Pakistan’s National Security vs. ‘lowest’ Defense budget in the world

Pakistan, being the sole nuclear region in the Islamic world, is located at a strategically important place on the world map. It has strategically important gateways to connect with the neighboring countries.

Pakistan shares the border with unstable Afghanistan on the North-West side which is almost 2,250KM long. Khyber Pass is strategically important because it connects Pakistan to Afghanistan. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is called Duran Line. In the East, Pakistan shares the border with its arch-rival India, the border length is almost 1650 KMs and the historical name of the Line between borders is called Radcliffe Line.

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On the North side, Pakistan shares a border with China with an area of almost 600KM, and Khunjrab Pass strategically connects china to Pakistan. The border between China and Pakistan is called Sino-Pak Border. Pakistan shares its West border with Iran which is 900 KMs long. The strategically important location between the west borders is Koh-i-Tuftan. And, the south border of Pakistan is strategically most important because of the Arabian Sea where Pakistan shares its 700 KMs border. Karachi Port and Gwadar Port are two main trade hubs are in the same border of Pakistan.

For every state, especially when the geostrategic environment is this complex, survival is the primary objective. The armed forces are part of the state defense sector, which includes all the actors and organizations involved in providing, managing, and overseeing national defense. The armed forces are a cornerstone of state and human security, but their legitimacy and effectiveness depend on fulfilling their mission accountably within a framework of democratic, civilian control, rule of law, and respect for human rights.

Pakistan is a developing country and has limited resources to meet the growing challenges of geostrategic, political, social, economic, environmental, and technological changes. On the one hand, Pakistan is facing a traditional rival and conventionally superior India, and on the other hand, Pakistan has become a victim of terrorism. So, in order to meet internal as well as external security threats, Pakistan also needs a budget to make even stronger, capable, and modern armed forces.

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Considering these threats and challenges along with the deployment of the Pakistan Army, it is not wrong to say that Pakistan’s armed forces are considered to be the best while these forces are utilizing just a small portion of Pakistan’s budget.  The money earmarked for the defense was based on the “threat perception, challenges, deployment and the resources available”.

Pakistan Army didn’t increase its budget in the last 2 years due to the economic condition of Pakistan. But, the enemy’s growing defense budget has always been a challenge for Pakistan’s armed forces. In the face of such major risks, only 2 percent of GDP has a defense budget this year.

The defense budget allocation for the fiscal year 2022-23, in fact, had decreased considering inflation and rupee depreciation, which is now 2.2 percent of the GDP from 2.8 percent last year.

Criticism of Pakistan’s Defense budget increase for FY 2022-2023 is absolutely unwarranted because Pakistan’s defense budget stood at PKR 1.37 trillion in FY 2021-2022, totaling around 3 percent of GDP. However, since last year, the rupee lost 24 percent value against the US dollar. On top, inflation went up by 14 percent during the same period. Defense spending needed PKR 205 billion for mere inflation adjustment but only PKR 153 billion has been increased which is 2.2 percent of GDP.

Pakistan spends much less on defense in comparison with other regional countries. For instance, Oman spends 12 percent of its GDP on defense, Afghanistan 10.6 percent, Lebanon 10.5 percent, Saudi Arabia 8 percent, Kuwait 7 percent, Algeria 6.7 percent, Iraq 5.8 percent, UAE 5.6 percent, Azerbaijan 4 percent, Morocco 5.3 percent, Israel 5.2 percent, Jordan 4.9 percent, Qatar 4.4 percent, Russia 3.9 percent and US 3.4 percent. Pakistan’s defense budget on a per capita basis is one of the lowest in the world. Pakistan spends $40 on a per capita basis while Israel spends $2,200 on a per capita basis.

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India’s defense budget India is 21.4 percent of the total budget and is the third-largest country in the world in terms of annual defense spending. India’s defense budget is seven times higher than Pakistan’s.

Despite the odd, Pakistan’s defense forces are ranked as the 10th most powerful military in the world by the Global Fire Power Index. It reflects the Pakistan Armed Forces’ resilience, professionalism, and commitment to Pakistan’s security within limited means.

Despite the suspension of the Coalition Support Fund after 2018, the defense and security needs were met by domestic resources. The targets and scope of Operation Anti-Corruption and other security issues were not compromised, too.

Defense services are needed to defend the country, its vital national interests, and values against external and internal (existing or potential) threats of armed aggression. In short, Armed Forces are an imperative as the ultimate instrument of National Security.

Even neutral and peaceful countries, like Switzerland in Europe or Bhutan in South Asia have to maintain essential defense capability (backed by alliances or trained citizen soldiers). In the real world, a militarily weak country that is not capable of self-defense cannot survive as a sovereign state.

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This Opinion has been contributed anonymously.

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