The events following Pulwama terrorist violence which killed 49 CRPF personnel had nearly pushed India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Threat of use of nuclear weapons gave dreadful shiver to the people on both sides. The jingoists on either side of the border took no time with rhetoric to destroy the other. But the saner elements warned those at the helms of affairs across the border to desist from any step that could lead to escalation of any such conflict which may end up in an all-out war. This would be catastrophic situation leading to mutually assured destruction as both India and Pakistan are nuclear weapons possessing countries. The effects would not be limited to India and Pakistan but would have global ramifications.
Ira Helfand, Co-President International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and Allan Robock & colleagues from Department of Environmental Sciences School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA conducted a study on the Climatic Consequences of Nuclear Conflict between India and Pakistan using 100 Hiroshima size nuclear bombs. The study warns that over 2 billion people would be put to risk as an aftermath of nuclear famine which would ensue under such situation.
South Asia is one of the poorest regions in the world. The human development ranking for India and Pakistan is at 130 and 150 respectively. Hunger index of India is at 103 and Pakistan at 106 out of 119 countries. About 40% of the world’s stunted children and 53% of all wasted children live in South Asia. Around 34% of the population has no access to sanitation. Investments in health and education remain less than 4% and 3% of respective GDPs. Yet successive governments and military establishments have escalated military spending in India and Pakistan to US$ 64 billion and US$ 11 billion annually in 2017, respectively. India’s defense expenditure is 1.62 % of its GDP, while its central health budget is 0.26 of GDP, six times less than its arms budget. Pakistan’s spending on arms is equivalent with budgetary allocation 8.9 billion USD. With Pakistan worth 300 billion USD economy its defense expenditure comes to 2.9% of the GDP.
Increase in spending on arms race causes serious resource crunch on health, education and development. The developing countries and poor in these countries are worst affected. Whatever resources are available are diverted away from common people. We have an example of Bengal famine where around 40 lakh people are reported to have died because the British government under Winston Chrchill at that time in mid 1940s diverted the food material to its soldiers in Burma thus depriving the people in Bengal and Odisha of their basic sustenance diet and landing them into extreme malnutrition and death.
While hundreds of millions of people across the globe go hungry, the nuclear-armed nations spend close to US$300 million (Rs.2000 crores) a day on their nuclear forces. The production, maintenance and modernization of nuclear forces diverts vast public resources away from healthcare, education, climate change mitigation, disaster relief, development assistance and other vital services. Globally, annual expenditure on nuclear weapons is estimated at US$ 105 billion – or $ 12 million an hour. The military industrial complex is overtly and covertly promoting and supporting conflicts in different parts of the world through its influence on the political structure to make huge profits.
It is time, steps are taken for complete nuclear disarmament and end to arms race. The Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) passed by the UN General Assembly on 7th July 2017 is a big opportunity for complete nuclear disarmament and save the world from nuclear catastrophe. It is time the nuclear armed states realize this and join the treaty without any ifs and buts. The role of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) recipient of Nobel Peace Prize 1985 and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) recipient of Nobel Peace Prize 2017 in their consistent efforts to get the TPNW through by highlighting the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons has to be carried forward to achieve the goal of a nuclear weapons free world. IPPNW has designed the task to meet decision makers in different countries over this issue. A delegation of IPPNW affiliates from south Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal met the Foreign Minister of Nepal, Speaker of their Parliament and advisor to the Prime Minister. They appealed them to take initiative as they have friendly relations with all countries of the region and their opinion will be valued. There are some events in history which can bring perceptible change. TPNW is the opportunity which should not be lost.
India has been harbinger in the peace movement. India’s role under the leadership of Jawahar Lal Nehru in founding Non Aligned Movement has been path breaking. Rajiv Gandhi action plan for nuclear disarmament is still relevant. We must take initiative to join the TPNW. Let peace and disarmament become a leading factor in the region instead of jingoism for electoral benefits. The missing of the issue of nuclear disarmament from the election manifesto of the political parties in the present Parliamentary election in India. It is also unfortunate that political discourse is centered around sale and purchase of weapons instead of humanitarian impact war and violence particularly the nuclear weapons. Role of peace movements is very vital in the present context.
Dr Arun Mitra
MBBS; MS (ENT Surgeon)
Co President International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) – Recipient of Nobel Peace Prize 1985
Partner in International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) – Recipient of Nobel Peace Prize 2017
Senior Vice President Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD)
Member Core Committee Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (ADEH)
Former Chairman Ethical Committee Punjab Medical Council (PMC)
Former Senior Vice President Indian Medical Association (IMA) Punjab
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