Judge for yourself
Editorial in The Express Tribune -- March 13, 2011
More missiles — or more schools?
Spending on missile defence takes away from our social sector development in an economy, which is estimated to grow by a mere two per cent this year, compared to India’s nine per cent. PHOTO: INP
India and Pakistan have test-fired their nuclear-capable short-range, surface-to-surface, ballistic missiles on the same day, and if one were to say that was coincidental, there would be very few takers. Everything the two neighbours do is a hostile message from one to the other, emanating from costly mutual espionage that they conduct against each other. If tit-for-tat was the motive behind the timing, India wins because it fired two nuclear missiles instead of one. In 1998, when it came to nuclear tests, Pakistan had won because it exploded more devices than India. Pakistan has fired Hatf-2 — hatf means ‘bodiless sound’ but also ‘angel of death’, if you stretch the etymology a little. The Indians leaned on their mythology and named the latest test-fired missiles as Dhanush and Prithvi-2.
Governments on both sides think that they have achieved a higher level of strategic defence or deterrence. Both are proud that the latest versions are more accurate than the ones fired in the past, meaning that, from as far away as 300 miles, they can kill quite accurately, and since they are nuclear-capable, they can kill a large mass of people while crippling the rest forever. Both sides think that the tests are unlikely to aggravate tensions between them. How should the populations of India and Pakistan interpret the assertion by both sides that the tests have been “remarkably accurate and precise”? What is clearly meant is that these weapons will kill more people on both sides with great exactitude. Should the people of India and Pakistan rejoice? And should their thinking change from what they felt when bilateral battles were conventional; and celebrate the reality that a nuclear war could annihilate both sides without anyone winning?
Doctrines of defence have become more sophisticated. Pakistan no longer relies on the declared intent of the ‘other side’. If India says it has no intention of attacking Pakistan, that is not enough; Pakistan will look at the level of India’s war capability to make its decisions about national security. It is the calculus of weapons which now decides how much a country will spend on its military budget. This was also the recipe for the arms race in which two rich nations of the former bipolar world indulged: The US and the USSR.
Take your gaze away from the spectacle of missiles ascending and descending and you will find disparities that no weapon system can equalise. If one looks at India’s growth rate today one can imagine that their missiles cost them not much in terms of how much was spent on them as a percentage of India’s GDP. On the other hand, Pakistan’s missiles have hurt the Pakistani people more because spending on missile defence takes away from their social sector development in an economy which is estimated to grow by a mere two per cent this year, compared to India’s nine per cent. We must remember that it was under the weight of matching the US weaponry that an economically-strapped USSR finally collapsed. And that goes to prove that merely being in an arms race, without actually going into battle, can mean a defeat for either side.
There are other disparities too. Pakistan’s development budget has been halved and most human development projects have been put on hold. Lack of education, or the wrong type of education (where students, even in the mainstream system are indoctrinated), has mired the country in extremism and this is partly the reason for the ongoing governance. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, growing at rates three to four times more than Pakistan, are well set to meet the millennium development goals by 2015; Pakistan doesn’t have the Rs100 billion needed for education while it is shelling out Rs400 billion to its loss-making state-owned corporations. Historically, Pakistan has spent a scandalously low 2.5 per cent of its GDP on education — now this figure is a mere 1.5 per cent, all this while test-firing missiles that cost an astronomical amount. Meanwhile, some government departments are not being paid salaries; projects crucial to fast-growing cities have been set aside; schools in the countryside are being taken over by local strongmen while pupils sit out in the fields; and the Taliban, who fear nothing from our Hatf missiles, destroy schools in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa without hindrance.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2011.
And the next day, The News had this -- on their front page
DG ISPR decries criticism of defence budget
Monday, March 14, 2011
ISLAMABAD: Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Athar Abbas has said that the use of funds in civilian departments should be streamlined instead of criticising the defence budget.
Talking to a private TV channel, the DG ISPR said that the Army performs its duties as per government policy. He said to determine the size of the Army is also the government’s job. The Army has to prepare itself according to the defence capabilities of the enemy. No Army in the world can disclose its development budget to the public, he said.
“If the civilian government considers that they could diminish the perils to the country through negotiation with India, then reduction in the Army could take place,” he added. General Athar said several agencies from some enemy countries have been working to drive wedge between the Army and public. Anti-Pakistan elements are trying to establish that the Army is a burden on the national development by criticising the armed forces.
He said under well-planned conspiracies a misleading propaganda is being unleashed about high budget of Pakistan Army. The conspirators are saying that the funds related to defence could be used for prosperity of the country.
“Apart from all plots against the Army, I would like to say that forces always perform their duties within the framework given by the sitting government,” he added.
He said that the budget of defence forces consists of two parts. The portion regarding maintenance funds can be discussed at every forum but the segment of the budget relating to development cannot be publicised as the enemy could get an idea about the areas where development was going to take place, so this portion is always kept secret.
The DG ISPR was of the view that as far as facts and figures are concerned, an analysis of the budget would reveal that the defence budget has decreased ratio-wise. At present, the ratio of defence budget is 14 percent of the national budget.
Some elements are creating the misunderstanding that defence takes away 40 percent of the total budget. He asked it has to be ascertained that the budget allocated to the civilian department was not misused.
He said that the Army presented its report about the presence of thousands of ghost schools as well as fake teachers in Punjab. In recognition of the service rendered by the Army, it was said that the system had been corrected.
He said Pakistan is allocating only $4 billion for defence whereas India’s defence budget is $36 billion. “Before designing our preparedness we have to see how strong our enemy is and what is its capability. We will have to see as to what kinds of weapons it is making. Keeping in view all the facts the defence budget as well as ability is increased,” Athar added.