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l June 2003 l

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 2, No 2 l

S T A T E C R A F T

India and Pakistan, misguided priorities

Swaraj Singh


Time has come for India and Pakistan to focus on the real problems of their people. It seems that so far they have been unable to sort out their priorities . The real problems of the subcontinent have been mostly ignored. Even a casual look at the subcontinent makes some problems apparent. These include overpopulation, congestion, and the resulting environmental damage, poverty, illiteracy, declining health and global corruption. It is sad that these problems have overshadowed the great historical contributions of the subcontinent. Gradually improving relations, prioritizing the challenges and creating new opportunities can greatly help people of both countries.

 

Last year, while visiting India, I was shocked to hear from a serious and dedicated scholar. He said if half of the population of the Indian subcontinent is eliminated at least the other half can live well. He of course regarded that he was only kidding, but I was even more jolted when recently an American scholar suggested a similar radical solution.

 

While nobody can seriously consider such a drastic solution, but it does emphasize the gravity of the problem. This population explosion and resulting effects have mostly negated the progress made by both the countries.        

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To understand the problem, just look at the staggering statistics. In 1947, the population of Delhi was about 700, 000. Now it has exceeded thirteen million. Ludhiana, a city in Punjab, was a little more than 100,000. Now it is estimated to be more than two million. The cities lack infrastructure, with the similar increase in the vehicles on the road, there is congestion and resulting air pollution. The proper sewerage faculties are lacking so much that more than 80% of people have no toilet facility. Water supply is becoming tighter and tighter, more than 50% of the population deprived from clean drinking water. Sewerage and water pipes have crossed; frequently resulting in serious outbreaks of diseases such as hepatitis and gastroenteritis.

 

Increasing pressures to build homes for the ever-growing population has resulted in deforestation and loss of farmland. This puts greater pressure on the remaining farmland with increased use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides and burning of stumps of the crops after harvesting. These are further damaging the already damaged environment. The pressures of multinationals which led to globalization have resulted in deep cuts in already inadequate social programs for the impoverished population. I recently saw the results of such cuts, which have led to deplorable conditions of healthcare and education for the poor, which form a majority of the population.

 

The growing competition for the limited opportunities increases corruption, insecurity, and breakdown of values. This is leading to growing crime and can create conditions for epidemics like AIDS. While peoples’ problems keep getting worse, both countries are increasingly diverting already depleted resources to the military and defense. If they can improve their relations then this colossal wastage of meager resources can be stopped and the money saved can be used to solve the real problems of the subcontinent.

 

Mr. George Fernandes (the Indian Defense Minister) has just returned from China. He was the main proponent of the theory that China poses real danger to India, therefore India has to build a strong defense against China. But, now he seems convinced that China has no intentions of invading India or to destabilize India. On the contrary, China seems interested in improving relations not only between China and India but also between India and Pakistan. China wants peace south of its border but it also strongly desires a strong and prosperous Asia. The Chinese feel that in the last two centuries, Asia has not gotten a good deal from the western powers and time has come to restore Asia’s prestige and status.

 

India and Pakistan should work for immediately improving trade and people to people relations. There should be no preconditions set for those. The tough political problems should be gradually addressed in the environment of improved trust, cordiality and well being. Both India and Pakistan are Asian countries belonging to the third world. Moreover, they have a common culture and shared values and history. There is no fundamental conflict between the interests of the two people.

 

Eventually, the best thing which could happen to the Indian subcontinent is its transformation into a South Asian Economic Alliance on the pattern of the European Union and the ASEAN. The Indian subcontinent has made tremendous contributions to the world, the most significant being in the field of overall human development. Because of our situation in the last two centuries, particularly in the last century, our great contributions have been overshadowed by the images of poverty, deprivation, and desperation. The west sees us a city of joy, this was Calcutta, but it could very well have been Karachi. The improved relations between the two countries can set a stage for restoration of our proper status in the global community.

 

 


Copyright © 2002-2003 Shyam Lal Watt Foundation

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Jammu & Kashmir News - May 2003:  l Militants vow to oppose Pakistan ban  l  Peace process should be sincere: Sonia Gandhi  l  Mufti favours opening of transit point at Uri  l  Hizb ban has not stopped infiltration: Army  l  UJC throws weight behind Geelani  l  Give up rigid stand, Lone to Hurriyat  l  J&K groups, Al Qaeda have ties: US  l