The current move by the Dutch Government to resume conventional arms supplies to Pakistan and India is extremely disturbing. We confine our comment to its possible impact on the ongoing peace process between Pakistan and India and on the economic and political life of the people of Pakistan, particularly of the marginalized and deprived segments of Pakistani society. We place our comments in the form of a list of concerns:
- Why do we need these so-called conventional weapons, when our ruling establishment claims that they have sealed the security of the country for all times against perceived enemies, with the acquisition of nuclear capability?
- The only direct consequence of Pakistan’s purchase of these weapons will be the diversion of funds from public spending and resultant curtailment of allocation of funds for education, health and other most essential segments of the social sector. Example: In 1990 Pakistan’s military expenditure stood at US$2.636 billion, but in 2002 it stood at US$3.176 billion; public spending on health at 0.9% and on education at 1.8% of GDP as compared to 4.6% on defence tells the story in stark terms!).
- Acquisition of more conventional arms will, on the one hand induce a conventional arms race and tend to apply brakes on the Pakistan-India peace process, while on the other, it will further help the military-dominated government to use its enhanced military strength to crush domestic political dissent and suppress fundamental rights.
- The ultimate sufferer will be the poor and marginalized masses, who will be forced to forego even their most elementary economic and social needs, and in the process, the number of people below the poverty line will multiply by the millions.
- In any case, encouraging further militarisation of the two nuclear powers of the subcontinent in the name of “harmless” conventional weapons, is certainly not going to serve the cause of peace and stability in the region. It will be a virtual disaster.
In the light of the above-mentioned hard facts, it will be a grim tragedy if a democracy like Netherlands decides to give unconditional permission for arms trade with India and Pakistan on the incredible assumption that “there are positive moves on the road to peace/relaxing relations” and “it will be guaranteed that the weapons will not be used for the struggle in/on Kashmir’. In the no-war, no-peace situation prevailing in the subcontinent, the induction of any kind of weapons is fraught with disastrous consequences. Peace cannot be guaranteed through the supply of weapons!
Karamat Ali, B.M.Kutty, January 18th 2005
Additional remark (on behalf of Indian section):
- Whether or not the arms the Dutch Government decides to sell to India and Pakistan will be used in Kashmir, this does not mean that they cannot be used by the arms purchasers against each other. To sell arms to one or both sides when all our efforts ought to be directed towards helping the two countries along the path of peace is contrary to the public stance of the Dutch Government that tensions have reduced between India and Pakistan.
Gautam Navlakha, January 25th 2005