India is a part of the club of the biggest military spenders in 2017 as the government has enhanced the operational capability of its armed forces due to tensions with Pakistan and China. India is at the fifth spot, after the USA, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia. The five countries together account for 60% of the total global military spending. The global military expenditure rose to $1,739 billion in 2017 which is a marginal increase of 1.1% from 2016.
The defence spending of the country has grown in the last decade for a number of reasons which include a mounting salary bill for about 1.4 million serving personnel and pensions for more than 2 million veterans. In addition to projects worth billions of dollars, there are bills for new combat jets, warships, helicopters, artillery guns and infantry weapons which help enhance capabilities. The amount spent by India in 2017 stood at $63.9 billion in 2017, which is a 5.5% increase from 2016, when it was at the sixth spot. India’s spending was higher than that of France which was $57.8 billion, UK which was $47.2 billion and Germany which was at $44.3 billion. Due to the growing tensions between China and its neighbors, there has been a growth in military spending in Asia.
When it comes to global defence spending, China is the second largest spender and has an estimated spend of $228 billion in 2017. China’s spending as a share of global military expenditure rose from 5.8% in 2008 to 13% in 2017. The spending also accounted for 48% of the Asian total which was 3.6 times that of India.
Uday Bhaskar, Director of Society for Policy Studies started that these figures could be misleading. India is spending a small amount on defence if the budget is measured against the GDP of the country. He added that the military spending of the country is insufficient given the nature of challenges India has to deal with.
In March, the vice chief of Indian Army, Lt Gen Sarath Chand told a parliamentary panel that only 14% of the budget goes towards military modernization and 63% is spent on salaries. India was one of the six countries out of top 15 military spenders that made an increase of more than 30% in the military spending from 2008 to 2017. This list has remained consistent over the years, being dominated by the US and China which spent $610 billion and $228 billion respectively in 2017. The balance of military spending is moving towards Asia, Oceania and Middle East, which is driven by spending increases in India, China and Saudi Arabia.
India allotted Rs 2.95 lakh crore towards military spending during 2018-19 as compared to the budget of last year which stood at Rs 2.74 lakh crore. The budget has breached its R4-lakh-crore mark after factoring the in defence pensions. In the current year, the budget slipped to 1.57% of the GDP. India was the largest weapons importer in the world in the last five years and arms exported by the US to India since 2013 to 2017 showed a 557% jump as compared to the period of 2008 to 2012.
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