic.  Water is supplied for only a few hours, four hours at the most. About 62 per cent of the families, that is 118 million households; do not have access to drinking water at home.  In rural areas, about five million families still fetch drinking water from nearby ponds, tanks, rivers and springs.

One starling finding of the Survey was that the development expenditures were oriented towards the rich (urban areas).  This trend has perpetuated the rural urban divide.  The urban-rural divide is most pronounced when it comes to electricity supply. About 88 per cent families in urban ar­eas vis-à-vis 44 per cent in rural areas have access to electricity. Almost half of the rural `houses’ are still lit with kerosene.

Urban areas are better in fuel consumption also.  Over 22 million Indian families (12 per cent households) still cook under the sky.  But, 76 percent of urban households have separate kitchens in their homes. Whether or not there is a kitchen, firewood is still the most widely used fuel with over 52.5 per cent Indians depending on it.

Surprisingly, even 23 per cent urban families use firewood for cooking. About 10 per cent rural households use crop residue as fuel.   Besides, cow- dung cake as fuel is used by 9.8 per cent (The meager use of biogas, even in villages, reflects failure of the Indian government to promote biogas in villages).

About 23% urban families have phones as compared to only 4% rural families.  Cars are, practically, an anathema for the rural population.  As for urban families, only six per cent of the overall households surveyed have a car.  But, 13% of the Delhi-resident families have cars (highest average among the cities).

Majority of the Indians live in a Sahara of subhuman conditions.  There are oases of affluence, unnoticed and un-taxed by the government’s policy makers.  For instance, 11 per cent of Delhi’s 3.3 million houses are vacant. Gujarat has 14 per cent houses vacant.

For about a third of even urban Indian fami­lies, a house does not include a kitchen, a bathroom, and a toilet.  And, in many cases, no power and water sup­ply(Indian express dated February 9, 2004 .Figuring India Shining India?)

Take a look at these figures and feel not-so-good”) published the following pathetic profile of true India: “260 million people below poverty line,60 million of under four-year-olds are moderately or severely malnourished, 87 % women are anaemic,60 % children are anaemic,25 million are without shelter,171 million have no access to safe drinking water, 290 million adults are illiterate, 53 % of below five-year-olds are underweight, 4.4 doctors per 10,000 people (Source: Planning Commission)”.

Way out: Peace with neighbours: Pakistan’s founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah cherished the desire for lasting Indo-Pak peace even before creation of Pakistan. During his last days, The Quaid was perturbed at the Cold War rivalry emerging between the USA and the USSR.

The Quaid keenly desired that the subcontinent and all of South Asia should remain aloof from the rivalry. Therefore, he proposed a joint defence pact with India. Had India accepted his idea, the two countries would not have been at daggers drawn after independence.

Before his final flight (Aug 7, 1947) from Delhi to Pakistan, he sent a message to the Indian government, “the past must be buried and let us start as two independent sovereign states of Hindustan and Pakistan, I wish Hindustan prosperity and peace.” Vallabhbhai Patel replied from Delhi “the poison has been removed from the body of India. As for the Muslims, they have their roots, their sacred places and their centres here. I do not know what they can possibly do in Pakistan. It will not be long before they return to us.”

Even Nehru, an ostensibly liberal leader, regarded the creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rant against Pakistan reaches a crescendo in his remarks: “I shall not have that carbuncle on my back.” (D. H. Bhutani, The Future of Pakistan, page 14). Will India stop its worldwide defence purchases to open a new chapter in relations with Pakistan?

Concluding thoughts

India’s rising defence outlays ratchet up Pak defence allocations. Let India lower her expenditure first! It should be a leader to compel Pakistan to follow suit.  It must shun hegemonic designs.

Any analysis of India’s military expenditure should be based on actual Demands for Grants coupled with Explanatory Memoranda. The allocations concealed under civil ministries outlays should be ferreted out and added to military allocations. The successive increases are revised and then actual budget estimates should be taken into account.

The colossal increase in big brother’s military budget is untenable in light of its teeming millions living below the poverty line.

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