Brian Cloughley has studied South Asian affairs for over 30 years. He has also authored two books, A History of the Pakistan Army and War (which focuses on Kargil war) and War, Coups and Terror (which studies the evolution of the Pakistan Army between 1972 and 2008).
On June 21, 2012 the Herald invited Cloughley to a live discussion about the allocation of the defence budget. The blog has been edited for space, clarity and grammar.
7:27 Comment From Safa. What are the reasons behind the secrecy of the defence budget?
7:28 Brian Cloughley. The normal reasons that most countries have for secrecy, although in the case ofPakistan, there is rather more, simply, I think, because of a tradition of secrecy. I doubt it’s sinister.
7:29 Comment From M Anwer. Do you think the allocation of the defence budget is politically motivated?
7:31 Brian Cloughley. No I don’t — if only becausePakistan isn’t like some other countries, in that politicians (in theUS for example) have defence industries in their electorates & have to pander to industry. As to other reasons . . . no, I can’t really think of any.
7:31 Comment From Haroon Asif . When do you think discussing the defence budget in the parliament seize to be taboo. It seams that all political parties when in out of power tend to be all for transparency of defence spending but when in power, only a selected few talk about it and that also behind closed doors. Secondly if the military portrays itself to be so accountable and just why are they afraid of disclosing where the money is being spent?
7:35 Brian Cloughley. You are quite right about parliamentary discussion; of course, it’s a bit strange that there’s no insistence on open examination. For example, they could discuss why there are different priorities for navy and air force in allocations. As to disclosure by the military itself, this can be difficult if only because there are some aspects that should not be known by outsiders. No country, so far as I know, ever gives the smallest details about nuclear programme allocations. But in the basics, you are right: there should be a bit more transparency, and I think it is improving gradually.
7:36 Comment From Haroon Asif. Does the war against militancy within the country justify the 12 % increase in defence spending? (this does not include the Rs 73 billion allocated for pensions of military personnel that would be paid from the civilian budget and a separate allocation for security-related expenses).
7:39 Brian Cloughley. Answering second point first: no country includes military pensions in defence budgets. This was a device dreamed up way back by the politicians so that they could disguise at least some part of military expenditure. As to the war against militancy — I don’t think that the costs of this are widely understood. It is enormously expensive to maintain such a high degree of readiness and to continually train for this type of military activity. The operating costs of having so many troops in the west of the country are really staggering.
7:39 Comment From Hammad Raza. In current coalition government system in Pakistan, a number of political wings of establishment have become part and parcel of Pakistan’s current democratic set-up, how democratic forces can cut down to size the praetorian state structure by rationalizing defence budget?
7:43 Brian Cloughley. Rationalisation of defence budgets is the Ideal of all nations, but it’ll never happen, mainly because it is so difficult to predict what charges will be made. And politicians aren’t experts in this, so they try to cover all bases.
7:43 Comment From Hammad Raza. There is a perennial predicament in Pakistan related to imbalanced civil-military relations. In current situation, when military has gained immense ascendancy to power extending into the realm of political economy, how it can be possible to open up defence budget before ‘unpatriotic’ politicians?
7:45 Brian Cloughley. It’s not a matter of distrusting the politicians. After all, I don’t think that even the most venal of pollies would actually betray their country by revealing defence secrets to foreigners. The matter of openness goes further than that. The tradition is one of secrecy. It hasn’t been the custom to openly discuss defence expenditure matters. I think things are getting better, but this sort of change takes time.
7:46 Comment From Muhammad Faryad. Do you think the defence budget is decreasing the competitiveness of private businesses by subsidizing the military-owned businesses?
7:49 Brian Cloughley. I imagine you are thinking of such organisations as the Fauji Foundation, which owns a lot of businesses. Some of these are indeed in competition with other businesses of like nature. But I don’t think that their competitiveness is adversely affected by the defence budget. And we have to bear in mind that Fauji looks after several million dependants of service members, thereby saving the greater economy an awful lot of money.
7:54 Comment From Muhammad Faryad. Is it true that the changing nature of warfare (remote controlled weapons, cyber warfare, and terrorism, to name a few) requires more investment in educational, technological, and industrial development of the nation to be able to defend the nation from internal and external threats? Or is this just an exaggeration the military propagates?
7:57 Brian Cloughley. There is no doubt that the highly technical devices that are so necessary in modern warfare are expensive in cash terms and demanding in operator skills. So there has to be investment all round. As General Kayani said, “We in the Army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development because ultimately security does not only mean secure borders but the welfare of the people. We would like to spend less on defence; any country should do the same way.”
So I don’t think there’s much exaggeration going on — but of course all defence forces try to get as much as they can!
7:58 Comment From Hassan J. How does Pak’s defence budget stand in relation to India‘s?
