India’s deceptive military spending

Amjed Jaaved

Ambition and its social cost

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has observed India’s military spending grew 6.8 % to touch $71.1 billion outpacing Japan ($47.6 billion) and South Korea ($43.9 billion). The US, China and India were the world’s three biggest military
spenders in 2019, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Now, the two Asian countries have become top three for the first time. The three countries were ahead of Russia ($65 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($61.8 billion) who together were world’s top military spenders. They accounted for 62% of the global military spend including salaries, benefits, operational expenses, arms and equipment purchases, military construction, research and development, central administration, command and support.

India’s spending rose by 6.8 % and touching $71.1 billion outpacing Japan’s ($47.6 billion) and South Korea’s ($43.9 billion). Misconception: Indian policy of increasing her military outlays is based on strategic misconceptions. India has a neurotic fixation
on Pakistan. India thinks it would be suicidal for Pakistan to increase her military budget pari passu with India’s. In any case, Pakistan could not afford to spend more than half the increase in India’s military budget. A higher allocation would sap Pakistan’s resource
potential for growth in future.

India thinks Pakistan has to choose between Scylla and Charybdis, that is economic collapse or military preparation. India’s perceptions historically have proved to be wrong. Pakistan neutralised the impact of this differential economic performance by, going nuclear, and developing tactical nuclear weapons like Nasr short-range missile.

Factors strengthening national security: Military budget alone does not strengthen national security. National security of a country depends upon many factors, variously interpreted and defined like soldiers’ morale, scientists’ ingenuity, military and political leaders’ character and skill, geographic position, and economic wherewithal. Indian planners are oblivious of the fact that, in general, the more resources the nation devotes to national security, the less it will have for social security and vice versa. Some economists conceive of national security as a ‘social welfare function’ to be maximized by an appropriate allocation of the nation’s resources satisfying various
objectives (including defence).

National security, from the point of view of an economist, depends on three factors: (a) The quantity of national resources available, now and in future, (b) The proportion of these resources allocated to national security purposes, and (c) The efficiency with which the resources so allocated are used.

Resources are always limited vis-à-vis unlimited wants (Robbins). As such, the problem of defence allocations should, in effect, be a problem of constrained resource optimization, not blind allocation of resources.

India’s defence budget 2020-21 (April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021): India’s Union Budget for the financial year 2020-21 envisages a total outlay of Rs. 30,42,230 crore. Out of this, Rest. 3, 37,553 crore has been allocated for military (excluding military pension). For military pensions, an amount of Rs. 1, 33,825 crore has been provided in Budget Estimates 2020-21. There is an increase of Rs. 40,367.21 crore in the total military allocations (Rs. 4, 71,378 crore) including military over the financial year 2019-20. Total military budget accounts for 15.49 per cent of the total central government expenditure for the year 2020-21.

The allocation of Rs. 4, 71,378 crore represents a growth of 9.37 per cent over Budget Estimates (Rs. 4, 31,010.79 crore) for the financial year 2019-20. Out of Rs. 3, 37,553 crore allocated for the financial year 2020-21, Rs. 2, 18,998 crore is for the Revenue (Net) expenditure and Rs. 1, 18,555 crore is for capital expenditure for the Defence Services and the Organisations/ Departments under Ministry of Defence. The amount of Rs. 1, 18,555 crore allocated for capital expenditure includes modernisation related expenditure.

Deceptive figures: India showcases its ‘transparent’ military expenditures on websites. But the real expenditure in past years has been much greater than that exhibited on websites. In the past, India unnoticeably increased its military outlays in revised and then actual estimates. Between 2009-10 and 2017-18, the actual expenditure was higher than the budgeted allocation for six years, which implies overspending by the Ministry of Defence for some years (PRS. India.org).

Actual military expenditure is much higher than the initial estimates, quoted in international media under a hypnotic spell. To hoodwink general reader, India deflates its military expenditure through clever stratagems. It publishes its `demands for grants for “defence” services’ separately from demands for grants of civil ministries that includes its defence ministry (MoD).

