March 07, 2019
Peace between India and Pakistan, which is tangible and true in every aspect and strong enough to crush the mood of bellicose jingoism in South-Asia seems like a cry far from reality. Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi who is contesting for re-election in India, has built a Hindu nationalist base with India’s violent response to a suicide attack in the Indian controlled part of Kashmir. The attack killed 49 Indian soldiers, in response to which India bombed Pakistan, claiming to have been targeting a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp. The air strike in the Muslim-majority area had initially improved PM Modi’s image amongst the extremist groups in India. However, after Pakistan’s counterblast and downing of two Indian aircraft and brief imprisonment of the Indian pilot by Pakistan, the tables turned.
It has been 30 years since the insurgency in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) began. Indian military operations have led to the creation of a new generation of young activists that are fighting Indian forces for independence. The bombers who have claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack on the Indian troops was a local Kashmiri, which shows the level of agitation in the youth.
The situation has taken an interesting turn after the confrontation between the two nuclear-armed arch enemies took place five decades down the line. An article by the New York Times revealed that the challenges faced by the Indian army are quite visible as the country lost two of its planes to a country which is half in terms of the number of army and quarter in terms of the military budget. The article further explained that according to government estimates “if intense warfare broke out tomorrow, India could supply its troops with only 10 days of ammunition. And 68 percent of the army’s equipment is so old, it is officially considered vintage”.
Furthermore, Gaurav Gogoi, who is a lawmaker and member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defense, said that: “Our troops lack modern equipment, but they have to conduct 21st-century military operations,”
Often characterised as an emerging superpower with a strategic position in South Asia, high quality of engineering technology and talent management, there is a rather gloomy story to India’s image of optimism. Reports reveal that India has one of the highest rates of illiteracy and unemployment in the world. Other Human Development Indexes like infant mortality, anaemia and morbidity are also showing poor performances. The social and economic disparities amongst the masses have reached an acute level. This can be seen from the fact that half of India’s 1.2 billion-strong population do not have the facility of private toilets in their home. According to the consensus report, about 77 percent of houses in Jharkhand, 76.6 percent of houses in Orissa and 75.8 percent of houses in Bihar do not have a toilet facility. All three of these states also report the highest poverty rates with more than half of their population living under the poverty line. Registrar General and Census Commissioner C Chandramouli said while releasing the report said that: “Open defecation continues to be a big concern for the country as almost half of the population does it,”
According to Express Tribune, even after the surgical strike on Pakistan, India has lost 785 points on Tuesday over rising tension between New Delhi and Islamabad; the KSE-100 of the Karachi Stock Exchange also shed 275 points on Wednesday as tensions continue to escalate between the two neighbours. Considering the economic consequences of having a nuclear war in the entire region, PM Imran Khan proposed to give peace a chance and released the Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan – who was captured by Pakistan after his MiG 21 Bison aircraft was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jet. The DG ISPR Asif Ghafoor in a statement to the media said that, “Pakistan wants peace; India needs to understand war is a failure of policy”.
Despite these public statements and PM Modi’s reminder to Imran Khan to talk about poverty and illiteracy control, there still has been an air force incursion which is worrisome not only for both the countries but also the entire region. War is not an option, even if it’s started with the intent of being a brief political move to prove supremacy over counterparts in the region. As PM Imran Khan said in his speech, war has a tendency to escalate beyond control. Especially, when the two states are nuclear powers. There has been no direct engagement of war between nuclear countries, but only proxy wars in third states that were a result of failed policies and misplaced ideologies. It would be a move of utter insanity for Pakistan and India to engage in war in such a situation. Nuclear war becomes could annihilate both countries and neither India nor Pakistan’s weak economic conditions would sustain that level of damage.
Conclusively, the only viable option for India is to carry out peace talks with Pakistan as suggested by P Chidambaram, the Congress party leader and former finance minister. Nascent economies that are present all over the world face similar problems of poverty and economic disparity. Therefore, India and Pakistan should join forces to eliminate the crisis that has hit the region and work on public policies which work best for both the countries.