Indian Army Chief has boasted that although India is facing a shortage of modern war weapons, it still is stronger than Pakistan or any other enemy the world over. What is worrying is his wish that India’s defence budget which was two percent of the GDP should be increased to three percent.
India’s armament programme is of serious concern not just to Pakistan but to other of its neighbours who are pushed into buying more weapons in order to keep up. The race that started with detonation of nuclear devices has ratcheted up to nuclear submarines, which are way too dangerous. These would increase the likelihood of an accidental war. A variety of missiles fitted with nuclear warheads have likewise been tested time and again. The challenges confronting South Asia, mainly poverty, hunger and militancy can best be confronted with reduced military expenditure and resolution of the outstanding conflicts. If war was the ultimate solution, both the countries would have long settled their disputes. Intransigence still remains the order of the day which keeps vitiating whatever peace or goodwill is achieved over time. Siachen talks ended without any result except for the commitment to continue the discussions. The other day, the conclusion of Sir Creek negotiations met with the same fate. The only hope was that the dialogue would be resumed somewhere in future. Pakistan, on the other hand has been bogged down in the Afghan maelstrom, which if not corrected would have the potential to rear up and spread elsewhere to South Asia and even beyond. Seen in that perspective, it is a common challenge. The volcano that the region has turned into will erupt if these disputes are left to fester indefinitely.
Now that both the countries are formidable powers, they must conduct themselves responsibly rather than threaten to nuke each other within few seconds. As Siachen, and other squabbles have shown, these are not worth the human toll that it exacts, not to mention the unbearable costs. Kashmiris will not let go of their resistance to Indian occupation and so will Pakistan, which is rightly pressing for a UN sponsored settlement. The two neighbours must in the meanwhile try not to break the momentum, however slow or tedious, of the ongoing peace talks with uncalled-for statements.