Arms spending in Asia continues as India shells out another ₹46 billion


  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by India’s Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman approved a ₹46 billion contract for new military equipment.
  • In the accelerating Asian arms race, India lags behind in both absolute and relative spending.
  • Two-thirds of India’s military bill goes toward paying the infantry, leaving little left over for purchasing new weaponry.
India’s defence ministry has just approved the acquisition of new military equipment in a ₹46 billion ($6.5 billion) deal. Their current war chest is quickly becoming obsolete, and this new contract ties in with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of spending ₹17 trillion ($250 billion) towards the modernisation of military technology.

This tender is particularly significant because it’s the first time that the India government will be applying the technology from a foreign investor while building the equipment at home.


India isn’t alone its efforts to build up its arms. The annual defence spending in Asia, on average, has doubled over the century to nearly ₹31.5 trillion ($450 billion).

Asian arms race
Many believe it was China that instigated the arms race when in 2010 their military spending alone accounted for 28% of the military spending across Asia. In 2014, that ratio increased even further to 38%.

As per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States led the world with an arms spending of ₹42.7 trillion ($610 billion) while China came in second with ₹16 trillion ($228 billion). India was in 5th place with ₹4.5 trillion ($63.9 billion) as their military expenditure.

While India’s spending is a fraction of what other countries are bailing out, it’s still up from ₹3 trillion ($47 billion) in 2012.

More than absolute numbers, the proportional increases in budgets are more telling. In Asia, specifically, the largest increases in military spending were seen in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and China.

Aside from arms, China’s neighbouring nations are also more actively engaged in curating their strategic partnerships to hedge against the risk of the United States failing to contain the Chinese incursions into the South China Sea.

Modernisation of India’s military
India’s military spending as forever been at the hub of controversy since the Bofors scandal in the 1980s. More recently, the deal for the acquisition of 36 Rafale jets off-the-shelf from France instead of 126 fighter jets that would partially be made in India has been in the limelight.

Most experts argue that 36 jets are nowhere near enough for India’s requirements. An ad-hoc approach to India’s military strategy would do more harm than good in the long-run.

In fact, one of the major issues with India’s military spending has been that more than two-thirds of the budget is allocated towards the salaries of people employed in the armed forces and their respective pensions. While infantry is important, its leaves too little for India to spend on weapons or its own research and development.

That being said, the impetus from foreign investments being introduced into the defense sector should catalyse faster growth.

(Representative image)
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