India was world’s 3rd-biggest military spender in 2020, behind US and China - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 27 April 2021

India was world’s 3rd-biggest military spender in 2020, behind US and China

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 28th Apr 21


India was the world’s third-biggest military spender in 2020, exceeded only by the US and China, reports the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).


“The five biggest spenders in 2020, which together accounted for 62 per cent of global military expenditure, were the United States, China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom.” stated the SIPRI annual report, which was released on Monday.


The US spent $778 billion, more than thrice the next biggest spender China, which spent $252 billion. India’s expenditure of $72.9 billion was followed by Russia ($61.7 billion), the United Kingdom ($59.2 billion), Saudi Arabia ($57.5 billion), Germany (52.8 billion), France ($52.7 billion), Japan ($49.1 billion) and South Korea ($45.7 billion).


The world’s total military spending rose to $1981 billion last year, an increase of 2.6 per cent, even though the global gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 4.4 per cent due to the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Consequently “military spending as a share of GDP—the military burden—reached a global average of 2.4 per cent in 2020, up from 2.2 per cent in 2019. This was the biggest year-on-year rise in the military burden since the global financial and economic crisis in 2009,” stated the SIPRI report.


In SIPRI’s reporting, all percentage changes are expressed in real terms, that is in constant 2019 prices. In calculating “military expenditure”, SIPRI includes all government spending on current military forces and activities, “including salaries and benefits, operational expenses, arms and equipment purchases, military construction, research and development, and central administration, command and support.”


Although military spending rose globally, some countries – including Chile and South Korea – diverted a part of their military spending to the pandemic response. Several others, such as Brazil and Russia, ended up spending considerably less on the defence account than their initial military budgets for 2020 had allocated.


“We can say with some certainty that the pandemic did not have a significant impact on global military spending in 2020,” said Diego Lopes da Silva, Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. “It remains to be seen whether countries will maintain this level of military spending through a second year of the pandemic.”


The US, the world’s largest spender, increased spending in 2020 by 4.4 per cent over its 2019 allocation. Washington accounted for 39 per cent of total global military expenditure in 2020. This was the third consecutive year of growth in US military spending, following seven years of continuous reductions. 


The recent increases in US military spending can be primarily attributed to heavy investment in research and development, and several long-term projects such as modernizing the US nuclear arsenal and large-scale arms procurement,’ said Alexandra Marksteiner, a SIPRI researcher.


China’s military expenditure of $252 billion in 2020 represents an increase of 1.9 per cent over 2019 and 76 per cent over the decade 2011–20. China’s spending has risen for 26 consecutive years, the longest series of uninterrupted increases by any country in the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database. 


“China stands out as the only major spender in the world not to increase its military burden in 2020 despite increasing its military expenditure, because of its positive GDP growth last year,’ said Dr Nan Tian, SIPRI Senior Researcher.




Graphic: Key Figures

World military expenditure was $1981 billion in 2020, an increase of 2.6 per cent on 2019 in real terms. 

Total military spending accounted for 2.4 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. 

The five biggest spenders in 2020 were the United States, China, India, Russia and the United Kingdom, which together accounted for 62 per cent of world military spending. 

US military expenditure grew by 4.4 per cent in 2020, to $778 billion. China (1.9 per cent), India (2.1 per cent), Russia (2.5 per cent) and the UK (2.9 per cent) all increased their military spending in 2020. 

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