Diverting global military spending to Covid crises | by Sardar Tee Shahid


Diverting global military spending to Covid crises

DISTRESSING…and unthoughtful…! World can muster up spirit of good Samaritans. It should spend to cure the sufferings of the world more and lesser on bombs and bullets.

Covid-19 has triggered the worst human tragedy since the World Wars splattered the globe inflamed with human blood; the pandemic caused the nastiest economic slump since the Great Depression struck the world in the 1930s.

But, the world continues to spend on inflating its military expenditure.

Sad it is. Health crisis, unemployment, poverty, negative growth, recession, and deaths due to natural calamity of Covid have engulfed the humanity; whereas the world is unthoughtfully accumulating all it can to cause man-made calamity that can sprout from the military hardware the world is spending on.

Notwithstanding the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent 3.5% contraction in global economic output in 2020, global defence-spending was careless with its growth alike to the higher rates of preceding year.

As of 05 March 2021, the world is still struggling to manage 21,744,126 active Covid cases and is still mourning 2,576,252 loved ones who perished in the jaws of Covid since February 2020.

Including the recovered humans of 91,716,364, a total of 116,036,742 fellow beings suffered from this worst of the pandemics the world witnessed so far.

In the same period, the global defence spending touched US$1.83 trillion in 2020. This makes a 3.9% annual increase in real terms.

As a proportion of GDP, global spending severely increased from an average of 1.85% in year 2019 to 2.08% in the year 2020.

Sadly, as the Covid pandemic is frowning the world as a monster, the world maintains gross military budgets despite severe economic strangulations due to pandemic fallouts and lockdowns imposed around the world.

Global defence spending has inflated since 2018 but it could be slowed down in 2020 and 2021 in view of the pandemic outbreak.

However, this expenditure could have been diverted for the good of humanity, to uplift health care especially in the developing and struggling countries of Africa, and Asia.

The increase in the US and Chinese defence budgets accounted for almost two-thirds of the total increase in global spending in 2020: the US defence budget increased by 6.3% in 2020 in real terms, while China’s growth slowed slightly to 5.2% in 2020 from 5.9% in 2019.

The five largest spenders in 2020, which accounted for around 65 per cent of expenditure, were the United States, China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

This is worth noting that two Asian States – China and India – are among the top three military spenders.

India’s defence expenditure grew by 6.8 per cent to $71.1 billion. India’s tensions and rivalry with Pakistan and China are key motives for its increased military spending.

Whereas, the defence budget for Pakistan stands at $7.8 billion: one-tenth of the Indian spending.

That is why the Line of Control witnessed more than 3000 violations in the year 2020 and swallowed 27 human lives and leaving hundreds injured.

Casualties of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war between ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces have been high, officially in thousands.

According to official figures released by the warring nations, Armenia lost 4,005 troops killed, while Azerbaijan lost 2,853 troops killed with 50 missing in action.

At least 800,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Palestine.

The number of people who have been wounded or fallen ill because of conflicts is far higher, as is the number of civilians who have died indirectly because of the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure and environmental contamination, among other war-related problems.

War causalities at one end and the pandemic victims on the other are squeezing the human beings from every side.

With the pandemic and resulting health and socio-economic catastrophe, especially in struggling nations, the US with other great powers must seize on an initiative to fight for peace, fight against conflicts, fight against pandemic.

It is to refresh that the World Bank estimates around 705 million people globally to be living in extreme poverty on Rs 300 or less a day ($1.90).

Whereas, the world spent around $1920 billion last year as military expenditure as per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute of Sweden.

Nearly 80 million people are looking for food and shelter worldwide in search of safe and secure life.

About 8.6 million people die annually in low- and middle-income countries, in 134 countries, due to absence of health facilities.

Apart from ongoing war costs, mere military spending speaks loud about the power-obsessed realist international mind-set.

Nearly 350 Million Children Lack Quality Childcare in the World.

Had there been peace, this $1920 billion could be spent for socio-economic uplift, poverty alleviation, provision of health-care, education, climate preservation and so on.

The world has traditionally defined their national security in the context of military threats and addressed them through military spending.

However, non-military threats to human beings, their own citizens, make it imperative that the world reconsider and recalibrate their mindset not thinking of national security in terms of military security only and thrusting defence spending.

The Covid pandemic has stressed that a non-military actor has inflicted widespread harm across the globe more than enemies could.

New threats merit new empathy, new direction, new ways to redefine national security and division of national economies.

Today, the pandemic has unlocked the floodgates of economic needs for vaccines, medicines, and mitigation of socio-economic depressions.

Understandable that the military needs transforming into national security is the core national interest of every nation, yet the current crises due to non-traditional security threats, predominantly the Covid, demand and cry for the world to trim their military budgets, and divert the sum towards the suffering humanity across the globe, especially the struggling nations.

World should spend more to heal the miseries of the world more and less on bombs and bullets.

Americas, Africa, Europe, Prussia, Middle East or Asia: think of any region — land or oceans — all nations everywhere ought to endeavour to be Good Samaritans.

—The writer, an international affairs analyst, regularly writes on national security, foreign policy, international diplomacy and maritime affairs.