New Delhi’s military expenditure grew by 8.5% last year to $55.9 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s annual report on defence spending.
The United States remained at the top of the list, with its military spending growing by 1.7% between 2015 and 2016 to $611 billion. Military expenditure by China, the second largest spender, increased by 5.4% to $215 billion, a “much lower rate of growth than in previous years”, the report said.
Russia hiked its spending by 5.9% to $69.2 billion, making it the third largest spender. Saudi Arabia was the third largest spender in 2015 but dropped to fourth position in 2016 as its spending fell by 30% to $63.7 billion despite its involvement in regional conflicts.
Total global military expenditure in 2016 rose by 0.4% over 2015 in real terms, according to the new figures from SIPRI.
In February, India hiked its allocation for defence in 2017-18 by 6% to Rs 2.74 lakh crore, including Rs 86,488 crore for modernisation. However, experts said the modest increase could hurt the military’s modernisation plans, crucial to keeping up with China’s expanding might.
India’s military spending has averaged an annual increase of 10% during the past three years, much to the disappointment of the military that is struggling to scale up its capabilities.
The armed forces are currently negotiating several big-ticket deals for Rafale fighter jets, Apache, Chinook and Kamov helicopters and the M-777 lightweight howitzers.
The SIPRI report also said military spending in North America saw its first annual increase since 2010, while spending in Western Europe grew for the second consecutive year.
Global military expenditure rose for a second consecutive year to a total of $1686 billion, marking the first consecutive annual increase since 2011, when spending reached a peak of $1,699 billion.
The report said spending continued to grow in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa. By contrast, spending fell in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, South America and sub-Saharan Africa.
“The growth in US military expenditure in 2016 may signal the end of a trend of decreases in spending, which resulted from the economic crisis and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq,” the report said.
US spending last year remained 20% lower than its peak in 2010. “Despite continuing legal restraints on the overall US budget, increases in military spending were agreed upon by Congress,” said Aude Fleurant, director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme.
Military expenditure in Western Europe rose by 2.6% in 2016 and experts said this was linked to growing threat perceptions. There were spending increases in all but three countries in the region. Italy recorded the highest increase, with spending rising by 11%.
“The growth in spending by many countries in Central Europe can be partly attributed to the perception of Russia posing a greater threat,” said Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI AMEX programme.
There were also large falls in military spending by many oil-exporting countries. “Falling oil revenue and associated economic problems attached to the oil-price shock has forced many oil-exporting countries to reduce military spending,” said Nan Tian, a researcher with SIPRI. “For example, between 2015 and 2016, Saudi Arabia had the biggest absolute decrease in spending of $25.8 billion.”