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Pakistan, India Defense Budgets - A Wild Goose Chase

29 June, 2006

By Yasar Khalid


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In April 2006, when India announced it was raising its defense budget by 7 percent to $20.1 billion, or less than 2.5 percent of its gross

domestic product, Pakistan said it would amount to starting an arms race in the south Asian region. Instead of staying away from the arms race, Pakistan increased its defense budget for financial year 2007 by 12 percent to $4.1 billion, or more than 3 percent of its gross domestic product.

So the arms race continues.

The region of sub-continent, including bigger countries such as Pakistan and India, account for more than one-fifth of the world's population and almost one-sixth of the world's poor. The two countries spend meager amounts, only a fraction of their GDPs, on education, health, clean drinking water and social amenities. More than 30 percent of Pakistan's 160 million population lives in poverty, while about 20 percent of India's 1 billion population live below the poverty line. In such a situation, the two countries spending exorbitant parts of their resources on purchasing defense equipments and maintaining large armies appears unintelligent. Yet, the democratic government in India and military government in Pakistan continue to follow the anti-people policies.

In the June 5 budget speech, Minister of State for Finance Omar Ayub Khan said Pakistan needs to be alive to defense needs and, hence, came the increase in defense budget announcement. The government cites tension with India and defense budget hike by its neighbor as the reason for maintaining a high defense expenditure. Pakistan's proposed defense budget for financial year 2006-07 accounts for about one fifth of the total budget and is 20 times more than what the country plans to spend on education and health.

``Looking at the past, this army doesn't deserve such a big budget,'' said Khawaja Asif, an opposition MNA in the budget debate in the National Assembly. ``Every mother in Pakistan should give birth to a General, if the country wants to end poverty,'' said another opposition MNA sarcastically.

In yet another and extremely gruesome incident emanating from poverty, a young bearded man in Lahore killed his three daughters while they were sleeping and volunteered arrest. according to television and newspaper reports, the killer had no crminal background nor he was known for any kind of violent behaviour. Yet, he had the courage to commit the crime, and it was no simple crime. The reports said the killer was mentally upset because of of his ill-health and could not feed his daughters. Poverty is such a menace that it can cause unthinkable things to happen. Not that this is a first incident in Pakistan in which a father or a mother in extreme poverty killed their own children. Such incidents have happened before, but it goes on to illustrate that how urgent there is a need to address the poverty issue and the rulers have to drastically cut unnecessary expenditures to spend on poverty reducing measures.

Pakistan's army was not used to such blatant criticism in past. The fact that the army is being directly criticized is for two reasons. Firstly, its involvement in politics and governance and, secondly, because the defense budget is not open to scrutiny and debate in the parliament or parliamentary committees.

The army's involvement in politics dates back to 1950s to General Ayub Khan, the country's first Martial law administrator, and to date marks that fact that more than half of Pakistan's 58 years as an independent country, it has been ruled by the army. Since the 1950s the army through its different wings, particularly the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has been directly or indirectly guiding the political administration. The rule of General Pervez Musharraf has been the most blatant example of army penetrating into key political and bureaucratic positions. The army's-guided 2002 general elections, the political maneuvering that followed to install a Musharraf-favorable set up in the parliament, led to larger discontent among masses and the opposition.

Whether Pakistan needs to maintain a high defense budget after becoming a nuclear weapon state in 1999 is debatable. But since the army maintains it has achieved a deterrence by possessing nuclear weapons, the larger defense budget doesn't hold good in view of high poverty rate in the country.

The very fact that army is involved in politics, encourages opposition and the masses to criticize the defense budget. For instance in the 1990s when the military wasn't directly governing the country directly, the criticism on defense budget was negligible.

Secondly, the opposition parliamentarians want to debate and scrutinize the defense budget in the parliament. If Pakistan has a democratically elected government, as claimed by General Musharraf, and it has civilian leadership, there should be no problem with debating the budget. Every government expenditure is open to scrutiny in a democratic government. After all it is tax payers money, the army is using and Pakistan's tax payers have the right to ask where the money is being spent. The Generals are getting salaries, perks and privileges and allotment of residential and commercial land, the construction of high profile GHQ from the tax payers money.

An open debate on the defense budget, if not completely end, will at least lower the level of criticism and if the army has no skeletons to hide, they should open their accounts to public scrutiny.

If compared, the governments in India decide on raising the defense budget according to needs. Since India has a long history of democracy and their Generals never getting involved in politics, they somehow get away with the defense budget. Secondly, the Indian defense budget is debated in the parliament and the parliamentary committees, giving no room for criticism. Yet, Indian defense budget is criticized because of high poverty rate in that country and international donors and foreign countries demand from Indian governments to cut defense expenses and spend more on public.