7:59 Brian Cloughley. It’s about one sixth of Indian defence spending. Both countries have enormous internal security problems in addition to maintaining conventional and nuclear defence structures, and the costs are staggering.
8:00 Comment From Dara S. Do you think most of the military expenditure is spent of training and providing the Taliban with weapons?
8:00 Brian Cloughley. I really don’t think that there is any training of Taliban. Or weapons’ supply, either. After all, a country would be a bit strange to train and equip people who have killed over 3000 soldiers of its military and paramilitary forces . . . .
8:02 Comment From Iqbal. In what year was the most transparent defence budget released? Why do you think that was?
8:03 Brian Cloughley. I think it was 2011. All part of governments developing wider social consciences
8:03 Comment From SHM. Besides Pakistan which other country is less open about their military budget? Are the reasons similar to Pakistan?
8:06 Brian Cloughley. No country is really open about its defence budget. It might look as if the UK, for example, is indeed most open — but if one tries to dig down and discover how much is spent on Intelligence, nuclear, murky dealings, we never seem to get very far. The reasons are similar, sure: but one has to bear in mind that in politics and bureaucracy there is an inbuilt tendency to keep things secret for the sake of doing so.
8:06 Comment From Obaid. Adding to what you said, isn’t it true that the defence budget is given such an alarmingly large proportion of our total budget at the expense of the budget allocated towards education, infrastructure etc. When what this country really needs is better educational systems and more development to tackle a lot of problems that the army has to deal with right now. Like terrorism and in the long run corruption which should decrease with an increase in literacy in the country because one of the major rifts between the govt and the military is because of the dishonest leaders that we have. Then why is it that every year our defence budget increases when it should be decreasing or be in some reasonable proportion to other major spending concerns which will in fact help us get out of the mess that we are in better than the army can help us with..
8:10 Brian Cloughley. I so agree with you. But of course we have to bear in mind that all costs are increasing year by year. And when you think of the cost of new equipment, it’s mind-boggling. The main drain, though, is almost certainly in operating costs of the 130,000 troops in the west of the country, who have to be stationed there because of the Afghan war and its most adverse effects on Pakistan’s stability. It costs vast amounts in fuel, for example. And we also have to remember that the services are the only real fall-back when there are natural disasters. The earthquake and the floods would have had much worse effects if it hadn’t been for massive military assistance — which costs an awful lot of money.
8:11 Comment From Yusra. What is the model country for transparent military budget?
8:17 Brian Cloughley. Ireland
8:18 Comment From SHM. Why is Ireland a model country for transparent military budget?
8:19 Brian Cloughley. That was intended to be a tiny joke. Just because it has a very small budget, no advanced weapons, and relies on not having any wars to fight . . .
8:11 Comment From Obaid. What was the biggest problem with the defence budget this year?
8:22 Brian Cloughley. It all depends where you come from. If you’re wearing uniform, you would say ‘There isn’t enough’. If you are a teacher you would probably say ‘it’s far too much.’ In no country will you ever have agreement. But I think we all agree that reduction in defence spending would be a good thing. The Army Chief himself has said this. But how to do it? Better people than we are have tried!
8:25 Brian Cloughley. Here’s what I wrote elsewhere about Pakistan’s defence budgeting process. It might encourage more discussion: Pakistan’s security objectives will place a heavy requirement on maintaining a consistent level of defence spending. However, as GDP is estimated to grow relatively uniformly in later years following the end of current procurement agreements, the percentage of GDP necessary to complete defence objectives will diminish. Also, an uncertain political future could prevent any consistent level of expense, although the military’s omnipresence in Pakistan’s political landscape ensures that levels are unlikely to drop too drastically.
Defence spending transparency has improved inPakistan, but there remains no structured approach to capital acquisition. Programme management and budgeting, as understood in most defence forces, is not practised. The focus of spending is on modernisation, and counterinsurgency operations inNorth WestFrontierProvince.
8:29 Comment From M Anwer. The government has to appease the media, the people and the army. Do you think this years’ defence budget has appeased anyone?
8:30 Brian Cloughley. No I don’t think that this year’s defence budget has appeased or pleased anyone. By definition, that is extremely difficult, if not impossible, because everyone has different priorities. We’re all human.
8:30 Comment From Qayum Khan. Pakistan has been under several martial coups, how does the shroud on the defence budget change in those years?
8:32 Brian Cloughley. In the Zia years everything was kept very quiet indeed — possibly because there were a lot of subsidies from Riyadh. Oddly enough, when democracy came back after Zia was killed, there wasn’t much clarity evident, either, and neither Benazir nor Nawaz seemed anxious to have much more. Strange, really.
I think time’s up. Thank you very much, everyone.