PM Modi must avoid casual mentions of war games as Nuclear rhetoric is not meant for election speeches
Nuclear rhetoric by the prime minister in his election speech at Barmer on April 21 that India does not have nuclear weapons for Diwali is irresponsible, dangerous and provocative. Counter statement by Mehbooba Mufti that Pakistan does not have these weapons for Eid have brought to the fore how vulnerable situation in our region could be.
Prime Minister's statement may fetch him some votes and applaud from innocent followers and admirers, but it shows complete lack of statesmanship that his utterances could have far flung impact.
The events following Pulwama terrorist violence which martyred 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 calling for destruction of the other.
But for the timely release of Wing Commander Abhinandan and public opinion of the saner elements in the civil society situation could have taken ugly turn leading to catastrophic collateral damage and mutually assured destruction since both India and Pakistan are nuclear weapons possessing countries.
Ira Helfand, Co-President International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and Allan Robock and 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 globally 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 Index 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 defence 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. With Pakistan worth $300 billion 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.
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.
India has been a harbinger in the peace movement. India's role under the leadership of Jawaharlal 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. Role of peace movements in India is very vital in the present context. Absence of timely realization of this could trigger the situation to disaster as the type of rhetoric made recently is likely to be repeated any time and may not remain just in worlds next time.