Tensions with China have pushed Asian nations including India and Japan to boost military spending, according to a global arms spending report.
India’s defence spending rose by 5.5 per cent to US$63.9 billion ($90.9b) in 2017, overtaking that of France as it became one of the world’s top five military spenders, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report released today.
The United States, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia were the leading four last year in military spending.
Worldwide military spending rose 1.1 per cent last year to US$1.7 trillion, or roughly 2.2 per cent of global gross domestic product, SIPRI said.
“The Indian Government plans to expand, modernise and enhance the operational capability of its armed forces, motivated at least partially by tensions with China and Pakistan,” the report read.
Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher for SIPRI, said: “Tensions between China and many of its neighbours continue to drive the growth in military spending in Asia.”
The list of the world’s biggest military spenders has remained largely consistent in recent years, dominated by the US and China, which spent US$610b and US$228b last year respectively, according to SIPRI.
China’s military spending was 3.6 times that of India, which was the region’s second-largest spender.
As it goes ahead with a modernisation drive for the People’s Liberation Army, China has pledged to raise its military spending by 8.1 per cent in 2018, after its 2017 total showed an increase of 5.6 per cent compared with 2016.
That increase was its slowest since 2010, but China’s share of worldwide military expenditure rose to 13 per cent in 2017 from 5.8 per cent in 2008, according to the institute.
China and India were engaged in a 72-day military stand-off at their shared Doklam border in the Himalayan region last year, the closest the two countries have come to military confrontation in half a century.
Despite the thawing of Sino-India tensions following meetings between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last September and last weekend in China, satellite images released by US geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor in January revealed that both countries have been actively bolstering their military presence near the border.
Although the report stated that Japan remained in eighth place for military spending, its defence outlays for the year starting April 1 were due to rise for a sixth straight year, increasing by 1.3 per cent to 5.19 trillion yen ($67.2b), according to a budget breakdown published by its government in April.
Japan’s increases in defence spending represent a change in policy since the 2012 cut to the defence budget.
“Perceived threats from China and North Korea remain the most important factors in Japan’s security strategy,” the report said.