Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Defense 'cut'?

Pakistan has declared a defense budget freeze and asked India to reciprocate. Forgetting the arguments for India's defense needs, all one needs to ask is what exactly is the Pakistani defense budget?

Fudged accounting is the hallmark of defense budgets in most countries. For example, China simply doesn't calculate certain normal expenses to under report the budget. Their real defense budget is in the $100-140 billion range, or so the Pentagon claims. China's defense budget, like its currency, remains pegged much below its actual value. Officially, it was $60 billion for last year--a 17% increase over the previous year.

Anyway, before getting gauzy over Pakistan's claim, we need to remind ourselves what one of its own wrote on WaPost's op-ed pages a few days ago.

Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, chief of the Pakistani army, has told U.S. military and NATO officials that he will not retrain or reequip troops to fight the counterinsurgency war the Americans are demanding on Pakistan's mountainous western border.

Instead, the bulk of the army will remain deployed on Pakistan's eastern border and prepare for possible conflicts with traditional enemy India -- wars that have always been fought on the plains of Punjab. More than 80 percent of the $10 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan since the Sept. 11 attacks has gone to the military; much of it has been used to buy expensive weapons systems for the Indian front rather than the smaller items needed for counterinsurgency.

We know that Pakistani political leadership is clueless if not toothless when it comes to Pakistan's military. What's worst, till American money keeps pouring in to fight the 'war on terror,' Pakistan will have no compunction in siphoning off vast sums out of it to arm itself against India.

These funds obviously don't figure in Pakistan's defense budget.

Moral: Pakistani PM's pious declarations should be taken with more than a fistful of salt. You can bet he's lying through his (paan-stained?) teeth.

If there was one lesson from Kargil war that Indian leadership should get etched on its minds, it is that the Pakistani politicians cannot be trusted with its military matters. They will feign ignorance a la Nawaz Sharif and we'll be left counting dead bodies of our soldiers.

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