Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Indian Arms Build Up Prelude to South Asian Arms Race
India is planning to raise its military budget by 50% to almost $40 billion, making military expenditure 3% of the annual gross domestic product (GDP), the Indian defense minister said. In contrast to India's planned defense expenditures, Pakistan's entire 2009-10 budget amounts to little over $30 billion.
"Our current defense spending is lower than 2% [of GDP]...and it should be at least 3%," A. K. Antony said at a meeting with top military commanders on Tuesday, without specifying a time-frame. India raised its defense spending in February by 10% to $26.5 billion for the fiscal year 2008-2009, but it still fell below 2% of GDP for the first time in at least a decade.
India's neighbors and long-term rivals, Pakistan and China, allocate around 3.5% and 4.3% of GDP to defense, respectively. The minister said top priority must be given to the modernization of the Indian Armed Forces and half of the defense budget should be allocated for the purchase of new military equipment.
Currently two-thirds of India's budget is allocated for military, paramilitary, police, various security forces and debt servicing. That leaves one-third for everything else, including infrastructure development projects, education, healthcare, poverty alleviation, and various human services. This new arms buildup by India will leave even less for what India needs most: to lift hundreds of millions of its citizens from abject poverty, hunger, squalor and disease.
Such an arms buildup by India is sure to fuel an arms race that South Asians can ill afford with widespread abject poverty, hunger, malnutrition and very low levels of human development.
The human cost of this unfortunate escalation by India will mainly be born by its most vulnerable citizens who will probably lose the few crumbs of bread they are forced to live on now. It will continue the horrible sanitation situation that forces two-thirds of Indians to defecate in the open that spreads disease and kills millions of various diseases each year.
India has failed to use a period of high economic growth to lift tens of millions of people out of poverty, falling far short of China’s record in protecting its population from the ravages of chronic hunger, United Nations officials said on Tuesday. Last year, British Development Minister Alexander contrasted the rapid growth in China with India's economic success - highlighting government figures that showed the number of poor people had dropped in the one-party communist state by 70% since 1990 but had risen in the world's biggest democracy by 5%.
The World Hunger Index of 88 countries published by IFPRI last year ranked India at 66 while Pakistan was slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70.
In the context of unprecedented economic growth (9-10 percent annually) and national food security, over 60 percent of Indian children are wasted, stunted, underweight or a combination of the above. As a result, India ranks number 62 along with Bangladesh at 67 in the PHI (Poverty Hunger Index)ranking out of a total of 81 countries. Both nations are included among the low performing countries in progress towards MDG1 (Millennium Development Goals) with countries such as Nepal (number 58), Ethiopia (number 60), or Zimbabwe (number 74).
Pakistan at 45 ranks well ahead of India at 62, and it is included in the medium performing countries. PHI is a new composite indicator – the Poverty and Hunger Index (PHI) – developed to measure countries’ performance towards achieving MDG1 on halving poverty and hunger by 2015. The PHI combines all five official MDG1 indicators, including a) the proportion of population living on less than US$ 1/day, b) poverty gap ratio, c) share of the poorest quintile in national income or consumption, d) prevalence of underweight in children under five years of age, and d) the proportion of population undernourished.
The stinging criticism of India’s performance comes only two weeks after the Congress party-led alliance was overwhelmingly voted back into office. Its leaders had campaigned strongly on their achievement of raising India’s economic growth to 9 per cent and boosting rural welfare. With the exception of Kerala, the situation in India is far worse than the Human Development Index suggests. According to economist Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on hunger, India has fared worse than any other country in the world at preventing recurring hunger.
India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan in providing basic sanitation facilities, a key reason behind the death of 2.1 million children under five in the country.
Lizette Burgers, chief of water and environment sanitation of the Unicef, recently said India is making progress in providing sanitation but it lags behind most of the other countries in South Asia. A former Indian minister Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told the BBC that more than 65% of India's rural population defecated in the open, along roadsides, railway tracks and fields, generating huge amounts of excrement every day.
Economically resurgent India is witnessing a rapid unfolding of a female genocide in the making across all castes and classes, including the upper caste rich and the educated. The situation is particularly alarming among upper-caste Hindus in some of the urban areas of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, specially in parts of Punjab, where there are only 300 girls for every 1,000 boys, according to Laura Turquet, ActionAid's women's rights policy official.
I see hunger and poverty and lack of opportunity as the root cause of most of the ethnic, religious and other forms of violence. The situation is further complicated when nations with the largest number of poor and hungry choose to spend more on military than on fighting poverty, hunger and disease.
In fact, letting millions die of hunger each year, is what Amatya Sen calls "quiet violence", a form of ongoing brutality that claims far more lives than all of the other causes of violence combined.
Neither Pakistan nor India can or should continue their misguided arms race, with India using China as its excuse, and Pakistan citing India's current arms buildup, the largest in its history. In Poverty-Hunger Index(PHI), designed to measure progress toward UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), China, ranked 31, is closest to achieving these goals, followed by laggards such as Pakistan at 45, India at 62, and Bangladesh at 67. And clearly, India, lagging behind both China and Pakistan in terms of basic social indicators of hunger and poverty, is fueling this crazy South Asian arms race. India continues to show a total lack of leadership on this front.
The South Asian rivals need to recognize, in words and in deeds, that their people are their biggest resource, who must be developed and made much more productive to make the nations more competitive and powerful economically, politically and militarily.
Challenges of Indian Democracy
India's Female Genocide
World Military Spending
Pakistan Military Business
India-Pakistan Military Balance
Chuck Yeager on Pakistan Air Force