Subcontinent is probably the epicenter of international politics. Though Whitehouse controls the world affairs but New Delhi and Islamabad steals the limelight. The two nuclear neighbors, Pakistan and India happen to be the deadliest rivals in the whole world. Besides being archrivals, the two countries bear infinite similarities in culture, geography, languages, politics, social life and education but the two neighbors are bitter foes who can go to any extent to vanquish one another. The two neighboring nations have fought numerous wars. Border skirmishes between the two sides are almost a routine where innocent civilians and men in uniform fall prey to bullets and mortar shells. And these two nations are almost engaged in a cold war which has drained off their economies very badly. India and Pakistan are known as the most hyped arch rivals in cricketing arenas.
Moscow and Washington produce sophisticated armory, and these two Asian giants expand and decorate their respective armed stations with it, prove their armed awe, majesty and regional hegemony. The two Himalayan nations are the major purchasers of arms and ammunitions, produced in United States of America and Russia. The two neighboring nations have somewhat identical issues which hamper their economic growth and development. Fragile Indo-Pak ties, border disputes, poverty, illiteracy, gender disparity and tumbling economies, are some common issues of the subcontinent twin nuclear giants.
Economy is perhaps the backbone of every nation. Though India is the sixth largest economy of the world but it has a national debt of 2628.49 billion US dollars for the year 2021, contrary to 2332.81 billion US dollars in the year 2020 and 2016.73 in the year 2019. And the situation in the neighboring Pakistan is not somewhat pleasing. As of August 2020, the national debt of Pakistan was 270 billion US dollars, which is 106.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) of Pakistan. According to a UN report, 190.7 million Indians are undernourished or starved. The report further states that 38.4% children, under the age-group of five are stunted. These children are hardly able to perform at par with healthy children of the country which turns to a stumbling block in the national development and progression. The percentages in our neighboring Srilanka and China are 14.7% and 9.4% respectively. The scenario is no different in Pakistan. One among every five Pakistani citizens is malnourished or undernourished which amounts to 200 million souls in that country.
According to the global hunger index 2020, both India and Pakistan are in the serious category. India is placed at 94th spot in the index while as Pakistan stands a few notches up at 78th spot. According to this report, 14% Indian populace is caught up in the clutches of starvation which hinders our progress to come at par with the developed countries of the world. Hunger of common masses is an ugly blot on our collective conscience. We need to be realistic, to ensure that everyone is fed well.
The scenario in educational fields too is not encouraging. Though the literacy rate in India has taken a giant leap since its independence in 1947 but she is home to the world’s largest illiterate populace. According to the census of 2011, the literacy rate of India has risen to 74% but it should not bring a sense of contentment and complacency in the minds of people at the helm because India is the second largest populated nation of the world. The situation worsens, when women education is taken into account. According to 2011 census report, female literacy rate lingers at 65.46% against 82.14% men literacy rate. This displays a gulf between the education of opposite sexes in the country. Our neighbor viz Pakistan is no better than its counterpart. According to the available data, the literacy rate in Pakistan is 60% which means 40% Pakistanis are illiterates. The pathetic situation deteriorates further in rural areas of the country. Poverty stricken people prefer menial jobs over education. How can politicians brag and boast when their masses are deprived of education and food? I pity this politics of ego and individualism!
The crime against women is quite common in both the countries. The graphs of domestic violence against women in both the countries touch the same heights on the crime scale. According to the data released by the government of India in September 2020; eighty seven rape cases were recorded daily in India in the year 2019 which mounted the overall cases of crime against women to 4,05,861. The figures show a considerable rise of 7% in the graph of violence against women from 2018. The scenario is absolutely displeasing in Pakistan. As per government data, the graph against women has recorded a steep rise of 200% which is quite contrary to the reputation of a Muslim state.
We can imagine the deplorable circumstances, under which the people of both the countries live in. Let’s now see the priorities of expenditure of these two nations. No doubt, sizeable amounts are spent on education, food security, agriculture, horticulture and healthcare but it is not still touching the desired parameters. The two subcontinent nations are not able to spend properly in the right areas because their priorities are altogether different and strange. Their prime areas of investment are defense and elections. Furthermore, India’s defense budget for 2020-21 fiscal amounted to 4,71,378 crore rupees, with an increase of almost 7% while as Pakistan allocated rupees 1289 crore for its defense outlay, during the year 2020-21. Siachen glacier costs India rupees five crore a day, and almost the same amount to the neighboring Pakistan. I am not against raising a powerful army and strong defensive platform but both the countries must reduce their excessive and unnecessary burden on the budget. Goodwill and mutual understanding can help the two countries to de-escalate tensions. Strained relationships will never let these countries reduce their tensions. The rat race of piling up of arms and ammunition is harming the developmental process of the subcontinent nuclear powers incessantly. Keeping missiles and sophisticated armory is the need of the our but it must not be at the cost of people’s health, nutrition, education and right to life. The two Asian giants are more concerned about their armed strengths than the well-being of their common masses.
Electioneering in the two subcontinent countries is no lesser than a festivity. It is another mammoth which eats up the lion’s share our economy. According to the data available, the cost of India’s 2019 general elections amounted to fifty thousand crore rupees. And there are different kinds of other elections viz assembly and local bodies elections, held in different parts of the country every year which drain off our state exchequer viciously. Our political scientists must come forward with something like Electoral College options. I advocate the general elections should be held after every ten years instead of five years. Though it can create a sense of totalitarian attitude in the elected regimes but it will surely save our state exchequers from the gigantic economic burden. Our neighbors have the same issues and they must think on the identical lines.
People at the helm must understand the aspirations of the people. People need proper nutrition, pure drinking water, adequate healthcare services, and right to live with peace and quality education. Missiles, bombs and nuclear weapons add to your military might but can’t provide two meals to your starved masses. Both the nuclear neighbors must shun their obstinate and stubborn stances to emerge as the most progressed and prospered nations of the subcontinent. Infamous colonial rule of slavery has ended but we are still in the chains of poverty, animosity, hostility, illiteracy, and malnutrition. May good sense prevail on both sides of the border?
(Author is a Teacher and Rising Kashmir Columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )