INDIA’S neighbours must be alarmed by yet another, sizeable rise in its defence budget — it has gone up to a whopping $38.6bn

Presenting the budget in parliament on Friday, Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee 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 17 per cent increase seeks to add to the nuclear and conventional military muscles of a country that already has one of the world’s largest armed forces. The budget allocates $17.5bn for capital expenditure, which is to go towards acquiring the most modern equipment for the three branches of the Indian military. 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.

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. Besides, a very large number of its troops are bogged down in Kashmir because of New Delhi’s refusal to seek a peaceful solution to the problem. 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.

Source- Pakistan News Website http://www.dawn.com

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