The Indian government’s decision to spend $3.5 billion on modernizing the military is likely to send alarm bells ringing on this side of the border. The BJP led government is probably not basing this choice solely on the threat they fear from Pakistan, and China will have been just as much of a concern for Modi’s government in their consideration for increasing military spending. Our rivalry with our Eastern neighbors will be used as an excuse by hawks on this side to resume spending a large chunk of our budget on the armed forces.

The Indian government’s rationale for increasing the defence budget by 12% to defend the borders of the country is consistent with the shift in the Indian government’s ideology to more nationalistic elements which was to be expected if the BJP was elected into office, especially with Narendra Modi at the helm. Modi’s election campaign was primarily focused on the economy but also featured a large amount of rhetoric aimed at promoting Hindu nationalism at the expense of Pakistan. Will the Pakistani government and the armed forces view this as a direct threat to the delicate balance of power between the two nations? If they do, how will they respond?

Nawaz Sharif has spent a year and a half convincing all and sundry that improving economic ties with India and keeping the peace was in the mutual interest of both countries. But it is also important to remember how the Nawaz government reacted to Operation Shakti in May 1998. When India conducted five nuclear tests, we conducted six. The military on both sides of the border have always been distrustful of each other, even in times of peace. Trade between the two countries has increased, but only by a small margin. If the PML-N government is considering increasing military spending to resume the arms race that Nawaz Sharif stated was “wasted resources” only last year in his address to the UN, they must remember where their priorities lie. Can we really afford to indulge in another battle for supremacy in armaments when a host of other problems lie unaddressed? The energy crisis, the water issue and the relocation of IDPs are issues that will not be solved by spending large sums on advanced weaponry. For once, one hopes the state’s priorities are in order, and the real existential threats that Pakistan is facing, will be dealt with first.