Article: The price of defence is costlier than the politics of peace
by Ali Abbas
With every new missile (Nuclear capable) test fired, with each new advance fighter plane fetched and with every induction of the most sophisticated naval ship, every citizen feels more patriotic, while the government portrays the country as more secure, and as a regional or global power in making.
However what is less, or not emphasised at all is the ‘real cost’ of all these advancements and military might. And we rarely consider the genocidal effects of all these modern weaponry.
Yet both India and Pakistan, still being developing states, with all those internal challenges, keep making extravagant military expenditure.
More weapons on shopping list
It was a bonanza year for death manufacturing industries. The new nationalist government in India had raised the defence budget by 12% to 2.29 trillion Indian rupees ($38.35 billion). Modernisation of armed forces was a priority. Also too upstretched was foreign investment in domestic defence from 26% to 49%. While Pakistan had its defence budget hiked by 11% to Rs 700 billion.
Both the countries are also privileged customers of leading weapon manufacturing nations, especially USA. In the list of nations importing arms, India is among the top few, and further plans to spend $130 billion over the next seven years to buy most advanced weaponries, while Pakistan stood in the 5th position in the year 2013.
Considering the aforementioned points, the central question to be asked is, did we achieve peace or at least resolve the conflicts? Rather, both India and Pakistan have become part of an expensive arms’ race and a threat perception cycle that includes China.
World’s Highest Battleground
India and Pakistan also hold a unique record of having locked horns at an altitude of more than 18000 ft at Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battle ground. According to Guinness World Record websites, in the maintenance of troops, India spends about $ 1 million a month and Pakistan, $ 588,000. While soldiers often have more casualty due to extreme weather conditions with temperatures as low as -60°.
Siachen is just one among many expensive and disputed posts, apart from which both the armies have to maintain a 3323 km long border. This takes tremendous money, manpower and machines.
Hype, Hypocrisy and Hatred
Governments often face public pressure to react aggressively thanks to some of the media, political parties/ groups and social networking sites which exaggerate every incident that happens at the border. It is by default the other country’s fault and our response should be the hardest one.
Type India or Pakistan in the search bar of any major news website, one may find that the majority of the content is filled with negative news against each other often with warnings and upcoming threats. The only neutral news seems to be on cricket.
There are certain political parties and groups in both the countries, whose arrogant loudmouth leaders feed their dirty politics of divide by spreading hatred, and by attacking sports and talent of both the nations.
Quick to take over are social networking sites, where fierce posts/ tweets are exchanged more than the bombs and bullets across the border. It is surprising to see hate pages against both the countries with thousands of likes for it.
To sum it up, all these acts provide extra boost to the issue and create pressure on the government at the centre and on soldiers on the border. Compared to this, how much positive pressure is built to promote peace, which is definitely in favour of every single person?
Realization of peace
Not everything is bad between both the countries. Often, efforts are made from both sides to restore ties and talks. Certain key segments of the people, politicians, policy makers and analysts well acknowledge the benefits of retaining peace.
As said by Shehbaz Sharif, Chief Minister and younger brother of Pakistan Primer Nawaz Sharif, “By god, war is not an option for two nuclear countries. History has proved that the most ardent enemies have settled their differences through talks and not war.” He further added, “The two countries have fought several wars, lost hundreds of lives and wasted resources without resolving any of the outstanding issues or achieving anything. Let’s forget the baggage of the past and make a new beginning.”
Aaghaz E Dosti
It was indeed a new level of Aaghaz E Dosti, when Prime Minister Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif along with the heads of other SAARC nations for his swearing in ceremony, and as a goodwill gesture, Pakistan released 151 fishermen. But what followed on the borders, paused the process of normalcy again.
It is for us to decide if we want to proceed with systematic budgeted destruction or endure peace and tranquillity.
Peace is a better defence than sophisticated weapons.
To sum it up, even the most advanced weapon has to go through the fate of INS Vikrant, India’s First air craft carrier inducted in 1959 saw action in 1971, and was decommissioned in 1997. It served as a maritime museum till 2004 when it was reduced to scrap.
While peace can yield benefits for years to come and enhance flow of trade and talents, it is only if peace is maintained between both the counties that we will be able to achieve our domestic development dreams.
Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi is a reminder of the inner crucial challenges we have in common, and the extent of hard and continues efforts that are needed to eliminate them.
As said by Albert Einstein, “Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding”.
Ali Abbas is a professional social worker and a peace activist, currently into environmental activism. Based out of Hyderabad he works with different volunteering groups and grass root movements across the country.