Written by Somu Kumar | Image Source: nbcnews
Dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi & Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,
You both showed political maturity by meeting and pushing for a better bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan and we highly appreciate that. All peace-loving citizens on both sides will be praying and hoping for permanent political solution and peace between both nations, which has eluded till now. Most of us are only cautiously optimistic at the latest bonhomie, as seen many times in past, gives hope only to fail immediately.
Let this time, be different. Let’s turn this photo-op into concrete action. While no fixed time frame can be put for complicated negotiations, one simple measure can improve our mutual trust and increase spending on one of the most important areas for both nations: human development. Due to mutual distrust and tensions at the border, both nations continue to increase the defense spending significantly in successive years while a huge section of our population lives in abject poverty, with not able to afford two square meals a day. India’s current military budget is at staggering $40 Billion (Rs. 2.47 lakh crore, 2.4% of GDP) while Pakistan’s military budget is at $7 Billion (629.8 billion Pakistani Rs, 3.4% of GDP). It is an increase of 11% and 14.7% respectively from previous fiscal year. This is heart-breaking considering we continue to slash vital health and education budgets. It is no surprise that 2014 Human Development Index (HDI) rank for India is 138 while Pakistan is 146 out of 188 nations, as measured by UN.
So, let’s make a solid step towards peace and at the same time, invest in our own people rather than increased defense spending which only profits weapons manufacturers around the world. Please make an announcement to cut 10% of military spending for next year and redirect it towards Health, Education, and Poverty alleviation programs. Let this be the first step towards bigger program such as 5-year freeze in any increase in military spending and gradual decrease there-after. We are sure vested interests and war-mongers on both sides will oppose this vehemently, but a large section of people will love such bold actions.
The Youth Of India.