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Pakistan - India: The Cost of War

How long will India and Pakistan continue to beg, borrow and steal to fight each other?

by Dr Farrukh Saleem, 25 January 2009

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The News, January 25, 2009

We are 6.7 billion. Of the 6.7 billion, 1.2 billion are extremely poor (at or below $1 a day). Of the 1.2 billion extremely poor citizens of the world, some 550 million live in India and Pakistan combined. Wow; India and Pakistan are home to half of the world’s population that lives at or below $1 a day. The single largest chunk of extremely poor human beings lives in India —some 500 million. Should India and Pakistan be fighting each other or fighting poverty together?

Pakistan’s newly elected civil administration, on a marathon begging expedition, begged Saudi Arabia, urged China and pleaded with the Sheikhdoms for a billion dollar donation. We begged, urged and pleaded but to no avail. If it wasn’t for General David Petraeus, the 10th Commander of the U.S. Central Command, we couldn’t have qualified for an IMF handout. On November 24, IMF Executive Board approved the release of $3.1 billion. Then came 26/11. Do you know the cost of a 100-hour war with India? Answer: Some $3 billion to $5 billion.

India and Pakistan have been fighting the Siachen War—the highest battlefield on the face of the planet—for the past 25 years. Pakistan has some 3,000 troops and around 150 manned posts. The War has already consumed 1,025 Indian and 1,344 Pakistani lives—and that too mostly from frost bites and avalanches (very few casualties from enemy fire). Pakistan and India each spend an estimated $200 million to $300 million per year on Siachen. How much have India and Pakistan spent on the Siachen War so far? Answer: An estimated $10 billion. What was Pakistan’s budgetary allocation for education? Answer: $300 million.

Look at all the money gone down the drain during the Kargil War: A strike fighter of the Indian Air Force (IAF) takes off from Awantipur AFS and returns after dropping its bomb-load. The cost of the return trip: $1.1 million. And, there were a total of 350 air-sorties for an accumulated expenditure of $416 million. The cost of the army operation was estimated at an additional $2 billion.

Imagine; 44 percent of India ’s population lives at or below $1 a day. What is India’s defence expenditure? Answer: $25 billion a year. At the same time, 31 percent of Pakistan’s population lives at or below $1 a day and Pakistan spends a colossal $4 billion every year in buying and maintaining killing machines. Should India and Pakistan be fighting each other or fighting poverty together? At least 77 million Pakistanis are food insecure. And, Pak Army buys a roti for Rs10 and then spends an additional Rs75 in transporting that roti to feed soldiers fighting in Siachen.

Imagine India’s annual trade deficit is a mind-boggling $100 billion. To be certain, India is heavily dependent on foreign investment in order to bridge its trade deficit but General Deepak Kapoor, India’s 23rd Chief of Army Staff, continues to fuel war hysteria. In Pakistan, the de jure Chief Justice is campaigning for reinstatement while Pakistan insists that the suspects of the Mumbai tragedy will be tried in Pakistani courts.

On 13 December 2001, five terrorists managed to enter the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha and undertook indiscriminate shooting, killing five policemen, a security guard and a gardener. India ordered Operation Parakram, mobilizing and deploying troops along the international border as well as the Line of Control. Pakistan followed suit. Cost incurred by India: Rs65 billion (deployment and withdrawal). Cost incurred by Pakistan: $1.4 billion (deployment and withdrawal).

How long will India and Pakistan continue to beg, borrow and steal to fight each other? Guns or butter? Schools or bullets? Tanks or hospitals? Gunpowder or milkpowder?

The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).