Talk of Peace as we remember the victory over fascism

student protest palestine1

As we observe 9th May as the day of victory over fascism, we are reminded of unprecedented sacrifices made by millions of people who laid down their lives fighting the most ghastly events in the human history. As per the ‘High Point Museum’, ‘World War II that lasted from 1939 to 1945 involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants launched their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. Causes of death included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war’(1).

There are different estimates of number of dead and wounded in the 2nd World War. As per the ‘National World War II museum, New Orleans’ 15 million died in the battle field, civilian Deaths numbered around 45 million making the total as 60 million deaths. Number of wounded is estimated to be 25 million. Country wise deaths of their soldiers and civilians are Soviet Union 34 million, China 23 million, Germany 14 million, France 7.8 lakh, United Kingdom 8 lakh, United States 0.8 million, India 2.5 million (2).


It is well known that war crimes have no boundaries. The World War II was marred with holocaust in which the Nazis killed most mercilessly 6 million Jews and a similar number of Non-Jews in the concentration camps. These included Soviet prisoners of war, Non-Jewish (ethnic) Poles, Romani men, women, and children and several other. 

The nuclear weapons that killed over 200000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed the whole scenario about the wars in the future. The atomic bombs not only led to immediate death and destitution, but they left a trail of misery for several decades to come as a result of radiation fallout.

The events of the last century should have been a lesson learnt to take effective measures for peace & disarmament and steps for human development through mutual cooperation. The United Nations Organisation was formed to fulfil this aim. It was expected that the UNO will play an effective role in preventing wars and for disarmament. But contrary to the expectations for a peaceful world order, the world saw formation of military pacts in the immediate post war period. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in 1949 by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the communist Soviet Union. As a reaction the ‘Warsaw Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance’, came into existence on 14 May 1955.

After end of the cold war the Warsaw Pact was dissolved on 1st July 1991. There was no logic in continuing the NATO. But instead it continued to increase more countries into its fold. They now started finding new excuses to manufacture and sell arms to reap profits.

As per SIPRI, globally, total military expenditure reached $2443 billion in 2023, marking a 6.8 per cent increase from 2022. This is attributed to surge in on-going conflicts, rising tensions, and global insecurity. “The unprecedented rise in military spending is a direct response to the global deterioration in peace and security,” said Nan Tian, Senior Researcher with Sipri’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme (3). In 2023 there were a total of 12512 nuclear warheads out of which deployed warheads numbered 3844 (4).

Several parts of the world are involved in direct all out wars. War in Ukraine has attained dangerous dimensions. As per Russian defence official the Ukraine has lost 500,000 soldiers in this war. The nuclear power plants are under grave threat.

Situation in Gaza is heart rending. Already over 34000 Palestinians mostly children and women have been killed and are facing serious situation of hunger of disease. While the peace negotiations with Hamas look to be heading in the right direction Netanyahu has effectively scuttled them by saying that regardless of outcome Rafah operations will take place. 

These situations are a breeding ground for the war industry to grow, even promote the use of nuclear weapons. It is well known by now that a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan using 100 Hiroshima sized nuclear weapon would put two billion at risk of starvation and death. A nuclear exchange between the major nuclear powers could be the end of modern civilization built through thousands of years of human labour.

Major global powers are playing double standard. On one side the US government is talking of restraint by the Israeli Defence Forces on Gaza, on the other the side they are being given large amount of arsenal.

There are many regions affected by conflicts leading to crisis of hunger and malnutrition. Sudan Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Rawanda are some such places. These regions require collective global assistance for resolution of conflict and to meet their basic need.

Paradox of the present day is that the world is adopting war as the only tool to resolve the conflicts instead of dialogue. Most of the world leaders in power today are Narcissist and delusional concerned with their own projection to stick to power. The big powers have made the global institutions virtually ineffective.

Whereas the military pacts promoted use of force, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) encouraged the idea of dialogue as the means of resolution of issues. In the absence of  NAM the developing countries are missing an effective organisation for peace and cooperation. Thanks to the initiative taken by the South African government in bringing the case of genocide by the Israeli defence forces to the International Court of Justice.

At one time India was taken in good spirit by the developing world. Times have however changed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not shy away from rhetoric to make India a big military power who can break into the house and kill. He talks of Nuclear Weapons as a source of security and strength. India remains world’s largest arms importer.  No wonder Indian government is becoming close ally of Israel. They are buying arms and establishing armament factories with their support. They even held a joint security exercise with Israel at this time when genocide of Palestinians is being committed by the Zionist government of Israel.  Mr Modi is out to generate and arouse Hindu nationalism and demonise the minorities, particularly the Muslims. He calls them intruders even though they form 14 % population of the country.  His slogans against the Muslims are similar to the ones given by Hitler against the Jews.

Protests by the University students in the US are the hope, more so as the reports point out presence of Jews among them. Much needs to be done by various peace forces to raise the voice. Any escalation in the conflicts would pose serious threat to the existence of the mankind. We have to promote Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) to save the world. People’s voice for peace will not go in vain. Tolstoy wrote ‘God Sees the Truth but Waits’.

Dr Arun Mitra is a Practicing ENT Surgeon in Ludhiana, Punjab. He is also the President of Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) www.idpd.org 

 References:

1.       https://www.highpointnc.gov/2111/World-War-II#:~:text=World%20War%20II%20was%20the,the%20Soviet%20Union%20and%20China.

2.       https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-worldwide-deaths-world-war

3.       https://www.business-standard.com/external-affairs-defence-security/news/india-ranks-4th-in-global-military-spending-at-83-6-bn-in-2023-report-124042300540_1.html

4.       https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2023/states-invest-nuclear-arsenals-geopolitical-relations-deteriorate-new-sipri-yearbook-out-now

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