By Arun Kumar Shrivastav
Earlier this month, China announced a 7.1% increase in its defence budget to about $230 billion. The news generated concerns in relevant quarters in India. China maintains the highest number of active military personnel in the world and its defence budget is the 2nd largest in the world for many years now. This has been China’s seventh consecutive defence budget hike in as many years. When the Chinese military has more money to spend, what does it do? It builds roads and bridges in remote places like Doklam and Pangong Lake areas. When China does so, India gets edgy about its security and reacts.
When China increases the defence budget, India, too, has to match it, given its security concerns and a history of border disputes and skirmishes. When the Indian military has got more money, how does it spend it? It builds matching roads and bridges in remote areas of Sikkim and Ladakh.
The problem is there is very little spending on confidence-building, peace initiatives, and intellectual activities. In contrast, there are enormous amounts of money being spent on military devices and war strategies. Do these hikes in military spending help anyone?
Yes, it helps the military. And, the story is the same all over the world! It’s not rare to see resource-deficient schools, colleges, and hospitals in both India and China but no one can find a military facility languishing for want of personnel or resources. The military has got the best of amenities from clothes to vehicles, food, tents, and homes to ensure they have a trouble-free time in faraway exotic locations that most of us would only dream of being there.
Why does China need to increase its spending on defence? It’s because it feels threatened by the US that might have allies in South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and India whose collective defence spending is more than that of China, and together with the US, it exceeds $1 trillion. Shouldn’t China spend more on its defence to ensure it’s not intimidated by forces in its neighbourhood and the US?
The US defence budget is in the range of $750 billion, which means the US military has a budget of roughly $2 billion a day. That’s a huge amount of money! When the US forces have so much to spend each day, what do they do? They have military bases in virtually all unclaimed and even disputed islands. Some of these islands are so small that they can’t be seen by satellites. The US military can unseat a government in Iraq, drop bombs on Syrian cities, stay put in Afghanistan for 20 years, and so on. That’s the power of money it spends on its military.
The actual spending on defence is more than the budgeted expenditure. The US spends over $1 trillion on defence. Where does this money come from? A large part of the defence budget comes from the international trade of military hardware. For example, recently India bought Rafale jets from France. The deal that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government signed with the Dassault Aviation was worth $10 billion. The previous government had placed a bigger order size. India’s latest defence budget is in the range of $72 billion. When India procures sophisticated military hardware, Pakistan with a defence budget of $11.5 billion gets alarmed and places a matching order in the international military hardware market. This process is called the arms race and it’s not a new topic.
The topic today is the Russia-Ukraine war that has completely devastated Ukraine whose population is 4.4 crore and defence spending is $5.5 billion. Compared to this, Russia that has launched a war on Ukraine has a population of 14.4 crores and a defence budget of $65 billion. Russia’s defence budget may look small but it’s big on military hardware manufacturing. It builds nuclear submarines to fighter jets, air-defence systems, tanks, and missiles. Russia doesn’t need to spend on its defence like other countries. It can meet much of its defence needs by domestic production.
Now, look at Ukraine and the plight of the people there. Should Ukraine have spent a lot more on its defence to avoid this war? China too claims that its military spending is an exercise in ensuring a balance of power that leads to lasting peace.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi will be on a regional trip in South Asia that will bring him to Nepal, Pakistan, and India in the next few days. Why he would visit Nepal and Pakistan is not difficult to understand.
China is the second-largest economy in the world, allowing it to spend $250 billion on defence, that’s actually how much it spends. China’s remarkable turnaround in the last 3-4 decades has little to do with its government or its policies. China’s economic success comes on the back of millions of Chinese toiling on average 20 hours a day in most pitiable conditions around the globe in the preceding decades. They have brought the capital, connections, and know-how to lay the foundation of the industrial turnaround that China has witnessed in the subsequent decades.
Millions of Chinese workers have been working on average 12-14 hours a day to keep Chinese products cheap in the international markets. Leaving behind their homes and families in the villages, these people have braved the worst to come up. The Chinese society and people have paid a huge social cost for the economic miracle that China is today. We must love, appreciate, and salute the spirit of these people. In true recognition of the hard work of the Chinese people, when Wang Yi is in New Delhi later this week, he should refrain from bragging about China’s defence spending. We know the truth! (IPA Service)