Books, not bombs

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The world is busy calculating the number of infections and the resultant deaths caused by COVID-19. It is worried about the threat caused by the hypothetical projections of death rates and may remain so till virus is controlled and the world heals through a miracle. The menace of COVID-19 will sooner or later vanish away just as the other pandemics in past such as Cholera, Bubonic plague, Smallpox and Influenza had gone for good. Without even mentioning the conspiracy theories of who prepared the Virus, where and when was it spread first, this does not seem to be as much bigger a threat than the one which I consider much more destructive in essence and believe that it may need as much commitment and resolve which the humanity has shown against COVID -19.
I am more worried about the most contagious disease of “War Mongering” and Militarization. According to SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). “Total World Military expenditure rose to $1822 billion in 2018, an increase of 2.6% from 2017”. Five biggest military expenditures in 2018 were USA, China, Saudi Arabia, India and France which accounted for 60% of global military spending. Amongst these five, the biggest of all was by USA in 2018 ($27.8 billion). The military expenditure of all 29 NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) members was $963 billion in 2018, which accounted for 53% of world spending. The SIPRI report 2019 regarding nuclear weapons says that nine states including USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea possessed 13865 nuclear weapons. USA and Russia account for 90% of all nuclear weapons in the world. In Asia China, India and Pakistan are busy increasing the size of their nuclear arsenal.
This is so ironic that two developing countries which are struggling with their trembling economies are so stubborn in their hyper-competitive attitude with regard to militarization that they seem to be almost insensitive to the public needs of fundamental rights such as standard education, a viable healthcare system, quality food, infrastructure, clean water, provision of jobs etc. Both India and Pakistan face worrisome inflation and unemployment rates. Pakistan had an inflation rate which reached to 8.8 % in the beginning of 2019 according to The Economic Survey of Pakistan whereas, India remained comparatively better with a little above 4% inflation rate according to Economic Survey of India. According to IMF the rate of unemployment in Pakistan remained 6.1% in 2019 whereas the unemployment rate in India was 7.35% in April 2019.
The healthcare system of both countries is not something to be really proud of. According to World Bank Sources, the life expectancy at birth in 2017 in Pakistan was 66.6 years whereas in India it was 68.8 years, which is much less than USA and Europe where it is more than 80 years due to better opportunities of standard of life. Infant mortality rate per 100,000 in Pakistan was 178 and in India 174 respectively. Total health expenditure in Pakistan in the fiscal year 2018-19 was Rs 203.74 billion which was only 0.53% of GDP whereas India spent 1.28% of its GDP on healthcare.
The situation of education sector is too pathetic and alarming in both countries. Thousands of ghost schools exist despite the fact that even those statistics which are present only in government files are much less than the required number of educational institutions both in India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.4% of its GDP in 2018-19 which was lowest in the region but at the same time Pakistan spent 1.26 trillion Pakistani rupees ($11 billion) about 3.6% of its GDP on its 653,800 troops according to the estimates of International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS),whereas, India spent 3% of its total GDP on education in 2018-19 and at the same time allocated four trillion rupees ($ 58 billion) which was 2.1% of its GDP to support its 1.4 million active troops according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
If we observe the situation of education in our country a bit more in detail, we will be in no less than a shock to see that Pakistan spent 0.29% of its GDP on research and development (R&D) which was less than half the other South Asian countries according to the National Human Development Report (NHDR) under The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 2017. One would be in an absolute shock to see that the literacy ratio of Pakistan at the time of the first Census in 1951 was 14% which according to UNESCO statistics gradually rose to 25.73% in 1981 Census and 59.13% in 2017 where the world average based on 31 countries was 83.98. The literacy ratio in Pakistan is now considered to be 64% or a little more than that which is quite reflective of the fact that how much importance the state gives to educate its masses and make them skillful in ever increasing and challenging economic scenario throughout the globe.
It is high time that after the pandemic is over, both India and Pakistan must realize that this growing competition for militarization is not going to favor anyone except the giant weapon Industries of the West. I fully realize and understand Pakistan’s perception of Indian threat to her sovereignty and independence, but we must be mindful of the fact that in times of 6th generation warfare, it is all the more important to invest in the people and protect them from being vulnerable to the enemy. I think it is more than enough to have possessed the number of nuclear weapons that both countries possess as a deterrent.
According to SIPRI report 2019, India had 130-140 nuclear warheads whereas Pakistan possessed 140-150 nuclear warheads due to her less conventional strength in terms of military might. Now this is just insane that a region whose collateral damage due to use of nuclear weapons would be unimaginable even if only one of them could use its weapons. The catastrophic devastation brought by the use of the baby bombs in 1945 by USA with the name “little boy” on Hiroshima and “Fat Man” on Nagasaki almost erased both the cities from the map, therefore, the destruction caused by today’s most sophisticated nuclear weapons would be utterly terrible to imagine the least. Now is the time that we come out of the frenzy to chase one another in a weaponization race and learn to live like civilized human beings.
Every now and then a precious life is lost at both sides of the border which by no means is something to rejoice because despite being bitter enemies, we both lose a son, a brother, a friend etc. India being a more powerful country in terms of a bigger geographic reality and a much larger population as well as a bigger economy should understand that the responsibility for peace on her shoulders is much more than Pakistan.
Although Pakistan doesn’t share the burden any less but due to being at all times at defensive position, she happens to cause less harm to the process of long-lasting peace in the region. Let’s make a resolve that books not bombs would be our ultimate slogan after we get over this common enemy named COVID-19.

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