Covid-19 : Cost of prioritizing national security over human capital
It would have been better for the citizens of both nations if they would have developed their healthcare system
Dr. Altaf Ahmad Dar
One of the most emerging volatile zones for COVID19 today apart from China, Italy, the USA, and Iran is India and Pakistan. With a rising number of cases almost every day, the threat of this pandemic virus in India and Pakistan cannot be overlooked. Developed and topmost countries in the healthcare system like China, Italy, the USA, UK, and Iran could not control the effects of this deadly virus despite having a sophisticated healthcare system. If God forbid, it comes out of control as reported by many health experts would create havoc in the Sub-continent mostly in India and Pakistan. Dr. Ramanan Laxminaryanan predicts that if India could not implement complete lockdown, 300-500 million Indians could test positive by July 2020. He continuing his magical figures claimed that nearly 10-15 million people will be affected seriously and most of the infections will be mild, 10 million severe infections will happen within the next two weeks and India does not have such intensive care facilities to handle such scale. The same is the case of Pakistan where Coronavirus is spreading fast and may take an ugly turn in the future because of less awareness among people and defective health care systems. Both India and Pakistan cannot enforce long shutdowns because of their fragile economies, poverty and a large number of homeless people. The fact is that India has no defence against Coronavirus. India does not have sophisticated healthcare to save those who will be infected and can be saved medically because we don’t have the capacity there either. India has 70,000 hospital beds and only a few ventilators. Those infected who might be able to be saved in developed countries will die in India. The Healthcare system of Pakistan is far behind India and is exclusively dependent on China. Some days back they got masks, ventilators and other health care equipment’s from China. Despite Foreign visit restrictions, Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan sent President of Pakistan and Foreign minister to China for seeking all-weather friend’s help in the healthcare system. Keeping in view the low healthcare facilities in Pakistan, coronavirus may prove more fatal than 2010 floods for Pakistan.
Both India and Pakistan cannot enforce long shutdowns because of their fragile economies, poverty and a large number of homeless people.
Despite having a very low rank in the health care system, both the nations are spending a large number of their economies on Military, warfare, and purchasing of weapons. It would have been better for the citizens of both nations if they would have developed their healthcare system. While looking at the comparative defence budget of India and Pakistan they are among the topmost countries of the World. In 2018, India allocated four trillion rupees or 2.1 percent of its GDP, to support its 1.4 million active troops, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Pakistan spent 1.26 trillion Pakistani rupees, about 3.6 percent of its GDP on its troops. It also received $ 100m in foreign military assistance in 2018 as per the estimates of IISS. Both the nations have atomic weapons and Ballistic missiles worth of GDP of Nepal, Bangladesh, Srilanka, and Bhutan. Both the nations are spending trillions of rupees on Siachen Glacier to maintain their hegemony. According to the Defence Review report, India spends Rs 5 crore every day to ensure the safety and supply of food through helicopters for soldiers stationed at the Siachen Glacier. India spends about $200-$300 every year to maintain its dominance on Siachen Glacier. The irony is that as coronavirus cases are rising, Indian Govt. signed an arms deal with Isreal worth hundreds of millions of dollars. According to a statement released by the Indian Govt., Isreal will supply the Indian military with 16,479 Negev light machine guns, despite growing concerns over the health emergency facing the country of 1.3 billion people. Even this move has been criticised by activists, Rights groups, Health experts and scholars. A Vanaik, a retired professor of International Relations at the University of Delhi, described the decision as extraordinary and highly condemnable. He told, “India needs every rupee to deal with the very real danger of the coronavirus pandemic spreading in a country of 1.3 billion people living in densely populated cities and towns. As it is compared to Europe, North America or even China and other countries in Asia, the medical system here is woefully under-equipped to deal with this emergency. This division of funds is deeply distressing”. Spending such a huge Budget on defense by India and Pakistan is unconscionable when there is a need for a high-quality health care system.
The distressing time created by Covid-19 demands hard decisions from both the nations related to Kashmir which is a huge burden on the national economies of both the South Asian Nations.
So it is not late for both the nations, they need to learn the lessons from the present situation. It is high time for both nations to divert their resources from Defence to the development of their healthcare system. India spends 4 times on defense what it does on health. Last year the government gave only Rs 32, 00 crores to Ayushman Bharat and unfortunately spent 59,000 crores only on 36 Rafale fighters. This is the best time for Modi Govt. to learn and take bold decisions about the defence budget, arms race, Kashmir conflict, etc. Most recently with the decision of Indian Govt.to revoke Article 370 costs crores of rupees for mobilising 50 thousand paramilitary forces from different parts of India to Kashmir. This controversial decision created huge losses to different sectors of the J & K Economy.
As already proven above from different data, reduction in the defence budget has chances to provide High healthcare facilities to the citizens of both India and Pakistan.
Instead of huge expenditure on Abrogation of Article 370, India could have utilised this money for the development of health sector in J and K. Both the nations need to curtail Kashmir related Defence budget, minimise the strength of military from both the parts of Kashmir and withdraw completely their forces form Siachen Glacier. The distressing time created by Covid-19 demands hard decisions from both the nations related to Kashmir which is a huge burden on the national economies of both the South Asian Nations. As already proven above from different data, reduction in the defence budget has chances to provide high healthcare facilities to the citizens of both India and Pakistan. With the continuous signing of military deals, strengthening of their claims on Kashmir, economic and health-related development cannot be ensured in such an atmosphere in both the countries. The improvement in standards of living, poverty, employment, etc. rests a lot on Kashmir related consensus of both the countries. Turning to the question in context to Covid-19 and lessons for India and Pakistan, this probably is not the first time that someone has come up with this idea. In one of his articles, Prof. Ranjan at South Asian University argues, “The people of South Asia surely deserve a prosperous and peaceful future. The onus is on the leadership of the two biggest countries in the region to deliver”.
Dr. Altaf Ahmad Dar has done a doctorate Degree in Peace Studies from Pondicherry University. He can be mailed at email@example.com
Disclaimer: Views expressed are author’s own and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions.