India’s defence spending is justified | HT Editorial
It is a time of economic stress. But New Delhi can’t afford to lower its defencesUpdated: Apr 28, 2020 18:52 IST
India emerged as the world’s third-largest defence spender last year. This is both good and bad news. The good part is that the country continues to invest in military preparedness in a difficult region. The bad part is that an expenditure of $ 71 billion a year, with a similar amount likely to be spent this fiscal year, will be a burden at a time of economic stress.
Any expectation the Covid-19 pandemic would inspire a more pacific sentiment in the region has been dissipated by the violence India is experiencing along the Line of Control. For Pakistan, it is business as usual as far as cross-border infiltration and shelling are concerned. The Sino-Indian border has been a quieter affair, but Beijing’s economic and verbal aggression against other governments indicates the dragon has not been tamed by the virus. India cannot afford to lower its defences.
India’s number three position is as much because of the decline of Russia and Saudi Arabia as it is about New Delhi spending more. With a defence budget that is about two per cent of GDP, India spends well below the global average and is light-years behind China’s $261 billion. The past decade has seen New Delhi seek to squeeze waste and duplication out of the armed forces, a process that should continue. Getting more bang for the buck will be the path of every government in a time when bucks are far and few.