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India 4th highest military spender, China at $296 billion second only to US, says SIPRI report

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As it growingly asserts dominance in the Indo-Pacific region and elsewhere, China upped its military spending to an estimated $296 billion in 2023, making it the second largest spender after the US.

Beijing, in doing so, raised its military expenditure by 6 percent from 2022.America spent a whopping $ 916 billion, accounting for 37 percent of the total global expenditure, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published Monday. The US military expenditure has seen an increase given its direct support to Ukraine on the one hand and Israel on the other.

The US and China together accounted for around half of global military spending last year. 

Completing the top five were Russia, India and Saudi Arabia, which together accounted for 61 percent of the world’s military spending. Fourth in the list, India’s military expenditure stood at $ 83.6 billion in 2023, accounting for 3.7 percent of global defence expenditure.

For China, the rise in expenditure indicates its preparedness for future wars or conflicts, if any were to arise. Beijing has territorial disputes with its neighbours in the South China Sea as well on land, including with India.

Russia’s military spending grew by 24 percent to an estimated $109 billion, as it remains at war with Ukraine that began in 2022.

Overall, the world military expenditure increased for the ninth consecutive year in 2023, reaching a total of $ 2,443 billion. The 6.8 percent increase was the steepest year-on-year rise since 2009. This pushed global spending to the highest level, according to SIPRI.  

The reasons recorded in the report for the rise in global military spending was attributed primarily to the ongoing war in Ukraine and escalating geopolitical tensions in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East. This, it said, resulted in Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Middle East becoming some of the highest-spending regions in the world.

India’s defence spending

Military spending for India was up by 4.2 percent from 2022 and by a whopping 44 per cent from 2014. According to the report, the increase was mainly a result of growing personnel and operations costs, which made up almost 80 percent of the total military budget in 2023.

A majority of India’s defence spending is known to go towards pension payouts. In the Interim Union Budget 2024-25, Rs 1.41 lakh crore of the total Rs 6.21 lakh crore went towards pensions.

This aligns with the government’s priority to strengthen the operational readiness of the armed forces amid ongoing tensions with China and Pakistan, it stated.

In comparison, capital outlays to fund military procurement remained relatively stable, at around 22 percent of the budget in 2023, it stated. Capital outlays are funds used to acquire or upgrade physical assets.

According to SIPRI, a total of 75 percent of these outlays went towards equipment produced domestically, which was the highest level ever and up from 68 percent in the previous year. This comes amid a thrust on indigenisation by the government. Towards this, the government has also introduced negative procurement lists that encourage procurement of certain types of arms and equipment from the Indian industry only.

“The continued shift towards domestic procurement reflects India’s goal of becoming self-reliant in arms development and production,” the report stated.

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