Destructive race

The rising global defence spending may be taken as an indicator of rising fears and suspicions of countries about others and the resulting imperative to strengthen the armed forces. For any country the defence of its borders and maintenance of internal security are the foremost priorities and therefore they make the first demand on the budget.

Assertions by advocates of peace that  most threat perceptions on which defence spending is based are unreal or created will not be accepted because no country would like to take a risk with its sovereignty. The global defence industry also has extensive political and economic connections.  More importantly, defence spending is a vicious, competitive process. The circle can be broken only when there are no more causes of tension and confrontation in the world. This will never happen and therefore defence spending will remain the world’s top spending item.

This is what the latest report from the reputed international think tank, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has also shown. It noted that defence spending rose in 2013 everywhere in the world except in the western countries and now accounts for about $ 1,747 billion. The slight decline in the defence budgets of  developed countries led to a shrinking of the global figures. But the cut in the US budget, which still remains the world’s top spender, is not likely to last.

China spends the most  after the US and has been increasing its spending in recent years. Its 7.24  percentage increase last year should cause some disquiet in the neighbourhood. A surprise entrant into the high spenders’ league is Saudi Arabia which has doubled its expenditure in the last eight years and is the world’s fourth largest spender now. That is indicative of the deepening political fissures in West Asia and the fears generated by the likelihood of new equations and alignments in the region.

India is the ninth highest spender, having fallen one slot lower than last year. Its percentage of spending is also not very high. This may have been because of the slow execution of defence plans and tardy acquisition programmes in the last few years. A matter of equal concern is that the spending is mainly on account of imports, making India the largest importer of arms. That stresses the need for higher indigenisation of the defence industry.

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