The government of India is expected to spend over Rs 3,05,296 crores on the military budget. This is the estimate provided in the Interim Budget presented before parliament by the Finance Minister. This amounts to over 11% of the overall expenditure by the government. Expenditure in the name of defense consistently has the second highest allocation in the government expenditure, after interest payments.
To get a more accurate picture of the actual expenditure on armed forces, the expenditure of the Home Ministry (Rs 1,03,927 lakhs) must be included, as the Central Paramilitary forces are budgeted under the Home Ministry. Taken together, the amount slated to be spent on the armed forces is nearly 15 % of the total budget.
There is no discussion in parliament on the defense budget. Expenditure on defense is treated as a “holy cow” in all capitalist countries, and India is no exception. Any political party which questions why so much money is spent in the name of defense is treated as an enemy of the country.
Let us look at the scale of expenditure on defense, as compared to allocations for other sectors.
According to the budget, allocation on health is just 2%. This means the expenditure on armed forces is over 7 times the health budget. It is over 4 times the education budget.
Like in the past few years, the government has allocated Rs 3,000 crores under the heading “development of the North East”. The North East consists of seven states — Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram. The expenditure on the armed forces is 136 times the money deployed for the development of these states! The Rafale deal for 36 fighter planes alone costs the government of India 60,000 crores — 20 times what is proposed to be spent on the North East!
The capitalist monopolies controlling the world arms market are extremely excited at the massive expenditure by India on the armed forces. India is currently the fourth biggest spender on armed forces in the world. A handful of giant arms production monopolies dominate the world arms market. These monopolies not only have a captive market for their weapons of destruction in their own governments, they contend fiercely with each other to capture the biggest share of the global arms market as well. The US, Israel, Russia, Britain, Italy, the European Consortium, etc. have been fiercely competing with each other for the Indian market. The governments of the countries of these arms manufacturing monopolies actively work to market their weapons globally. The French government actively worked to ensure that India bought the Rafale fighter jets manufactured by its arms monopoly Dassault Aviation.
The government of India, like other capitalist governments, justifies its massive expenditure on war equipment, citing threat from hostile countries. However, a look at the strategy of the Indian state shows that it is arming itself, not for defence against foreign powers, but to advance its imperialist aims. The Indian state has set its sight on establishing its domination over a very vast region — from the East coast of the African continent, the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, through the Malacca straits, into the Pacific Ocean. Its strategy is to achieve this goal in collaboration with the US. How can this aggressive plan be considered as for “defense of India”? It is for aggression, for participation in wars of conquest, in collusion with the US imperialists. This is the same kind of “defense” that the US justifies, when it stations its troops and warships all over the globe.
The imperialist states and their arms merchants actively incite civil wars in various countries. They also incite wars between neighbouring countries. Such wars expand the market for arms, and also serve the imperialist states in capturing markets and sources of raw materials. In our region, the US imperialists have always incited conflict between India and Pakistan. They play one against the other and make massive profits from selling sophisticated arms to both countries. Both countries waste enormous amounts of money on stocking up weapons of destruction, and maintaining huge armed forces. This is precious money of the people, which could have been instead productively deployed in fulfilling the needs of the workers and peasants.
For decades after independence, much of arms production in the country was in the state sector, in the ordinance factories and in companies like HAL, BEML, etc. Over the past few years, a military industrial complex is developing in India. This is in keeping with the greatly increasing appetite of the capitalist monopolies of our country. They are fired up with the vision of sitting on the high table with the US and other imperialist powers. They are actively seeking to expand their markets, and secure sources of raw materials. They want to develop the military might of the Indian state to support them in their imperialist endeavours. They view the entire Indian Ocean region as “their area of dominance”. They are participating wholeheartedly in the Indo-Pacific strategy of the US imperialists, with the aim of achieving this. They are being egged on by the US to contend with China in Asia as well as in Africa.
The biggest capitalist monopolies — the Tatas, Mukesh Ambani group, Anil Ambani group, Mahindras, Larsen and Toubro, and several others — have aggressively entered the field of arms production. They are establishing collaborations with the giant arms manufacturing capitalist monopolies of imperialist countries. They are looking at making massive monopoly profits by selling arms to the government of India. To benefit these capitalist monopolies, the government of India has been changing defence procurement policies, as well as pursuing the course of privatisation of the defence production industry.
Capitalist monopolies are least concerned about ensuring the defence of India from foreign aggression. What concerns them is how to make maximum profits by looting the government exchequer. All the parties of the ruling class — both those in government and those in opposition, defend this loot. The party in power gets a cut from the loot. The opposition screams about corruption, while it waits its turn to come to power to get a share of the loot from defence procurement. Capitalists and the ruling politicians make money in every possible way — from arms deals, from the uniforms and food supplied to soldiers, from guns (Bofors deal), from coffins (as happened after Kargil war).
The government and the opposition never tire of talking about the heroism of the jawans on the border. However, when the jawans complain about the terrible conditions they are forced to live in, the bad food they are forced to eat, the government and the army chiefs take disciplinary action against them and try their best to silence them. The truth is that as far as the capitalist monopolies and their government are concerned, the 12 lakh men and women of the Armed Forces are merely cannon fodder. They treat the soldiers in the same way they treat workers — to be exploited to the maximum and then thrown away.
The workers, peasants and patriotic intelligentsia of our country must reject the propaganda of the rulers that buying of sophisticated arms and further militarization is in the interests of national security. The truth is, it is being carried out to further the imperialist ambitions of the Indian ruling class against other countries and to maximise the profits of the capitalist monopolies in the arms production sector.
The majority of the men and women in the armed forces are sons and daughters of workers, peasants and the progressive intelligentsia. They are ready to lay down their lives for the country. However, a minority of capitalist monopolies control and dominate state power. These capitalists do not care one bit for the country or its security or the wellbeing of our people. They are willing to sell India to foreign powers to ensure maximum profits for themselves. Every party that comes to power works to advance the agenda of these capitalist monopolies.
The ruling class and its political parties are, in fact, the greatest threat to national security. They constantly incite divisions amongst the people on the basis of religion, language, caste, region, and race, to smash the unity and solidarity of our people. Far from working to defend our country and her people from hostile powers, the ruling class and its political parties are pursuing a course that plays into the hands of the US and other imperialists, who seek to weaken and disintegrate our country. They are strengthening a military strategic alliance with the US, and playing into the US game of inciting conflicts amongst the countries of Asia. It is a course that greatly endangers the sovereignty of our country and peace and security in the region.
Expenditure on military hardware is a totally unproductive expenditure. It does not satisfy the needs of people or contribute to extended reproduction. The military hardware is either unused, or used for destruction. In either case, it is unproductive.
The workers, peasants, and progressive intelligentsia must question and oppose the massive military expenditure of the Indian state, aimed at fulfilling the greed for mega-profits of the capitalist monopolies, and for waging wars of conquest against other countries. They must demand that the government pursues peaceful and friendly relations with all neighbouring countries, gets out of the Indo-US strategic alliance, cuts back on arms spending and uses the money saved to invest in the wellbeing of people.