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Pakistan rules out cut in India-specific defence budget

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
June 08, 2009 14:40 IST
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The Pakistan army has ruled out the possibility of a cut in the procurement of conventional and India- specific weapons purchase, despite a sharp increase in expenses due to operations against Taliban in the country's northwest.

"If you are suggesting that we should take something out of here and put it in another box that would not be a wise strategy. War on terror does require resources, but it should not be at the cost of something else," chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas has said. Abbas noted that a recent increase in the Indian defence budget was Pakistan-specific.

"Take the example of offensive aircraft, take the example of AWACS (airborne warning and control system aircraft), take the example of air-to-air refueling system. Take tank division and mechanised forces and their latest offensive doctrine of cold start strategy. All these things are Pakistan-specific," he told Dawn News channel.

In February, the Indian government increased defence spending by over 34 per cent to $32.7 billion in its interim budget. The Pakistan government, which is expected to unveil its annual budget on June 13, usually makes its defence allocations with the objective of maintaining conventional parity with India.

The Pakistan People's Party-led government allocated nearly Rs 296 billion for defence in the budget for 2008-09, an increase of almost seven per cent over the Rs 277 billion spent on the military in the previous fiscal. The allocation for defence was later raised to Rs 310 billion.

Sources in the finance ministry told the media that the defence allocation for the next fiscal might be increased to Rs 342 billion. In a departure from the usual practice, the government last year lifted a 43-year-old veil of secrecy on the country's defence budget by presenting some details of financial allocations for the armed forces in parliament.

This was the first time that Pakistan's defence spending has been declassified since the 1965 war with India. Over the past four decades, budget documents presented in parliament only mentioned the allocation for defence as a grand total.

Meanwhile, noted security analyst Pervez Hoodbhoy of Quaid-i-Azam University has warned the Pakistan government against following India in increasing defence spending.

"Our threat comes from the people within Pakistan. Our threat is inherent. We should not spend it on buying more aircraft, more tanks or more submarines," he said.

Zafarullah Khan, another security analyst, said the paradigm of the arms race between India and Pakistan must be re-examined.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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