It clubs military pensions in civil estimates. There are several other quasi-military provisions that are similarly shoved in civil estimates. Such concealed defence provisions include public-sector undertakings under MoD like dockyards, machine tool industries (Mishra Dhatu Nigham), and Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited, besides space-and-nuke/ chemical/biological-research projects, border and strategic roads and a host of paramilitary forces (Border Security Force, Industrial Reserve Force, etc.).

Why India does so? It does so to `lower’ its military budget as proportion of Gross National Product. Through such ploys, India, as compared with its neighbours, gets a favourable image in The Military Balance, Jane’s Defense, and other international magazines.

Faulty analyses: Showcased figures cover up true quantum of military budget. The deflated figures are used to make inter-country, inter-region or endogenous comparisons like military budget as proportion of total civil and military outlay.

Without a hard copy of Explanatory Memorandum to Demands for Grants, it is difficult to analyse the budget.

Purchases: India is slated to make a number of purchases through the U.S. Foreign Miltiary Sales program, including 22 MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B) drones for $2.6 billion; and additional six P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft for $1 billion; two Gulfstream 550 aircraft for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance for nearly $1 billion; and one unit of the National Advanced Surface -to-Air Missile System II for more than $1 billion. India’s inventory also includes US anti-submarine and anti-tank warfare helicopters, advanced surface-to-air missiles, naval guns, unmanned aerial vehicles, and long-range maritime patrol aircraft, 24 Seahawk anti-submarine warfare helicopters.

The Indian Air Force is to receive $6.76 billion from the 2020-2021 budget, a drop from the previous year’s $7.01 billion. The money is expected to go toward payments for orders of Rafale fighters from France and an S-400 missile system from Russia.

The Indian Navy is to receive $4.56 billion, which is expected to help cover the cost of leasing a nuclear submarine and stealth frigates from Russia, as well as pay for warships from Indian companies. A Navy official said it is unlikely the service will be able to sign a contract for 24 MH-60R multirole helicopters for more than $2 billion from the U.S. next year.

The Indian Army is to receive $5.06 billion to pay cover previous orders of wheeled and ultra light artillery guns, T-90 tanks, and ammunition.

Another MoD official said the armed forces plan to focus on industry-funded defense projects under the government’s “Make-II” category, which allows private companies to participate in the prototype development of weapons and platforms with a focus on import substitution, for which no government funding will be provided.

The memorandum could throw light on India’s mega purchases and ambitions. They include carbine rifles for army, Advanced Jet Trainers, Airborne Warning and Control system, additional Mi-17 Helicopters, MiG- upgrade, Low-Level Transportable Radar, Integrated Air Command and Control System and Surveillance Radar Element in respect for the air force. Weapon Locating Radar and T- 72 upgrade in respect of the Army, Rafaels, so on.

Nuclear/Chemical capability: It is pertinent to mention that Robert S. McNamara, in his address to the World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics at Washington, DC, as far back as on April 25, 1991 inter alia classified India among the’ Countries reported by the Western governments as seeking a CW capability or suspected to be possessing chemical weapons’. The explanatory footnote to the Table 111-2: Distribution of Chemical Weapons, 1990, states that the classified countries denied possession of chemical weapons, or intentions to acquire such weapons (Source: The Post- Cold War World and its Implications for Military Expenditures in the. Developing Countries, by Robert McNamara).

Methyl isocyanates were being produced at the Union Carbide India when it exploded killing thousands of people. There were 27 factories producing products including Carbaryl through cyanates supplied by UCIL. Where does provision for CBW research appears in India’s military budgets. India could use Vizag Leak data to augment CBW capability.

The Washington Post reported in 2013 that the police in occupied Kashmir published a notice in the Greater Kashmir (now under black out), advising people about nuclear-war survival tips. The tips included constructing well- stocked bunkers in basements or front yards, and having a stock of food and batteries or candles to last at least two weeks.

