NEW DELHI: China’s defence budget saw its smallest increase in recent times with its propagandists even touting it as a decline. Hogwash, says Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. In an exclusive chat with StratNews Global, he said this is not a budget, only an allocation which could well go up. In his view, the budget will vary from $170 bn to $300 bn, which is close to the halfway mark of the US defence budget. More money could go to the navy and air force since those are seen as the instruments through which China projects its strategic power.
The budget figures will not include weapons and equipment being procured from abroad, which includes the S-400 missile defence system, Su-27 and Su-30 fighters, aero engines, hi-tech radar or ships and submarines. Nuclear weapons come under the omnibus category of research and development, so no clarity there on how much is being spent.
Prof. Kondapalli made an important observation: More and more China’s military spending resembles that of the former Soviet Union, which tried to match the US, warship to warship, missile to missile, went bankrupt and disintegrated.
He says India cannot match China in military spending, but must develop other ways to restrain Beijing. This is visible in the formation of the Quad, in the naval facilities India is being offered in a number of strategic Indian Ocean islands, the rising interoperability with foreign navies and intelligence sharing.