Thursday, December 13, 2007

India is the third biggest defence spender in Asia

Since the last hard copy edition of Jane's Military Communications was published, global spending by governments on the military has continued its upward trend over a ten-year period monitored by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). According to that organisation's Yearbook 2007, published in June, worldwide military spending in 2006 reached USD1,204 billion in current dollars, a 3.5 per cent increase on the previous year, and some 37 per cent up over the decade from 1997.

Four countries highlighted by SIPRI at the forefront of the worldwide defence spending growth trend were China, India, Russia and the USA. SIPRI calculated that China's 2006 military spending reached some USD49.5 billion, overtaking Japan (USD43.7 billion) to become the biggest military spender in Asia, and the fourth biggest in the world in 2006. In this analysis India was the third biggest spender in Asia, with USD23.9 billion. Meanwhile the USA spent USD528.7 billion and Russia an estimated USD34.7 billion (all the preceding figures for 2006 were expressed in 2005 dollars). SIPRI believes China and India were the largest importers of weapons worldwide, while the USA and Russia were the largest weapon suppliers.

Some of the reasons for the heightened defence spending profiles of these particular four countries are generally not in dispute. China's increased defence commitment is a reflection of the country's (so far) rapidly growing global economic heft and its bid to establish itself once and for all as a bona fide 'superpower'. Much the same could be said of India. The Moscow government, on the back of the growing influence deriving from its considerable energy and mineral resources, is trying to reclaim the superpower status that has progressively diminished from the late 1980s onwards. Russia also harbours growing suspicions about the intentions of the USA and NATO in Middle and Eastern Europe, and of the USA and its allies in Central Asia and the Middle East. For its part the current US administration, post 11 September 2001, perceives itself to be under threat from a variety of terrorist groups and consortia in various parts of the world, and is engaged in active hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The levels of defence spending by China, India, Russia and the USA seem likely to increase over the immediate term.

In March of 2007, China's National People's Congress announced plans to increase official defence spending during Fiscal Year 2007 by 17.8 per cent to CNY350.92 billion (around USD46 billion). In practice, though, a number of observers estimate that the true figure could be substantially higher. For example, the US Department of Defense (DoD) report, entitled 'Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2007', which was published in May, cites Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimates that the true figure could be between USD85 billion and USD125 billion, and accused Beijing of failing to comply with international standards for reporting military expenditures. In any event, even considering the official Chinese figures the country's defence spend has more than doubled since 2001, and Jane's forecasts that the trend will continue, rising a further 50 per cent by 2010. (Jane's Defence Industry (JDI), July 2007)

In the case of India, defence spending is forecast by Jane's to increase from USD23.6 billion in 2006 to USD33.2 billion by 2009. (JDI, August 2007).

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