Islamabad, March 19: The significant hike in India’s defence budget gives a “wrong message to its neighbours and perpetuates tensions in South Asia”, a leading Pakistani daily said Monday.
An editorial in the Dawn said that India’s neighbours “must be alarmed” by yet another, sizeable rise in its defence budget, which is at a whopping $38.6 billion.
Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, while presenting the budget Friday, said the allocation was based “on the present needs” and that the government would meet any “further needs for the security of the nation”.
The daily said that the 17 percent increase (13 percent in real terms) seeks to add to the nuclear and conventional military muscles of a country that already has one of the world’s largest armed forces.
“…Already having a nuclear triad, India is upgrading 51 Mirage 2000 fighter jets, is negotiating a $20bn deal with France for the purchase of 126 Rafale multi-role combat aircraft, working on a government-to-government agreement with the US for 145 ultra-light howitzers, and has ordered 49 new warships for the navy.
“Clearly, this phenomenal rise goes far beyond India’s legitimate security needs and adds to the neighbours’ concerns about New Delhi’s hegemonic ambitions,” it said.
Sounding a word of caution, the daily remarked that India’s economic development should not make its policymakers “oblivious to the needs of their people”.
“Despite the rapid expansion of its middle class, India suffers from grinding poverty and has the world’s largest concentration of illiterate people.”
“The hike in India’s military budget thus gives the wrong message to its neighbours and perpetuates tensions in South Asia. The neighbours’ concerns are not baseless, because India is not on the best of terms with them, and it has a history of military conflicts with Pakistan and China,” the editorial added.