India forced Pakistan to go nuclear: Pakistan went nuclear because of nuclearised India’s persistent threats. Yet, international

media remains focused only on dangers of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Take International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS)’research’ dossier titled ‘Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A. Q. Khan and the Rise of Proliferation Networks’. The dossier is accompanied with a prefatory statement by Dr. Johan Chipman, Director General of the IISS. This statement gives a fair opinion of Pakistan’s motivation to go nuclear.

Dr. Chipman points out, ‘Pakistan’s motivation to acquire nuclear weapons was sparked in large part by competition with India. .. the major boost [to Pakistan’s weapons programme] came in December 1971 after Pakistan’s traumatic defeat by India. Embitterment over the loss of East Pakistan also provided a psychological motivation to Dr. A.Q. Khan to offer his services to his home country by stealing enrichment technology from his workplace in the Netherlands. With that boost, it took Pakistan only ten years to reach the point where it could produce a nuclear weapon, despite the withdrawal of nuclear assistance from Western countries’.

Pax Indica ambition: During his visit to India, president Trump of the United States It offered to sell India US$ 3 billion (per one unit) Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile defence systems as an alternative to the Russian S-400 system. India ditched Russia from whom it had decided to purchase five S -400s Russian S-400s air defence systems at cost of US$5.4 billion.

At us prodding, India revised its maritime strategy in 2015 to “Ensuring Secure Seas”. The previous strategy was “Freedom to Use the Seas. To implement the new strategy, India built the Chabahar port in India took up the development of the Sittwe Port in Myanmar as part of the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project for building a multi-modal sea, river and road transport corridor for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar through Sittwe. India upgraded its existing listening post in northern Madagascar. India has obtained access to the US naval base in Diego Garcia, and to the French naval bases in Mayotte and Reunion islands, besides Australian naval base in Cocos (Keeling. Robert Kaplan, in his book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and Future of American Power, argues that the geopolitics of the twenty-first century will hinge on the Indian Ocean. Waters of the Indian Ocean reach 28 countries which together account for 35 per cent of the world’s population and 19 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. Sixty per cent of the world’s oil shipments from the Gulf countries to China, Japan and other Asian countries pass through these waters which host 23 of the world’s busiest ports.

A US proxy: India is emerging as the US proxy against rising China, which is determined to surpass the USA in GDP by 2027. India is opposed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Besides, it uses its aid, trade and border contiguity to obstruct Chinese influence in Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

At India’s bidding, those countries toe the Indian line in SAARC and other international forums like G-20. In 2005, Washington expressed its intention to help India become a major world power in the 21st century (according to K. Alan Kronsstadt, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, 13 February 2007). It was later re-affirmed by Ambassador David Mulford in a US Embassy press in 2005. The USA’s resolve later translated into modification of domestic laws to facilitate export of sensitive military technology to India. The Nuclear Supplier Group also relaxed its controls to begin exports to India’s civilian nuclear reactor (enabling India to divert resources to military use).

Raj Mohan, Shyam Saran and several others point out that India follows Kautliya’s mandala (concentric, asymptotic and intersecting circles, inter-relationships) doctrine in foreign policy. It is akin to Henry Kissinger’s `spheres of influence’. According to this doctrine ‘all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies’. However, short-run policy should be based on common volatile, dynamic, mercurial interests, like the intersection of two sets.

Former Indian foreign secretary, Shyam Saran in his book How India Sees the World says, ‘Kautliyan [Chanakyan] template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.). It appears that Kautliya’s and Saran’s last-advised option is India’s first option, with regard to China and Pakistan, nowadays.

Raj Mohan elucidates India’s ambition, in terms of Kauliya’s mandala (inter-relationships), to emerge as South Asian hegemon in following words:

‘India’s grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighbourhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over actions of outside powers. In the second who encompasses the so-called extended neighourhood, stretching across Asia and Indian Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great power, a key player in international peace and security. (C. Raja Mohan, India and the Balance of Power, Foreign Affairs July-August 2006).