Both Pakistan and India appear to be directionless as far as the defense expenditures are concerned. There seems no end to it. People of the two countries continue to suffer because these two countries want more weapons. Unless sanity prevails, there appear no end to this arms race.

 

End.

Reader Comments:

Why blame Army?

Everybody knows our position in the sub-continent, and also the India's behaviour in past - how it changes often at the angle of 180. Why MNA's blame army for such a huge reserved amount. Why not they cut off their own expenditures. why not they reduce their 'official' visits' expenditures., why do they require new cars every 6 months. why do they get huge amount in regards of their utility bills. why why why...

Aatif, Pakistan - 29 June, 2006

no comparison

The policy of spending billions of dollars on defence while ignoring the social sectors like healthcare, education etc. is certainly deplorable in both the countries. But the hard fact is that social upliftment of people below the poverty line is not as easy as simply allocating the required funds. Neither can the defence sector squarely be blamed for poor social indicators. In reality, both these sectors are independent of each other & need to be addressed separately.

In the context of India vis a vis Pakistan, Prsident Bush rightly said while in Pakistan that India & Pakistan are two separate countries with separate sizes, seperate histories & separate futures. Pakistan has this tendency of trying to outdo or atleast match India in whatever way it can & claim parity in all international forums vis a vis India. In the process, it is doing more harm to itself than to India. Sadly, Pakistan is doing exactly what the USSR did vis a vis the US during the cold war.

Karan Thapar, Hungary - 30 June, 2006

Both countries should slash their budgets.

India's main fear is from China. But while China is already on the way of becoming the next super power. It does not have any secret designs against India. China's entire energies are focused on its own security and protection from such countries as America or Japan. In this context, China is avoiding confrontation from all potential enemies. India is mired in poverty, misery, caste disparities and a false pride to pose itself superior to Pakistan. While China is ethnically one people, India has a class of untouchables with demography of 240-million wretched people who are a dead weight on the economy. The 150-million Muslims of India, too, are placed outside the country's mainstream economy. In these circumstances, India would always remain a distant weaker country compared to China. On the other hand, its military might could not do much harm to Pakistan if the latter country uses its wits and plays its cards wisely.
Pakistan had got a chance in the 1950s when it got massive military and economic aid from America. In fact it was the American military aid that emboldened Pakistan to have a brush in two wars. These wars had better been avoided. In its place, Pakistan could have played a more effective part against communism, as America's great ally. In the bargain it could have got its foreign debts waived. Even now, America can be freed from its tangle in Iraq and designs against Iran by Pakistan. America is using Israel as a buly to frighten Iraq and Saudi Arabia into submission and to use the regions vast energy reserves. We can recognize Israel and expose the vulnerability of Israel to the whole world by underscoring the point that Israelis are still in exile. They are, therefore, not allowed by a divine decree to create a military and political entity. Having done that in defiance to the divine decree, Israel is exposed to a cruel suffering from the heavens.
Pakistan holds strong cards in hand but it lacks the leadership to use them with skill. Take for instance Afghanistan and the central Asian republics. They all need democratization. Who can help them on this process better than Pakistan? But the brains of Chuadhries of Gujrat as well as of the Army are not that sharp. The field lies wide open and that is where the Press and the media come in the picture. They can inspire the youth to rise to the occasion and grab the opportunities beckoning them both at home and abroad. By recognizing Israel, we can get Israelis best brains working for us. If the Muslim "ummah" concedes the West Bank and whatever else Israelis ask for, they would still remain in exile, as before and those having arrived in Israel would jettison their political and military ambitions. The best course for them left would be to have a "safe haven" in Palestine with freedom for trade and commerce in the wider Arab world.
Pakistan should slash its military budget and invest heavily in education, health, sanitation, and ameliorating poverty.

(Revised).

Sher Mohammad.


Sher Mohammad, Pakistan - 01 July, 2006

different countries

china is superior in miltary than india. but that doesnt mean that china initiates war with india, it wants to be a superpower and a war with india will dent those ambitions. that is the beuty of globalization with which nations want to dominate others by competeing with larger share of economies. the more strong the economy is the more powerful the counntry.so naturally the countries with large economies will continue to raise their defence budjets. india is competing with china in economic fronts and by 2050 usa, china, india will be the superpowers dominating the worlds trade

kiran, Seychelles - 03 July, 2006

To Sher Mohammad

Sher
HOw many times you been you India?? you seem to be a expert on India I think. You mentioned that 150 millions muslims are placed outside the main economy!!!!!! Wow. You Pakistanis think that your country is like a heaven. You guys i.e muslims killing each other in your own country. Tell me where is your place in pakistani economy. Pakisrtani Economy!! well no one knows about pakistani economy and what people know aboout pakistan and its people is that you guys are fanatic muslims and going to opposite direction I.E Adams Century!!! You even can not control poverty when your population is just a fraction as compared to India. What do you know about poverty in china?? you think chinese people are living in a good conditions like people in westeren world. You are mistaken my dear. millions of chinese are still living in miserable conditions and in deep poverty. Any way we indians dont have any false pride indeed its very true. we are proud what we are. you dont need to woory about our caste or religious tensions. this is our internal matter. First look at your own bloody pakistan which is a failed state. I think youhave heard about it that pakistan is a failed state...

