Indo-Pak: Proclaiming Peace under Missile Rivalry

While proclaiming peace and making attempts for friendly relations, the Indian and Pakistani governments are still in the race of building dangerous military hardware. On Saturday, Pakistan tested another intermediate range ballistic missile, Ghauri (Hataf) V. The missile is capable of carrying various nuclear warheads and can travel up to 1500km. According to Pakistani sources the new missile test-fire is a counter achievement to the Indian missile test conducted, lately.

Both India and Pakistan have been consistently involved in the race of stockpiling dangerous weapons since they became separate nations in 1947 from the British Colonial Rule. Both, miserably and quite consistently, failed to provide the very basics to their people yet they spend enormous amount of their budget on arms build-up especially on nuclear arsenals.

India, who has the second largest population in the world, spends 25 to 30% of its budget on defense. On the other hand, Pakistan – who since creation, most of the time ruled by the army – spends up to 74% of its budget on defense. In result, regrettably, the entire region became on the risk of nuclear blow. According to the figures compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India with a defense expenditure of U$66.2 billion in 2002 was 3rd in the world after China and USA. Similarly, in the same year Pakistan had a defense expenditure of U$14.2 billion. Defense overhead is the second largest item in both India and Pakistan. And, if the interest payments are excluded in the comparisons then defense expenditure, (capital and revenue) is the largest item of the government expenditure in these countries.

Bonded with common culture, ethnicity and centuries old history, both India and Pakistan have also inherited the territorial conflict by the Britain colonialism in the form of the dispute on Kashmir. In the last 50 years, Pakistan and India fought three wars. At the same time, the leaders of both the sides have also been found signing agreements and initiating peace proposals to normalize the mutual relations.

The game of threat and diplomacy has been going on from the very beginning; nevertheless, the fact of the matter remains the same that the living standard of a common person is constantly falling. While the population growth of the subcontinent is at its alarming stage, the people are still suffering to have basic necessities of daily life. Law & Order, Health, Social Security and Justice Systems are also below standards whilst the corruption is mounting.

In the environment where illiteracy is the main root cause of most of the problems and more than 70 percent of population live in the rural areas under the traditional feudal control, the history shows that whether it is an action to war or initiative to peace, the leaders of both the countries have vocalized their feats just to accomplish their political agendas.

It is also on record that whenever a peace initiative is laid down either the tension or fight ruptures on the borders and terrorists’ activities are prevailed within the country. For example; after the ‘Bus-Diplomacy’ –” visit of Vajpayee from Amritsar to Lahore in February, 1999, Kargil war broke out in October, 1999. Following the ‘Agra Summit’ – a visit of General Musharraf to Agra, in July 2001 –” there was a suicide attack on Indian parliament on December 13, 2001. Tensions between the two countries reached at the boiling point again when Kashmiri militants killed more than two dozen Indian soldiers’ wives and children in an attack on an army housing complex in Jammu and Kashmir. In counter reactions, India deployed 700,000 Indian troops on its border alongside Pakistan with the threats of ‘decisive’ action against Pakistan and Pakistan deployed about 300,000 troops to its side of the border to counter the Indian mobilization. Again, justifying the war threats, both the countries tested series of highly visible long-range nuclear warheads career missiles.

After more than year long tension on the borders, again General Musharraf offered hands of friendship by shaking his hand with Prime Minister Vajpayee at the 11th SAARC conference in January, 2002 followed by Vajpayee’s visit of friendship to Pakistan. Since then the leaderships of both India and Pakistan seem to be much eager in normalizing their relations.

The tremendous jubilation among the people of Pakistan and India, during the historic tour of Indian cricket team to Pakistan, recently, with unaccountable scenes of love at the peoples’ level endorses that the majority in India and Pakistan want peace and friendship.

In this situation, when new shared passion of friendship is producing momentum to a fledgling peace process there is no justification to spend more money and resources of the state on testing and building new and expensive warheads.

Undoubtedly, the funds and resources can be used in countless mutual benefits in many fields which will directly benefit to the people of both the countries. Both, India and Pakistan can save major part of their budget currently being spent on defense which otherwise could be used on providing basic facilities to their people like health, education, environment and security. A reasonable size health clinic can be opened in any village in the amount being spent on testing a high-tech missile.

Some key areas of sharing the resources which will directly benefit the people of both India and Pakistan are trade, commerce, technology, arts & crafts, cultural affairs, agriculture, education, health-care, air and sea transportation, pollution control, natural disaster recovery, livestock development, Media & Art industry, research, crime & drug control, control of smuggling, prevention of terrorism, infrastructure development, telecommunications and tourism.