Henry Kissinger views Indian ambitions in the following words: ‘Just as the early American leaders developed in the Monroe Doctrine concept for America’s special role in the Western Hemisphere, so India has established in practice a special positioning the Indian Ocean region between East Indies and the horn of Africa. Like Britain with respect to Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, India strives to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in this vast portion of the globe. Just as early American leaders did not seek approval of the countries of the Western Hemisphere with respect to the Monroe Doctrine, so Indian in the region of its special strategic interests conducts its policy on the basis of its own definition of a South Asian order’ (World Order, New York, Penguin Press, 2014).

Zbigniew Brzeszinsky takes note of India’s ambition to rival China thus: ‘Indian strategies speak openly of greater India exercising a dominant position in an area ranging from Iran to Thailand. India is also position itself to control the Indian Ocean militarily, its naval and air power programs point clearly in that direction as do politically guided efforts to establish for Indi strong positions, with geostrategic implications in adjoining Bangladesh and Burma (Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power).

With tacit US support, India is getting tougher with China. There was a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau near the Nathula Pass on the Sikkim border last year. Being at a disadvantage vis-à-vis India, China was compelled to resolve the stand-off through negotiations. China later developed high-altitude “electromagnetic catapult” rockets for its artillery units to liquidate the Indian advantage there, as also in Tibet Autonomous Region. China intends to mount magnetically-propelled high-velocity rail-gun on its 055-class under-construction missile destroyer 055.

The Indian navy wants a 200- ship strong fleet by 2027. The Navy wants to procure six new conventional submarines and 111 Naval Utility Helicopters to replace the vintage fleet of Chetaks. The IAF wants to procure 114 new fighters besides the 36 Rafales ordered in 2015, still in process.

Social cost of military spending: Back in 1996-97, British Labour Party Defence Study Group tried to highlight defence burden on public exchequer. In that report, they drew comparisons between the defence and social costs. For instance, £ 7,000 million cost of Tornado multi-role combat aircraft project was more than the total cost of Britain’s health and personal social services projects for 1976-77. £ 16 million price of the Frigate Ambuscade could provide a new 50S-bed hospital in Bangor. The submarine Superb was more expensive than building 4,000 new homes.

Colossal expenditure on conventional weapons by a nuclear power is not understood. Nuclear deterrence does not mean matching bomb for bomb. India should carry out a similar cost-benefit study of its military expenditure.

Miserable lifestyle: Nearly half of India’s 1.2 billion people have no toilet at home. Yet more people own a mobile phone, according to the latest census data. Only 46.9% of the 246.6 million households have lavatories while 49.8% defecate in the open.

Most Indians don’t use toilet paper and consider it cleaner to use other materials to wipe their bottom, such as newspapers, leaves and sand.Modi’s Clean India (Swach Bharat) remained a tall claim as most toilets disintegrated due to disuse or substandard quality. according to health ministry’s 2012 Survey, of the 97.3 million toilets `built’, the ministry’s 2012 survey suggests that at least 27.64 million toilets are defunct.

According to India’s census of household amenities and assets, majority of the Indians have a miserable life style. The survey indicated that the Indian government’s priorities for ameliorating lot of the common man were wrong. For instance, the government keeps fuming and fretting about the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) subsidy. But, only about 18 percent fortunate families use the LPG as fuel in their everyday life. Majority of the surveyed families used dung cakes, or firewood to cook. Only six per cent of the families have a car, with or without the LPG facility.

The survey further indicated: (a) Majority of the people is shelter-less and without any public-health cover. About six people live in one house. There are 179 million `residential houses’. Interestingly, `house’ means one room for about 40 per cent of the Indian families. As such, about 40 per cent of the married people do not enjoy luxury of an independent sleeping room. (b) Most `houses’, so called, are without toilettes.

Only half the population (52%) lives in `houses’ with walls and roofs. The rest live shelter-less in open air. (d) Only 56 per cent of the `houses’ are blessed with electricity. Even in the prosperous Punjab, four lakh households are without electricity. The survey negated the common impression that 100% households in Punjab had electricity. Not a single state provides electricity to 100 per cent of its households. The situation in Bihar is the most miserable. There, only 10 per cent of Bihar state’s 14 million households get electricity, and the 90 per cent remain without it.

