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A Probing Debate on Defense & Defense Budget

12 June, 2012

By Momina Ashier


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A significant increase in the recent Pakistani defense budget is greatly in focus. The argument raised by various groups of society criticizes the leadership approach towards the model of guns and butter. If we scrutinize defense budgets of other states, a striking increase in the defense budgets can be seen all around the world due to an increase in traditional and non-traditional security concerns. Over the last decade there has been a rapid increase in the military expenditures of almost all countries. Though government spending is being cut across the globe, military spending is staying remarkably firm. The cost of warfare has increased especially since the early modern period. Although the growth of welfare states in the twenty first century has forced disparity between "guns and butter," but usually the states spending choices do not remain competing rather remains complementary.

The world's countries spent $1.7tn on their militaries last year, according to new figures published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). It's barely changed from the year before, masking decreases in the west countered by big increases in China, Russia and some Middle Eastern countries. The key numbers show that the US remains by far the biggest military spender, with a defense budget of $711bn last year. It's followed by China, which spent an estimated $143bn on its armed forces in 2011. China has increased its military spending by 170% in real terms since 2002. The leading research body says Russia spent nearly $72bn on arms last year, overtaking Britain ($62.7bn) and France ($62.5bn). Russia is planning further increases, with draft budgets showing a 53% rise in real terms up to 2014. India has increased military spending by 66% since 2002. Vietnam has increased military spending by 82% since 2003, and has invested heavily in its navy in recent years. The global economic crisis is having little impact on world military spending and a clear increase in military expenditures of many states is evident. Hence the countries who are not meeting this race can be seriously vulnerable to threats from their adversaries but the quest to seek security obviously does not end merely upon big defense budget.

Pakistani officials have announced an evident increase in defense spending for the fiscal year 2012-2013; the national defense budget has been increased by around 10 percent to Rs. 545 billion this year. Hence an increase of Rs. 35.207 billion has been made in the defense budget over the revised estimates of Rs. 510.179 billion during the year 2010-11. However it has been stated that Pakistan may be spending Rs. 913 billion or 31% of next year's Rs. 2.96 trillion budgets on defense. The point which is adding criticism over defense budget is that for the next fiscal, the government has budgeted receiving Rs150 billion from the US on account of CSF reimbursements and, according to an arrangement between the military and the civilian leadership, as much as 60% of the CSF reimbursements would be given to the military.

By that account, the military will get Rs90 billion next year, provided, of course, that the US reimburses the outstanding amount. The United Nations, meanwhile, will provide Rs30 billion next year on account of services fee for Pakistani forces taking part in peacekeeping missions under the UN flag. The government has also allocated Rs98 billion for military pensions, according to the budget documents. Pakistan has expressed its traditional concerns which demands increase in its defense budget. Once in an international conference, held in Washington, When an American diplomat stressed the need to cut the defense budget, Saeed Ahmad Qureshi, a former federal finance secretary stated that "Our defense budget is not made in Islamabad but in New Delhi; to reduce defense expenses, the Americans should push Indians to reduce their defense budget."

If we compare Pakistan's defense budget with India, Indian defense outlay for 2012-113 is $42 billion while Pakistan's defense budget is less than $ 6 billion. It is also to note that Pakistan Defense budget is progressively decreasing for last 10 years as opposed to India's rise in the same field. The hike in India's military budget thus gives the wrong message to its neighbors and perpetuates tensions in South Asia. The neighbors' concerns are not baseless, because India is not on the best of terms with them, and it has a history of military conflicts with Pakistan. Analyst shows concern that this hike in the Indian defense budget is certainly a food for thought for those who eagerly engage themselves in propaganda campaign against Pakistan's defense budget. Pakistan does not want to indulge in an arms race, but India's military preparations cannot be ignored, especially when it is busy stirring trouble wherever it can, particularly in Baluchistan, to which it was given access by the USA through Afghanistan. Hence on one hand it seems imperative that if Pakistan was to increase its defense expenditure this year, it would be justified. If the nation feels glad over successful test weapon than obviously there should be no tears over the money they spent.

It is true that in contemporary anarchic world, a striking defense budget is necessary but it is obviously one side of the picture because merely a hike in defense budget cannot ensure the defense of a state. The state security demands good governance, fair leadership in every institution and a steadfast bureaucracy. Lack of governance, employment policy, education, agriculture, health facilities, industries, electricity, justice, patriotism, economic stability and political stability certainly endanger the security of the state. However it is not the military but the government to provide all these to its people. It has been argued by many that the reason behind this generous defense budget is to seek military's compassion for government, an argument which should be seriously answered so the people should know that what is happening with taxpayers' money. It is mocking truth that political parties are all about politics but no politics should be played with defense budget.

Various international threats and the lack of international cooperation will ensure that military spending will remain the main contender to social expenditures. However, it is not likely that military spending should be displaced as a major spending item in national budgets. No doubt Pakistan is facing many traditional and non-traditional security challenges at this time and our Armed forces are at front position to face these challenges. Pakistan already has very limited resources so the available resources should be used shrewdly. Our government and military both are responsible for eliminating corruption so should do best use of allocated funds. Hence ideally, every institution should be uncontaminated enough to face any transparency if anyone insists to function it.

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