Ground Zero : Coronavirus challenge: India and Pakistan should end hostilities, divert resources to health sector
The world might not be the same again in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic. The emerging situation is likely to dictate the countries to revisit their priorities. This is going to be the next major change after liberalisation during which the decision-making had shifted to the market forces.
The market controlled global economy has now been hit hard by an unforeseen catastrophe. The top priority is going to be the health sector and revival of the economies hit hard by Coronavirus under the new situation.
It is in this context that the India and Pakistan, the two hostile neighbours, should redraw their security and developmental strategies. The two countries miserably lack resources for human development with major emphasis being on defence. The human development indices in both these countries are on the lower side.
India and Pakistan are among the top buyers of armaments and weapons in the world market. It is in the interest of the arms industry that the hostilities don’t get resolved. This is possible only in case these two countries return to the time when they were on the threshold of resolving their diffreences.
Eminent political scientist Dr Pramod Kumar who heads the Institute for Development and Communications, maintains, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has exhibited strong determination and it would be appreciated if he arrives at No War Pact with Pakistan and initiates process of peace building in Asia”. He said half of the defence budget could then be diverted to health sector. Both the countries woefully lack ventilators to counter the Coronavirus threat. The medical research should be provided adequate funds. He said the immediate issue was that of survival of the lowest sections of society like daily wagers who must be provided survival package by the states.
The problem in India is that the political discourse of the ruling BJP is Pakistan centric. But then the decision makers in the BJP and its paternal organisation RSS would have to consider the changing situation and redraw the strategies. As an assertive leader, Modi should take the initiative.
This would not only spare money for human development, the economies of the two countries would also get a boost in case free trade is allowed from Attari-Wagha border. Moreover, people on the two sides of the Radcliffe Line want to get over the bitterness of 1947. India would get direct land access to countries even in Europe in case the peace process is initiated to resolve the hostilities and both the countries know this is not an impossibility.
The template for initiating the peace process is the Kartarur Sahib Corridor that is visa free access from Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan across the Ravi river. Hundreds of devotees have been visiting the shrine every day till it was shut own recently keeping in view the Coronavirus threat.
The corridor had been the demand of the Sikhs as Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh Faith, had spent his last about 17 years at Kartarpur Sahib where he gave practical shape to his humanistic philosophy of universal brotherhood and peace.
Both Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan have the capacity to take the historic step.