Do Not Ignore China's Defence Budget Hike - The New Indian Express

Do Not Ignore China's Defence Budget Hike

Published: 08th March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 08th March 2014 01:51 AM

China’s biggest hike in military spending in three years, with its defence budget set to cross $ 130 billion in the coming year should make countries like India sit up.  While Chinese officials said the increase was in keeping with the size of China’s growing economy and in line with what most countries spend in terms of percentage of GDP, the 12.2 per cent hike is mammoth. China’s spending now dwarfs that of countries in the region, and is second only to the US, which spends over $ 600 billion on defence. Chinese military analysts explained the hike as a response to China’s challenges in the region, such as ongoing territorial differences with Japan over East China Sea islands, and recent disputes in the South China Sea. But it would be foolhardy to ignore that Chinese hegemonism could be a threat to India as well.

Though India announced a 10 per cent hike in military spending during the interim budget last month India’s effective defence spending in dollar terms actually fell from last year, down to $ 36.2 billion from $ 37.5 billion due to a weakening rupee. Besides, despite dire need of modernisation of the armed forces and the augmentation of military equipment, the defence minister seems oblivious to the need. What else can one make of the manner in which he caved in last year to the finance ministry diktat to cut spending by Rs 10,000 crore in the capital acquisitions for the Army, Navy and Indian Air Force, on the pretext of the economic situation being grim. The UPA government is guilty of jeopardising national interest by failing to upgrade vital Indian military equipment.

There is a yawning gap emerging in the conventional capabilities between China and India and this asymmetry is increasing by the day. Continued neglect of the modernisation of Indian armed forces and delayed acquisitions during the last 10 years of the UPA rule have made the challenge bigger for the next government.

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