Defence expenditure has almost doubled since last five years. In its latest budget, government has hiked defence spending up to Rs700.2 billion. Even this number does not tell the entire tale, however, as military pensions which have risen to over Rs100 billion are being paid from civilian budget, not defence. This high level of spending is often justified with claims about how Pakistan’s defence spending is the lowest in the region, despite serious national security concerns. But these justifications leave out a critical question which is whether it is even possible for Pakistan to spend its way to security.
A recent article by Dr Farrukh Saleem attempts to make a justification for increased defence spending due to a growing Indian threat. Dr sahib notes that India is accumulating tanks and other military hardware that is not of use against China.
Since 2004, India has been spending billions on its Pakistan-specific, cold-start, offensive military doctrine-speed, overwhelming firepower and mobilisation time of 48 hours.
This results in the obvious response, which is an urgent feeling to boost Pakistan’s defence capabilities to fend off Indian aggression. But other facts in Dr Farrukh’s column should also be considered:
‘Narendra Modi is likely to spend an additional $200 billion on stealth fighters, main battle tanks, backfire bombers, aircraft carriers, frigates and Scorpion submarines’.
Pakistan’s GDP is approximately $215 billion. This means that India could spend an additional amount on defence that is equal to the entire output of our national economy. By comparison, India’s GDP is over $1.8 TRILLION.
Simply put, we cannot win a defence spending race with India.
The good news is we don’t need to. Pakistan is already well equipped with one of the most robust strategic and tactical nuclear arsenals of the world. We have more than enough strategic deterrence capability. Our national security is at risk not because our military isn’t strong enough, but because the rest of our national institutions are not strong enough.
The national security situation is deteriorating not because the defence budget is not large enough, but because it is the wrong defence budget. By maintaining a deterrence umbrella and strengthening our civilian institutions such as education, police, judiciary, and private sector economy (aka unemployment), Pakistan would be able to better counter threats not only from India but from insurgents and other negative actors also.