The survey found that only 38% families have water. The tapped water supply, besides being erratic, is generally unhygienic. Water is supplied for only a few hours, four hours at the most. About 62 per cent of the families, that is 118 million households; do not have access to drinking water at home. In rural areas, about five million families still fetch drinking water from nearby ponds, tanks, rivers and springs.

One starling finding of the Survey was that the development expenditures were oriented towards the rich (urban areas). This trend has perpetuated the rural urban divide. The urban-rural divide is most pronounced when it comes to electricity supply. About 88 per cent families in urban ar¬eas vis-à -vis 44 per cent in rural areas have access to electricity.

Almost half of the rural `houses’ are still lit with kerosene.

Urban areas are better in fuel consumption also. Over 22 million Indian families (12 per cent households) still cook under the sky. But, 76 percent of urban households have separate kitchens in their homes. Whether or not there is a kitchen, firewood is still the most widely used fuel with over 52.5 per cent Indians depending on it.

Surprisingly even 23 per cent urban families use firewood for cooking. About 10 per cent rural households use crop residue as fuel. Besides, cow- dung cake as fuel is used by 9.8 per cent (The meagre use of biogas, even in villages, reflects failure of India government to promote biogas in villages).

About 23% urban families have phones as compared to only 4% rural families. Cars are, practically, an anathema for the rural population. As for urban families, only six per cent of the overall households surveyed have a car. But, 13% of the Delhi-resident families have cars (highest average among the cities).

Majority of the Indians live in a Sahara of subhuman conditions. There are oases of affluence, unnoticed and un – taxed by the government’s policy makers. For instance, 11 per cent of Delhi’s 3.3 million houses are vacant. Gujarat has 14 per cent houses vacant.

For about a third of even urban Indian fami¬lies, a house does not include a kitchen, a bathroom, and a toilet. And, in many cases, no power and water sup¬ply.

Indian express dated February 9, 2004 (Figuring India Shining India?) Take a look at these figures and feel not -so-good”) published the following pathetic profile of true India: “260 million people below poverty line,60 million of under four-year-olds are moderately or severely malnourished, 87 women are anaemic,60 % children are anaemic,25 million are without shelter,171 million have no access to safe drinking water, 290 million adults are illiterate, 53 % of below five-year-olds are underweight, 4.4 doctors per 10,000 people (Source: Planning Commission)”.

Way out: Peace with neighbours: Pakistan’s founder Quaid-i -Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah cherished desire for lasting Indo-

Pak peace even before creation of Pakistan. During his last days, The Quaid was perturbed at the Cold War rivalry emerging between the USA and the USSR.

The Quaid keenly desired that the subcontinent and all of South Asia should remain aloof from the rivalry. Therefore, he proposed a joint defence pact with India. Had India accepted his idea, the two countries would not have been at daggers drawn after independence.

Before his final flight (Aug 7, 1947) from Delhi to Pakistan, he sent a message to the Indian government, “the past must be buried and let us start as two independent sovereign states of Hindustan and Pakistan, I wish Hindustan prosperity and peace.” Vallabhbhai Patel replied from Delhi “the poison has been removed from the body of India. As for the Muslims, they have their roots, their sacred places and their centres here. I do not know what they can possibly do in Pakistan. It will not be long before they return to us.”

Even Nehru, an ostensibly liberal leader, regarded the creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rancour against Pakistan reaches a crescendo in his remarks: “I shall not have that carbuncle on my back.” (D. H. Bhutani, The Future of Pakistan, page 14). Will India stop its worldwide defence purchases to open a new chapter in relations with Pakistan?

Let India lower her expenditure first! It should be a leader to compel Pakistan to follow suit. It must shun hegemonic designs, at least for the time being, when Covid19 rages.

Inferences: Any analysis of India’s military expenditure should be based on actual Demands for Grants coupled with Explanatory Memoranda. The allocations concealed under civil ministries outlays should be ferreted out and added to military allocations. The successive increases n revised and then actual budget estimates should be taken into account.

As a result of India’s rising military expenditures, Pakistan also increases its defence expenditure The colossal increase in big brother’s military budget is untenable in light of its teeming millions living below the poverty line.

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