Cheers

Puneet, Aruba - 03 July, 2006

Introspection by Pakistanis is the need of the hour

I had responded to the article, but my response was not posted. I guess that well reasoned responses do not get posted whereas vitriol does. I would like to respond to Mr. Sher and his unintelligible response as well as counter the arguments made by the author. Contrary to Mr. Sher's assertion, India does not fear China, but rather it is apprehensive of it. China is in no position to repeat 1962 with India. In fact Vietnam gave it a bloody nose. China has recognized that trade with India is better that war and has proceeded to normalize relations with India. Its time Pakistan took a oage out of China's play book. Secondly, India may be have grinding, but Indians have arrived on the world stage. The impact factor of India and Indians can now be felt worldwide. From corporate board rooms to academic centers of excellence, from research to medicine, from cutting edge technology to back office services, from medicine to law the impact of Indians and India reverberates throughout the world. Included in these "Indians" are people from every religious, cultural, caste and ethnic group. Indians however know that we have a long way to go. However, this excitement is what every major world publication from Time to to NY Times to Foreign Affairs now senses in India. India does not have to feel a false sense of superiority in comparison to Pakistan because when India and Indians look in the rear view mirror, they see Pakistan way behind. The beauty is that changes have been brought about in India through democratic means- warts and all. We Indians in India and abroad need no approbation from Pakistan or Bangladesh or any of of the OIC countries. Its time for you to forget about India and try to make your country a developed country. The only thing that Mr. Sher has said that makes sense is that Pakistan should slash military budget and invest heavily in education, health, sanitation and ameliorating poverty.

Andy Iyer, Pakistan - 04 July, 2006

India Budget India Arming Themselves while 160 million Muslims Out Of Focus

What if whole India turned into Gujrat Massacre Bhopal chemical
Extermination Indian Occupied Kashmir with arrogance such
As Hindu educated class millionaires billionaire as being shown
culture song Shanai mehfil poetry colourful dances Bollywood rang
rangilla dhong party.sher Mohammed is absolutely right that
160 Million muslims have been left out of India economy India
housing India education India job India tour Travel India living condition
india social class .160 million muslims have been cornered who are indeed
will be on the verge of extermination.This is where India is heading and this
is likely will happen in not too distant future .This is strategy of those
who have refrained from using and allocating money on muslim population.
This is the India's surplus money piling up each year.Muslims have been
Denied food for health and strength .Hindus and others are fooling around
as kabadi kabadi kabadi flexing wealth muscle to day by day weakling
muslim Umma 160 million Muslims constitute as many in number as
in Bangladesh or as many in number as in Pakistan.Can India Muslims
Bangladeshis Pakistan imagine India 's gain is what muslim citizen's loss.
By force by defence budget by bragging insulting to not only Indian Muslims
But insulting to world Muslim Nations , India could project Mass Murder of
Muslims in India and Communal Riots at borders of India Pakistan.World muslim
Better Stop Trading with india until India Bush Blair Japan China Israel
Arabs and UN Rectify this problem at this early stage.I made a personal tour to
Evaluate the plight of 160 million Muslims who have been threatened
Towards inequality towards injustice in an unprecedented Move by Majority
Hindus of India What was once a college with a potential to become a Muslim
University now signs every where by Birla group – handicapped lower approach
Class college (shamelessly).


benz m Isphahani, India - 04 July, 2006

India is of all religions

I am a christian and I am proud of that I am an Indian and a citizen of a great nation. Here there is place for every religion. India's reachest person is Azim Hasan Premji and he is a muslim. You ask any Indian muslim and they will tell you wheather they are kept out side the Economy or not. There are some religious fanatic in India and they are there in both Hindu,Muslim and Christian and Sikh community.So they are in Every country also. For example take pakistan and being it a muslim country more people die in communal riot then in India and Iran and Iraq went to war because of religious reason.India is not a developed country but we have the confidence and Intelectual capability to be a developed nation by at least 2030.Now India's position in world GDP is fifthth and soon we will go to third position after US and china. Then we will try to move up from there also by decreasing our poverty ratio. India had a glorious past and the future India also will be glorious in world one day.

Sisir Nayak, Hungary - 05 July, 2006

To Sisir Nayak- Truth Please ! Prevention is Better Than Cure.

