The official spokesperson of the Pakistan military on Wednesday attacked the Indian media over the manner in which Islamabad’s decision to cut defence spending was reported. While the Pakistan military referred to its response to the Balakot attack, a minister in the Imran Khan government claimed the Indian media was affected by Hindutva.
The Pakistan Army had announced a “voluntary cut” in the defence budget on Tuesday, which was in keeping with the austerity drive launched by the Imran Khan government to attempt to address the nation’s fiscal woes.
After news of the defence cut by the Pakistan Army spread in India, Major General Asif Ghafoor, the official spokesperson for the Pakistan Army, took to Twitter on Wednesday. He tweeted, “Indian fake media busy spinning on our internal def budgeting choice. Don’t forget,we were the same forces with same budget on 27 Feb 19. We hv the capability & capacity to respond. Remember, it’s not budgeting, it’s resolve of force & the nation firmly standing behind its forces.”
Referring to Ghafoor’s tweet, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Pakistan’s minister for science and technology, declared the Indian media had “worldwide notoriety” for warmongering. Hussain tweeted, “Indian media is a classic case that what media should never be! They toe their agencies and establishment line like a pet, in #Pulwama indian media earned world wide notoriety for war mongering and seems they are first to get effected by Hinduvata doctrine.”
The defence spending cut announced by the Pakistan Army is unprecedented given the high profile the military has had in Pakistan’s polity. The military has not announced the exact nature and amount of reduction in defence spending.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Pakistan spent $11.4 billion on defence in 2018. SIPRI also noted defence expenditure constituted nearly 4 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP, significantly higher than India’s allocation. According to World Bank statistics, India’s defence expenditure constituted 2.5 per cent of its GDP in 2017, while Pakistan’s figure for the same year was 3.5 per cent.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday had welcomed the Pakistan Army’s decision to cut defence spending, declaring that the money saved by the decision would be allocated to the tribal areas and Balochistan. Imran tweeted, “I appreciate Pak Mil’s unprecedented voluntary initiative of stringent cuts in their defence expenditures for next FY bec of our critical financial situation, despite multiple security challenges. My govt will spend this money saved on dev of merged tribal areas & Balochistan.”
Experts have argued the Pakistan Army’s decision to cut military spending may be related to the country’s agreement with the IMF last month to secure a bailout package amounting to $6 billion. During negotiations for the bailout package, the IMF had demanded Pakistan provide details of its military cooperation with China, from which it continues to buy numerous weapon systems.