Bring hope to the people of South Asia

India’s prime minister Vajpayee and Pakistan’s Musharraf make a tentative peace agreement.

The perilous divide between Third World nuclear powers India and Pakistan may have hope and peace on the horizon as the cease-fire agreement appears to be holding in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. Most of the violence has come from militants coming down into the disputed region from Pakistan and attacking and killing Indian civilians. The current time of apparent peace seems largely to do with Pakistan’s president Perez Musharraf reigning in the Muslim militants within his country.

India’s altercation with Pakistan predate by over 30 years, since India was partitioned in 1947 by the British. In October Pakistan conducted at least three missile tests believed to be related to their nuclear missile program. India is believed to have more than double the missiles and Armaments than Pakistan but there is a fear that if the Islamic fundamentalists that remain a significant political force in Pakistan were to take over the government there would be a greatly heightened possibility for their use.

On this backdrop the Bush administration has played the role of arms merchant, providing weapons sales to both sides. The U.S. remains the leading arms trader in the world. Much of the weaponry flooded into Pakistan and Afghanistan during the 1980s for the U.S. sponsored Mujuhadin, later to evolve into the Taliban and Al Queda.

Many in the region and throughout the world are critical of the U.S. avidly participating in arms sales and profiteering from weapon sales in South Asia. The regions population of 1.3 billion, significant numbers living in poverty, in no way benefit from the weapons transfers. Numerous non governmental organizations point out that what both countries need to alleviate poverty and improve social stability are investments in water, agriculture, education and health care. A refocus on these areas would likely decrease the numbers joining the militants by reducing the level of poverty in the region and bring hope to the people of South Asia.