NEW DELHI: India remains the third biggest military spender in the world, though far behind the US that spends more than 10 times and China almost four times its defence budget.
The total global military expenditure rose to $1,981 billion in 2020, an increase of 2.6% in real terms from 2019 despite the global gross domestic product contracting by 4.4% mainly due to the Covid pandemic’s economic impact, says the latest data released by global think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Monday.
“We can say with some certainty that the pandemic did not have a significant impact on global military spending in 2020. It remains to be seen whether countries will maintain this level of military spending through a second year of the pandemic,” said Dr Diego Lopes da Silva of SIPRI.
The 10 biggest military spenders were the US ($778 billion), China ($252 billion), India ($72.9 billion), Russia ($61.7 billion), UK ($59.2 billion), Saudi Arabia ($57.5 billion), Germany ($52.8 billion), France ($52.7%), Japan ($49.1 billion) and South Korea ($45.7 billion).
The top five together accounted for 62% of the global military expenditure. China’s military expenditure, in particular, grew for the 26th consecutive year, with its uninterrupted increase being the largest by far among the top 15 countries over the 2011-2020 decade. Pakistan ($10.3 billion), in turn, was ranked 23rdin the list.
India’s annual military expenditure, of course, includes a huge pension bill for 33-lakh million veterans and defence civilians. In the 2021-2022 defence budget, for instance, the pension bill was Rs 1.15 lakh crore out of the total Rs 4.78 lakh crore outlay.
India also has to maintain an over 15-lakh strong armed forces because of the two active and unresolved borders with China and Pakistan. Consequently, the revenue expenditure for the day-to-day running costs and salary bill in the defence budget by far outstrips the capital outlay for military modernization, leaving critical operational shortages on different fronts, ranging from fighters to submarines.
The continuing military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh, of course, has led India to make several emergency arms purchases from abroad since the crisis erupted in early-May last year.
SIPRI, on its part, said India’s defence expenditure can largely be attributed to its ongoing tensions with Pakistan over Kashmir and renewed border tensions with China. Then, there is also India’s “more general rivalry with China as the main regional power in Asia and Oceania”, it said.
With a weak domestic defence-industrial base, India of course continues to languish in the strategically-vulnerable position of being the world’s second-largest arms importer just behind Saudi Arabia. India accounted for 9.5% of the total global arms imports during 2016-2020.