NEW DELHI: India has for the first time emerged among the top three nations in the world in terms of military expenditure, though the US spends more than 10 times and China almost four times its defence budget.

Latest data released by global think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) early on Monday shows the total global military expenditure rose to $1,917 billion in 2019, an increase of 3.6% from 2018.

Moreover, apart from the ballooning pension bill, the revenue expenditure for the day-to-day running costs and salary bill of the 1.5 million strong Indian armed forces by far outstripped the outlay for military modernization.

India has also put on hold new major deals for weapon systems in the backdrop of the government currently grappling with the huge financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, as was reported by TOI.

In effect, Indian armed forces, despite the country being the world’s third-largest defence spender and the second-largest arms importer behind only Saudi Arabia, continue to suffer from critical operational shortages on several fronts, ranging from fighters and submarines to basic infantry weapons and night-fighting capabilities.

It also reinforces India’s persisting failure to build a strong indigenous defence industrial base (DIB), which can make the country strategically vulnerable if supplies are choked in times of conflict.

SIPRI, on its part, said China’s military expenditure reached $261 billion in 2019, a 5.1% increase compared with2018, while India’s grew by 6.8% to $71.1 billion. “India’s tensions and rivalry with both Pakistan and China are among the major drivers for its increased military spending,” it said.

Pakistan was ranked at the 24thposition, with a military expenditure of $10.3 billion. In addition to China and India, Japan ($47.6 billion) and South Korea ($43.9 billion) were the largest military spenders in the Asia and Oceania region. “Military expenditure in the region has risen every year since at least 1989,” said the SIPRI report.

“India’s expenditure has grown by 259% over the 30-year period, 1990–2019, and by 37% over the decade 2010–19. However, its military burden fell from 2.7% (if defence pensions are taken into account) of GDP in 2010 to 2.4% in 2019,” it added.

Pakistan’s military expenditure, in turn, rose by 70% over the decade 2010–19, to reach $10.3 billion. Its military burden increased from 3.4% GDP in 2010 to 4% in 2019, it said.

China’s military expenditure reached $261 billion in 2019, a 5.1% increase compared with 2018. “China’s military expenditure has increased continuously since 1994 (for 25 consecutive years). The growth in its military spending has closely matched the country’s economic growth. Between 2010 and 2019, China’s military burden remained almost unchanged, at 1.9% of its GDP,” said SIPRI.