If India has 20 %( or less) Muslim Population with equal
Rights. It should reflect in all activities of India (within
Or outside).If even 5% Indian Muslim cannot be found
To be buying least expensive travel tickets or owning a
Least expensive basic house Or have a basic job of even
A driver clerk or own a descent shop of even lower
Quality then what is the use Of Azim Premji being one rich in 160,000,000? If united supervised (under certain religion
Group around the globe) Armed Indian Hindus, Buddhist,
Christians and Sikhs will be making 5,000,000 Jewish
Settlers style raid in Tiny Gaza Lands with Slogan
“Hand It Over” or “Be wiped out” along with UK Spain
USA or Canada or EU leaders' style Rhetoric to Muslim
1,279,000,000 as bad Alqaeda Muslims of incompetent
Hudood Law of Islam in which Rape=Zina, Circumcision
Of certain Ms Amana or injustice of certain Mukhtar
Begum's Rape then Muslims need to take possession of
Own land own resource own destiny right now. Filter out
Source of extermination forces spreading globally with armed
Thugs, Armed Settlers before they start slaying Muslims like
In Gujarat Bhopal Chemical Explosion.Prevention is better.


benz m Ispahani, India - 05 July, 2006

I think we can't and shouldn't compare these two countries. India is a huge country not only population wise but also geographical wise. This means more resources, more people with money and huge budget. First few lines of the article say it all. Indian defence budget 2.5% of its GDP equals to $20 billions whereas, Pakistan's 3% of its GDP comes to only $4.1 billions. Pakistan had nothing compare to what India had at the time of independence. Pakistan has only 30 million middle class while Indian has 300 million middle class, now some foreigner would be a big idiot not to invest in India. For example, if a car company opens a manufacturing factory in India, they can potentially sold 300 million cars, that's why there is more investment in India and India economy is growing. India has big population therefore more educated people and willing to work at low wages. For example a British calling company pays a fraction of salary to an Indian employee to what they pay to their British employee. But to be faire I think Indians are more patriot and sincere to India, their politicians have provided better environment for businesses to grow.

Ali, United Arab Emirates - 09 July, 2006

Hey..
Remember that the first bullet was fired by pakistan at us..not the other way around...

Sahar, Hungary - 10 July, 2006

Bravo

Coming form India, we have this notion from childhood that Pakistan is our arch rival. While geographically we are the closest, culturally so, historically we are the same lot suffering under colonial suppression, anthropologically the same creed of human beings of the subcontinent. Look at the diverse European multitude, they are tearing down borders and restrictions to promote free trade, free travel, and common economic agenda, to promote the most strong socio economic entity of the world. And look at us after 59 years since independance we are ruining our prospects of getting into the race to uplift our masses spread over this region. Forget the boundaries, forget Kashmir, forget the past, let's just come to the basics. Do we really need to hate each other? Do we need to fuel our frustartions by giving edge to these vested interests of few Generals, or politicians? Do we ever, our intelligentsia, while writing the elaborate accolades for these so called heroes and champions of our respective commumities, ever think that these parasites are growing on our own weaknesses, and eventually destroying the very basics of human upliftment? Alas the British used us to fight with each other and now our own leaders do that for their purpose. The Americans , the Arabs, the rich nations use their own power and money to dictate us, to put us brothers against each other. While its a fact that the muslims and hindus have to cohabit, and there isn't any final solution by eliminating one, still our leaders, and generals make us believe that. Pakistani generals believe Delhi can be reached, while Indian leaders, show the crowd the Pakistanis as a bellicose lot. Just a s Hitler destroyed his country by promising the destruction of Jews will bring back proseperity to the Germans so do our generals and leaders. While they build huge mansions, and amass millions in foreign banks, and leave behind the legacy of hatred,our poor people sleep in their tattered rags, and dream of having prosperity and end of all dismay from a single point solution through hatred. The tragedy of our's lie in the streets of Karachi, and the trains of Mumbai. No tear is shed for them in the White House, the Kremlin, or even in the palaces of Riyadh. Yet we trust them, we invite them, we buy weapons and oil from them, and believe that they are our true friends, and saviours. While only few of our brethren speak any of their languages, yet and yet so. Hope that we could rise above them, show them that the true Mecca lies in our hearts, if the Prophet ever came to our land he would have shed tears for us, prayed for us to Allah, that why being so close to each other we are yet so far. I am sure Krishna would have done the same.
So Bravo Yasar, for atleast speaking the truth.

Sam, Hungary - 10 August, 2006

kashmir issue

PAKISTAN AND INDIA CAN WORK TOGEATHER BUT IF KASHMIR ISSUE IS SOLVED


zeshan ali, Pakistan - 23 August, 2009

Basically It should not be compared pakistan with India. Economically, Geographically.

Salil Kumar Dutta, Bangladesh - 17 January, 2013

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