- Ominous for regional peace and stability
By M Fazal Elahi
It has been reported in the Indian and Pakistan print media lately that India has firmed up its plan to massively augment its military capability over the next five to seven years. According to information emanating from an official document and Indian military sources, published in leading Indian magazine India Today and in some leading English dailies of Pakistan on October 23, 2019, India has decided to take a quantum leap in strengthening its military capability. India has finalised a plan to spend $130 billion over the next five to seven years to modernise its armed forces. The document, says the Indian government will work on a comprehensive plan to expedite modernisation of its army, navy and the air force. Under this plan, a range of significant weapons, missiles, fighter jets, submarines and warships will be procured in the next few years.
Regardless of all that has been reported on India’s plans to strengthen its armed forces phenomenally and its poor past track-record with regard to procurement of military hardware, what should be a cause for major concern for the countries of the region, China and Pakistan in particular, is India’s unprecedented hegemonic designs in this part of the globe. Strongly backed by the USA in particular, and the other powers in general, which are busy selling state-of-the-art military hardware worth billions of dollars to India, augmentation of its armed forces has become a cornerstone of India’s defence policy.
According to Indian defence analysts, Pakistan is an immediate threat while China will be a medium-term threat. They, therefore, firmly believe that India should focus more on the Chinese military threat because, according to them, if India is prepared take on China it could capably confront two-front wars.
A report of The Military Balance, published in The Economic Times, India overtook the UK as the fifth-largest defence spender in the world in 2017 at $52.5 billion. It further said that India’s defence budget broke into the world’s top five, beating the UK for the first time, signalling a key shift in the military balance between the two countries. India overtook the UK as the fifth-largest defence spender in the world in 2017 at $52.5 billion, up from $51.1 billion in 2016. In contrast, the UK’s defence budget fell from $52.5 billion to $50.7 billion. According to a list (2019 Fact Sheet) published by the SIPRI, India’s defence budget has risen to $66.5 billion in 2019.
This solicits from those at the helm of government in India, in particular, that it should give up its hegemonic ambitions in the region and divert a significant part of the huge sum that it is spending on strengthening its armed forces towards the wellbeing of its poverty-stricken, underprivileged segment of the population
Bolstering its armed forces beyond justifiable limits cogently reflects India’s hegemonic ambitions. India’s phenomenal military build-up is focused on containing Pakistan and generally the countries of the region. Yet another reason often given by India is the threat it claims to face from China. The China factor is what is being strongly backed by the USA in particular and the other powers in general. The USA strongly desires to see India emerge as a regional power particularly to contain China.
However, have those at the helm in India realised that attaining its hegemonic ambitions, through massive build-up of its armed forces, is costing its downtrodden masses very dearly? Have they ever thought that the people who have been bringing them to the citadel of power, time and again, deserve a better deal than what they have always got over the past seven decades? Apparently, they haven’t.
According to the latest Indian Human Development Survey, 47.9 per cent of Indian households with over five children are severely deprived of shelter, water, sanitation, health and education as compared to the 7.8 per cent of poor families without children. According to the World Bank up to 24 per cent of the world’s poor live in India, the fifth largest country by GDP in 2017. Sadly, the situation on poverty in Pakistan is not very encouraging either. Some reports reveal that roughly 40 per cent of its population lives below the poverty line. The prevailing dismal poverty scenario in India and Pakistan conveys a very cogent message to the people at the helm of governments in both countries that they should make sincere and sustained efforts to improve the depressing lives of their browbeaten masses.
What then does the scenario described above show? Evidently that India, in particular, is utterly neglecting the welfare of a very large segment of its masses. It is doing so, by unjustifiably spending a significant part of its resources on strengthening its armed forces rather than on the wellbeing of over 70 per cent of its 1.36 billion underprivileged people. Compelled by India’s massive expansion of its armed forces, Pakistan too is being forced to spend roughly Rs1.15 trillion (amounting to 17 per cent) of its national budget on its armed forces. This too, undeniably, is a sizeable amount when looked at in the context of its total annual (2019) national budget of Rs7 trillion.
This extremely unfortunate situation solicits from those at the helm of government in India, in particular, that it should give up its hegemonic ambitions in the region and divert a significant part of the huge sum that it is spending on strengthening its armed forces towards the wellbeing of its poverty-stricken, underprivileged segment of the population. If good sense prevails and the Indian government decides to judiciously curtail its gargantuan defence expenditure, for the reason cited above, Pakistan too will then be able to reduce its defence budget to a rational level and spend the money it saves towards the welfare of the underprivileged segment of the country’s populace.
India’s relations with Pakistan are currently at its lowest ebb. The relations between the two countries cannot improve unless the core issue of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK), an issue which continues to be a bone of contention between the India and Pakistan for over seven decades, is not resolved forthwith. The atrocities that the brutal Indian forces continue to brazenly commit in the occupied territory must end immediately. The UN, the USA and the world community must play a conclusive role in resolving the grave Kashmir issue by prevailing on India to grant the right of self-determination to the people of the occupied territory, in accordance with the charters of the United Nations and the UN Resolution of 1948.