SINCE the nuclearisation of South Asia in 1998, both South Asian nuclear states, India and Pakistan, have successfully avoided any major war. This restraint was due to the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons that come along with the massive destructive capability of nuclear fission. However, owing to the proximity between India and Pakistan, two unfortunate developments happened. First, India discovered a threshold below nuclear level in the shape of Operation Parakaram wherein India aimed at extracting its adventurism at a conventional level. Second, Cold Start Doctrine was realized to quench its historical enmity with Pakistan. As a result, India kept on advancing its nuclear and conventional arsenals quantitatively as well as qualitatively.
Such is the case of recent Indian Defence budget 2017-18, presented on February 01, 2017 that witnessed a hike of 6 per cent which translates into approximately Rs 2.74 lakh crore, including a massive amount of Rs 86,488 crore for modernization and operational preparedness in future. Interestingly, a report, entitled ‘Trends in world Military expenditure, 2016’ by Swedish think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), puts it in further perspective by stating that since 2009 to 2016 India has increased its defence spending so much that has moved from 7th to 5th position in international ranking. On the contrary, Pakistan does not even being counted in the first fifteen defence spenders due to its belief on minimum credible deterrence; nevertheless, makes Pakistan more and more vulnerable on its Western front with the increase in Indian arsenals. Defence analysts narrate that gap between arch rivals on military spending has widened to 1:7; that, India spends seven times more than Pakistan on its military. It is hard for Pakistan to match India’s spending as latter’s economy is comparatively much greater in size. Therefore, Islamabad believes that India is disturbing balance of power in South Asia.
Moreover, India has also been world’s top arms buyer for the last three years according to a report released by SIPRI. This unbridled spending in defence sector has augmented especially during the last three years. Unfortunately, this blind drive for the arms accumulation and military modernization unleashes an unending arms race in South Asia, which resulted in deterioration of prevalent strategic stability between India and Pakistan. Western governmental and private arms manufacturing companies are rushing towards India with the hope of landing multi-billion dollars and New Delhi is aiming to leverage some of that buying power to get transfer of technology and end the overwhelming reliance on imports. In this sense, India’s heavy military spending and acquisition of weapons threatens Pakistan and its efforts for regional peace.
Though India justifies its expenditure on various accounts, such as pointing its need to tackle China’s rise; however, its actual focus is on Pakistan as nearly 90 percent of its arsenals are Pakistan specific. In other words, India’s adventurism threatens security and survival of Pakistan and other small neighbours which feel insecure as India has substantive territorial and resource sharing issues with all its neighbours. The two neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan, are nuclear armed and cannot live in an environment of hostility towards each other forever, especially when both are fighting terrorism on their soils. The rational way forward is to sit on the seats of dialogue to talk about peace and find real solutions. World powers might be cooperating with India on defence and nuclear weapons, but their discriminatory attitude against Pakistan must stop as it has already destabilized the strategic stability of South Asia. What is needed to increased is the funds for the development of downtrodden. India is home to World’s highest poor population. Millions of Indians do not have access to safe drinking water and to washrooms. The human population is at the mercy of warmongering leaders. it is not only a South Asian issue but also should be the concern of International community for peace and security of the region.
Consequently, what could be suggested is that India should start thinking rationally. It should cut its booming military spending, educate its youth, feed its hungry, elevate its poor and cooperate with its neighbours for regional peace. In this regard, economic activity between India and Pakistan with very strong relations is key to success for both, maybe more so for Pakistan than India. Nevertheless, as it was advised by Mikhail Gorbachev, quote, “We could only solve our problems by cooperating with other countries. It would have been paradoxical not to cooperate. And therefore we needed to put an end to the Iron Curtain, to change the nature of international relations, to rid them of ideological confrontation, and particularly to end the arms race.”
—The writer is a Researcher at Islamabad Policy Research Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad.