India has joined the US and China as one of the world’s five biggest military spenders, reflecting geopolitical tensions as well as the country’s reliance on imported weapons and sprawling personnel costs.

Present level of defence spending
New Delhi’s defense spending rose by 5.5% to $63.9 billion in 2017 and has now passed France, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a report released.

Global trends
Worldwide military spending rose marginally last year to $1.73 trillion, or roughly 2.2 percent of global gross domestic product, the group said. The list of the world’s biggest military spenders has remained consistent in recent years, dominated by the US and China, which spent $610 billion and $228 billion respectively, according to SIPRI, which researches global arms spending.

However, the group said the balance of military spending is “clearly shifting” toward Asia, Oceania and the Middle East, driven largely by spending increases in China, India and Saudi Arabia.

China’s defence expenditure
China spends far more on its military than any other power in Asia.

Beijing’s share of worldwide military expenditure rose to 13% in 2017 from just 5.8% in 2008, according to SIPRI. The Chinese government has increased spending 8.5% per year between 2007 and 2016.

How India uses its defence allocation?
In India’s case, however, increased spending doesn’t mean the armed forces are deploying state-of-the-art equipment. The rise in defense spending mostly goes toward salaries and pensions for roughly 1.4 million serving personnel and more than 2 million veterans, said Laxman Kumar Behera, a research fellow with New Delhi’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

India’s own army echoes that sentiment. Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Sarath Chand told a parliamentary committee in March the current budget barely accounts for inflation and tax payments. Only 14% goes toward military modernization compared to 63 percent for salaries, Chand said.

Reliance on defence imports
SIPRI previously ranked India as the world’s largest arms importer because its domestic defense manufacturing industry remains curtailed by red tape, a reliance on state-owned defense companies and procurement delays.

(Adapted from Livemint)