It has been reported in the Indian and Pakistan print media lately that India has firmed up its plan to massively augment its military capability over the next 5-7 years. According to information emanating from an official document and Indian military sources, published in leading Indian Daily ‘India Today’ on September 11 and some leading English dailies of Pakistan on October 23, 2019, India has decided to take a quantum leap vis-à-vis strengthening its military capability. As reported, India has finalised a plan to spend USD 130 billion over the next five to seven years to modernise its armed forces. The document, as reported in the media, says the Indian government will work on a comprehensive plan to expedite modernisation of its army, navy and the air force. Under this plan, a range of significant weapons, missiles, fighter jets, submarines and warships will be procured in the next few years.

Regardless of all that has been reported vis-à-vis India’s plans to strengthen its armed forces phenomenally and it’s not so good past track-record with regard to procurement of military hardware for its armed forces, what should be a cause for major concern for the countries of the region, China and Pakistan in particular, is India’s unprecedented hegemonic designs in this part of the globe. Strongly backed by the US, in particular, and the other powers that be, in general, which are deeply engaged in selling state-of-the-art military hardware worth billions of dollars to India, augmentation of its armed forces has become a cornerstone of India’s defense policy.

According to Indian defense analysts, Pakistan is an immediate threat to India while China will be a medium- term threat, they presume. They, therefore, firmly believe that India should focus more on Chinese military threat because, according to them, if India is prepared take on China it could capably confront two-front wars.

A report of ‘The Military Balance’, a prestigious annual publication of The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) UK, published in eminent Indian Daily-The Economic Times on February 15, 2018, India overtook the UK as the fifth-largest defense spender in the world in 2017 at $52.5 billion. Quoting from the 2018 issue of ‘The Military Balance 2018’, The Economic Times further said that India’s defense budget broke into the world’s top five, beating the UK for the first time, signaling a key shift in the military balance between the two countries. India overtook the UK as the fifth-largest defense spender in the world in 2017 at $52.5 billion, up from $51.1 billion in 2016. In contrast, the UK’s defense budget fell from $52.5 billion in 2016 to $50.7 billion last year. According to a list (2019 Fact Sheet) published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) India’s defense budget has risen to $66.5 in 2019.

Bolstering its armed forces beyond justifiable limits cogently reflects India’s hegemonic ambitions. It is a known fact that India’s phenomenal military buildup is largely focused on containing Pakistan and generally the countries of the region. Yet another reason often given by India for massively augmenting the Indian armed forces is the threat that it claims to be facing from China. The China factor vis-à-vis India’s perpetual augmentation of its armed forces is what is being strongly backed by the US in particular and the other powers that be in general. It is a universal fact that the US strongly desires to see India emerge as a regional power particularly to contain China.

The question however is, have people at the helm of governance in India ever realized that attainment of its hegemonic ambitions, through massive build up of its armed forces, is costing its downtrodden masses very dearly? Have they ever thought that the people who have been bringing them to the citadel of power, time and again, deserve a better deal than what they have always got over the past seven decades? Apparently, they haven’t.

According to the latest Indian Human Development Survey, released on May 11, 2019, nearly half (47.9 per cent) the Indian households that have more than five children are severely deprived of shelter, water, sanitation, health and education as compared to 7.8 per cent of poor families without children. According to the World Bank up to 24 per cent of the world’s poor live in India, the fifth largest country by gross domestic product in 2017. Sadly, the situation vis-à-vis the issue of poverty in Pakistan is not very encouraging either. Some reports reveal that roughly 40% of the population of Pakistan lives below the poverty line. The prevailing dismal poverty scenario in India and Pakistan conveys a very cogent message to the people at the helm of governments in both countries that they should make sincere and sustained efforts to improve the depressing lives of their browbeaten masses.

What then does the scenario described above depicts and solicits? It evidently portrays that India, in particular, is utterly neglecting the welfare of a very large segment of its masses. It is doing so, by unjustifiably spending a significant part of its resources on strengthening its armed forces rather than on the wellbeing of over 70 percent of its (1.36 billion) underprivileged populace. Compelled by India’s massive expansion of its armed forces, Pakistan too is being forced to spend roughly Rs. 1.15 trillion (amounting to 17 percent) of its national budget on its armed forces. This too, undeniably, is a fairly sizeable amount when looked at in the context of its total annual (2019) national budget of Rs.7 trillion.

This extremely unfortunate situation solicits from those at the helm of government in India, in particular, that it should give up its hegemonic ambitions in the region and divert a significant part of the huge sum that it is spending on strengthening its armed forces towards the wellbeing of its poverty stricken, underprivileged segment of the population. If good sense prevails and the Indian government decides to judiciously curtail its gargantuan defense expenditure, for the reason cited above, Pakistan too will then be able to reduce its defense budget to a rational level and spend the money it saves towards the welfare of the underprivileged segment of the country’s populace.

India’s relations with Pakistan are currently at its lowest ebb. The relations between the two countries cannot improve unless the core issue of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK), an issue which continues to be a bone of contention between the India and Pakistan for over 7 decades, is not resolved forthwith. The atrocities that the brutal Indian forces continue to brazenly commit in the occupied territory must end immediately. The UN, the US and the world community must play a conclusive role in resolving the grave Kashmir issue by prevailing on India to grant right to self-determination to the people of the occupied territory, in accordance with the charters of the United Nations and the UN Resolution of 1948.