Is the Covid-19 financial crash the right time for India to cut 40% of military budget? It may be, if played right

India ranks behind only the US and China for military spending. With massive budget cuts coming, it needs a model that gets it more for its money – like Russia’s.

Faced with an impending economic crisis, India is looking to review its military spending. Following indications by the Ministry of Defence that the military budget could be cut by up to 40 percent, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, has called upon the armed forces to reduce their dependence on arms imports, rein in further spending and focus on increasing locally produced arms.

“We are not expeditionary forces that have to deploy around the globe,” he said, emphasising that Indian armed forces only need to “guard and fight” along the country’s borders and dominate the Indian Ocean region.

Over the past 15 years, India – with tacit support from the United States – has embarked on a defence modernisation programme to keep pace with military developments in China and maintain superiority over Pakistan.

As a result, India has emerged in recent years as the one of the world’s largest arms buyers. According to the latest report on global military spending by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was ranked third in 2019 after the US and China, with a budget of $71.1 billion. But in a post-Covid-19 economy, is this expenditure sustainable, and does India actually require such massive military capability?

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