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Pakistan’s defence budget: An analysis

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Pakistan has reluctantly upped its defence budget for 2015-16 by 11 percent. Total defence outlay is Rs700. 2 billion as compared to Rs 627.2 billion allocated in the outgoing fiscal year, showing an increase of Rs 73 billion. The actual increase in defence expenditure is about 8% or Rs 63 billion when compared to the revised figures for 2014-15. Military had sought an increase of Rs 173 billion.
Pakistan’s spending on military is the lowest as compared to the countries from whom it perceives a military threat. Earlier India had hiked its military spending by 11 percent. This year, India is spending 47 trillion rupees ($40 billion) on upkeep end readiness of its armed forces. India’s budget is more than five times Pakistan’s defence spending. In real terms India upped its budget by US$ 5 billion, which is only $ 2 billion short of Pakistan’s total budget—it represents an acute asymmetry which leaves many Pakistani defence analysts worried, because India is already the world’s largest weapon importer. India is expected to spend $100 billion over a decade on its defence upgrade programme.
Out of Pakistan’s defence budget, Pakistan Army would get 48 per cent while 20 percent goes to Pakistan Air force, and Navy’s share is 10 percent. Of Rs 700.2 billion, Rs 293.5 billion have been allocated for employees related expenses, Rs 180.2 billion for operating expenses and Rs 152.8 billion have been earmarked for physical assets. In line with earlier practice, figure of Rs700. 2 billion does not include Rs 163.4 billion allocated for pensions of the military personnel that would be given from appropriate heads of the national budget. This practice is followed by most of the countries including India.
In addition, military would also be given Rs 165 billion under the contingent liability and Rs 85 billion under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). Summing up the direct and indirect allocations, in real terms Rs 1113 billion have been allocated for the military, which is about 28.2 percent of the country’s total budget. CSF is the reimbursement of the expenditure by Americans after it has been incurred by Pakistan’s military in support of Afghan conflict related military activities and services; hence this is more of book adjustment action than a material allocation for the year 2015-16.
An analysis of the defence budgets of previous years indicate that though during the preceding five years defence expenditure has almost doubled from around 350 billion in 2009-10 to Rs700 billion this year, the rate at which it has been increasing has continuously diminished. In 2009-10, government increased the defence budget by 21.46 per cent, which was reduced to 17.58 per cent in 2010-11. In 2011-12 the defence expenditure was upped by 14.73, which further dropped to 11.79 per cent in 2012-13. Given the internal security challenges much of the increase in this year’s defense budget by Pakistan is likely to be spent on the fight against militancy.

Pakistan has four immediate neighbours China, Iran, Afghanistan and India alongside a long coastline to its South. Pakistan has no threat from China and Iran, in the traditional domain, there is no history of unmanageable threat from the sea side as well. Militarily, Afghanistan becomes a country of concern as and when it houses extra-regional forces on one pretext or the other; and threat recedes in-terms of military value when foreign forces depart. However, Pakistan has a history of facing traditional threat from India in the form of use of or threat to use military force—resulting into three wars and numerous standoffs. This threat is of existential magnitude. And to make the matters worse, Pakistan-India relationship is perpetually on tenterhooks, ready to ignite on mildest pretext. On the outbreak of any crisis, first thing that happens is breakdown of communications, followed by rapid climb on escalatory ladder, by India, to a level just a rung or two below actual shooting level, from where neither further climb is tenable nor a graceful descent remains a viable option for India, hence ending up in prolonged stalemates in the form of protracted deployment of militaries.
Pakistan strives for a sustainable equilibrium in the South Asia. Higher conventional military asymmetry between India and Pakistan is one of the most serious threats to South Asian security. Indian actions and intent that radiate, aggravate and substantiate traditional threat are: India has a numerical advantage in personnel and inventory that varies between 1:3 and 1:5 in favour of India; Indian defence budget is more than five times the Pakistani defence budget and its robust economic growth supports such spending, thus creating dilemmas for Pakistan.
India has an inclination to embrace dangerous doctrinal concepts. Ideas of limited warfare under nuclear overhang, Cold Start Doctrine or Proactive operations and massive retaliation indicate provocative mind-set of Indian military command. Ongoing massive force modernization and conventional arms build-up by India is estimated to cost 120 billion spread over 10 years, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Fact Sheet released in March 2014 reveals that India was the world’s largest importer of major conventional weapons between 2008–13. India’s imports of major arms increased by 111 per cent between 2004–2008 and 2009–13, making it the world’s largest importer. Its imports were 14 per cent of the global total—almost three times larger than those of China and Pakistan.
During 2009–13 India invested heavily in air-strike capabilities; received 90 of 222 Su-30MKI combat aircraft ordered from Russia. It also received 27 of a total of 45 MiG-29K combat aircraft for use on aircraft carriers. India has 62 Russian MiG-29SMT, 49 French Mirage 2000-5 and 36 French Rafael combat aircraft on order. During the next fiscal year, it is contemplating to order, 126 combat air-craft, 15 Apache attack helicopters, 22 CH-47F Chinook medium lift helicopters, 197 light helicopters and 145 Ultra-light Howitzers. Ongoing integrated missile development programme is being given capability enhancement related tasks. Moreover, exclusive capabilities like nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, and long range military air transport aircraft are under procurement. Cyber and space programmes are receiving focused attention. An anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system is undergoing operational trials. India also aspires for achieving a potent Space Warfare capability by positioning its weapons and command and control centres in the outer Space.
By declaring China its principal enemy, India has forestalled the possibility of bilateral arms control and arms reduction arrangements between Pakistan and India. Indian Military capability put together on the pretext of China could be unleashed entirely against Pakistan, on as required basis. Over 80 percent of Indian arsenal is Pakistan specific and nearly 90 percent of its military command and control structures are Pakistan oriented. Despite its irrelevance to the conflict resolution, India continues its wheeling dealing for strategic foothold in Afghanistan, broadly focused to marginalize Pakistan’s influence. Its usage of Afghan territory for disruptive activities in FATA, Baluchistan and urban centres throughout Pakistan is an open secret.
Due to a smaller economy Pakistan does not wish to match India weapon by weapon. Pakistan has proposed a Strategic Constraints Regime seeking mutual agreement on reduction of conventional forces and not deploying ABM systems etc. Apparently India is not interested in lowering the tensions, recent statements by Indiana minsters indicate that India has embarked on a well calculated anti-Pakistan policy.
Under the circumstances Pakistan is under compulsion to maintain an increasingly expensive military capability to deter India from any misadventure. In this context, modest hike in Pakistan’s defence budget stands justified; even though Pakistan would like to reduce its military spending and divert the funding for social sector development. Unfortunately key to defence spending cut is with India and not Pakistan.

 [A variant of  this article was carried by The Nation on June 08, 2015.]

Disclaimer:  Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.


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