Arms race and regional peace -DAWN

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ACCORDING to a recently released Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report, India has emerged as the second biggest importer of arms after Saudi Arabia, whereas Pakistan is ranked 10th on the list.

The ranking does not augur well for the stability, prosperity and progress of the people living on either side of the subcontinental divide. In order to fulfill its hegemonic designs and to exhibit its military muscle, New Delhi is signing mindless arms deals with various arms exporters on a mammoth scale.

This is leading to imbalance of power, and to counter India’s roguish attitude, Pakistan is left with no choice other than upgrading its own defence system. The accumulation of weapons on such a large scale is detrimental to the cause of regional peace.

The exorbitant spending on buying arms means the lion’s share of the budget goes to defence, while the other vital sectors, including health, education and poverty alleviation programmes, are given meagre budgetary allocations.

The leadership on both sides must have a pragmatic approach and, instead of resolving the bilateral issues through belligerent ways, they must resort to result-oriented dialogue. Carrying out subversive activities against each other will be damaging for both the countries.

Going by historical trend, Pakistan has extended the proverbial olive branch to India more than once. When Pakistan captured an Indian pilot after his jet was shot down by Pakistan Air Force, he was released within a couple of days to de-escalate the mounting tension.

Also, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returned to power, Pakistani prime minister sent a congratulatory message to his Indian counterpart, but the gesture was not reciprocated by the Indian government.

Hopefully, the hawkish elements in the Indian government will mend their ways to make this region a peaceful place for its inhabitants. It is time to say goodbye to the arms race and rid the region of the malaise of poverty, ignorance, intolerance and bigotry. It is time to join hands for the uplift and emanci-pation of those who have fallen prey to deprivation, extremism and militancy.