In the interim budget presented by FM Piyush Goyal, the defense budget has been increased by 6.87 percent to Rs 3.18 lakh crore against last year’s allocation of Rs 2.98 lakh crore. The defense allocation for the coming year will account for 15.5 percent of the central government’s expenditure, and 2.05 percent of the estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Critics are saying that this is significantly lower than this year’s revised estimates of 16.5 percent of the government’s expenditure and 2.15 percent of the GDP.
Is India’s defense budget really very small?
Let’s take a look at it, in comparison with the defense budgets of other countries. In 2017-18 India’s defense budget overtook that of UK’s for the first time in history, says a report by a global think-tank based in London.
India overtook the UK and became the fifth-largest spender on defense in the world by allotting $52.5 billion, which was up from the $51.1 billion allotted in the budget 2016. Presenting a sharp contrast, the UK’s defense budget showed a fall from $52.5 billion in 2016 to $50.7 billion in 2017. The other 4 top countries having the maximum defense budget are United States of America $610 billion, China $228 billion, Saudi Arabia $69.4 billion, Russia $66.3 billion.
“Our defence budget will be crossing Rs 3 trillion for the first time in 2019-20. For securing our borders and to maintain preparedness of the highest order, in necessary, additional funds would be provided.” -Piyush Goyal, Finance Minister
What is the basis of criticism?
The main reason for criticism of India’s defense budget is the military rivalry with China. India’s northern neighbor which had invaded India in 1962 and still hostile is spending s huge part of its GDP on the modernization of its military power. China, the globe’s second-largest defense budget following the US is seen far ahead of the march allotting three times more resources to its military augmentation at $150.5 billion. The real spending of China on its defense capabilities shows a phenomenal increase of 25% percent in 2016-17 while that of India increased only by 2.4%.
India is always under threat of two-front war from China and Pakistan and with this huge defense budget of China, the criticism of a relatively small budget of India becomes obvious. But being a democratic country India has its own limitations and can’t be compared with a totalitarian state like China and militarily controlled countries like Pakistan. Making a balance between the developmental aspiration and national security expenditure is not going to be easy for Indian policy-makers in the coming decades.