Whither Global Peace

Prospects of Peace in an Over-armed World

Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle called man a social animal by nature because it’s a unique mix in his personality that he cannot live in isolation, but when living with others, he fights with them. Since the beginning of the world, this unique blend has led man to create chaos and provoke violence ergo shattering the world peace. Due to appetence to possess, then holding the possessed along with an innate desire to prove his superiority over others man resorts to violence and bloodshed. As the life moved on, the economic, religious, linguistic, cultural and political conflicts emerged as major factors responsible for hideous acts of wars both in and outside a nation’s borders which are still on even today.

Every human action that creates anarchy within a country or leads to trans-boundary disputes is always condemnable. For thwarting any such act, and for resolving the issues across the globe through dialogue and negotiations, many organizations and fora have been established. The United Nations and its predecessor, the League of Nations, are among the most prominent among them.

Since the League of Nations failed its objectives, it died away. Nevertheless, despite its failure in resolving the longstanding conflicts — like Kashmir and Palestine — and with its biased swiftness in resolving issues like East Timor and Sudan, the United Nations is still striving to harness a peaceful world.

It’s no less than a universal truth that all battles ultimately have to culminate on peace. Its most glaring example is the end of war between Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan forces. With the end of the Cold War, it was being hoped that conflicts and violent activities would decline significantly. But, with the fateful event of 9/11, these hopes dashed and another mighty hydra of terrorism emerged. But, all efforts to slay this hydra have proved counterproductive and the world is insecure like never before. Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are bearing a heavy brunt of international ‘reaction’ against terrorism.

The US invaded Iraq on the basis of a false ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ propaganda, and attacked Afghanistan under the garb of ‘pursuit of terrorists’. These two inauspicious events not only spurred terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but actions taken in this regard too exacerbated the situation. Resultantly, the number of people who lost their lives in terrorist activities has outnumbered any other kind of fatalities. As per the data collected by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) of the United States, more than 50% of total fatalities in terror acts all over the world happened only in these countries. A dissection of the data shows that in 2005, 64% of such deaths were reported in these three countries and the ratio increased to 74% in 2006. In 2007, this figure rose to 77%. However, a decline to 59% was witnessed in 2008. Thenceforth, this ratio kept on increasing and rose ultimately to 68% in 2011.

The US-led War on Terror has put Pakistan under the claws of a monster which devoured 189 lives in 2003, while in 2013, there were 4160 terror-related deaths. A research paper of Pakistan Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad entitled “Impact of Terrorism on Pakistan,” shows that such deaths soared by 210% during the said period i.e. 2003-2014. Major factors responsible for this huge rise were the US drone attacks in Pakistan as well as the establishment of Indian Consulates in areas near Pak-Afghan border. These factors have been, and are still, frustrating every peace initiative in Pakistan.

The massive spree of terror acts and the factors behind them are supporting the notion that in future, the prospects of trans-boundary wars are limited but there still is a strong likelihood of spike in intra-boundary armed conflicts. This is because the antagonism created by intolerance as well as a glaring disparity in economic, religious, political and linguistic spheres has resulted in terrorism and militancy, thus giving rise to mass killings, genocides, and rebellions. This fire of hatred can be fanned because the objectives achievable through huge war spendings could be easily realized by sponsoring drone attacks and terrorist activities. Perhaps, this is the reason why the US, with an aim to cut its defence spending, on one hand is increasingly adopting a policy to limit or end the extraterritorial military operations, while on the other, its policies evince that it will no longer be using its ground forces in other countries. Nonetheless, it has been continuously financing the warring groups in some countries.

Although this possible future scenario seems paradoxical, the history of establishment of peace and then its subversion speaks volumes about this possibility. The conflicts which may incite war anytime still stand unresolved as these have shown their ugly face in form of 20 full-fledge wars, 25 limited battles and 176 violent crises in 2013. The facts and figures provided in the 2013 ‘Conflict Barometer’ by the German institute “Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK)” reveal that Israel’s recent Gaza onslaught, Russia-Ukraine conflict, internal security situation of Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, aggression at Indo-Pak border, terrorist activities in Pakistan by the non-state actors having safe havens in Afghanistan, genocides and mass killings in various African countries, etc., are still jeopardizing the world peace. In these grim circumstances, steps to enhance the deterrence capacity along with measures to thwart any foreign aggression are increasingly being witnessed. If the efforts are on to ameliorate internal security infrastructure, the militants are also striving to access the equipment required to achieve their nefarious designs. This all culminates in excessive purchases of arms and ammunition.

According to a report prepared by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an international think tank dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament, 100 biggest arms-producing companies (excluding those from China) sold heavy arms amounting to nearly $410 billion in 2011. Moreover, the United Nations Department of Public Information says that every year light weapons amounting to $4 billion are sold worldwide. Will this industry of $410 billion ever allow an end to conflicts the world over? This is the moot point because these arms suppliers belong to, and are strengthening the economies of, the countries which are the so-called flag-bearers of peace. The data provided by the SIPRI shows that during 2008-12 almost 30% of the total revenue from arms sales went only to American companies while nearly 26% to the Russian ones. Germany was the third biggest arms exporter with a share of 7% in total revenue generated through arms sales. France, China, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Ukraine and Israel are the other countries on the ‘top ten’ list of biggest arms exporters which divided almost 87% of the total arms exports among them. This list includes all the UNSC permanent members which are using the ‘establishment of peace’ mantra to fulfil their vested interests. They would always talk about fostering peace, but, in reality, they benefit a lot from huge exports of arms to other nations. Similarly, during 2008-13, these five permanent UNSC members got 74% share in the international arms market. Only the US and Russia made more than 50% of the total arms sales.

India is also vying for a permanent seat in this UNSC club. And, in order to realize this dream, it is feverishly working to enhance its military prowess. It was for this reason that India made unprecedentedly high arms purchases during 2008-12 — a whopping 12% of the total world purchases. The second biggest importer was China which made nearly 6% of the world’s total imports during this period. Third biggest buyer was Pakistan with a share of 5%. However, Pakistan in on this list mainly because of the two factors: the internal security threats posed by the unabated terrorism, and India’s always-rising war hysteria. It is as clear as day that the first target of India, which is piling up the weapons, is Pakistan. Second, it longs for establishing its supremacy in the region while its third major aim is to emerge as a formidable military power. This jingoism on the part of India has always kept Pakistan on alert, especially on strengthening its internal and external defence mechanism. Besides India, China and Pakistan, the list of 10 biggest importers includes South Korea, Singapore, Algeria, Australia, United States, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. These 10 countries imported more than 50% of the world’s total arms during the above-mentioned period.

The list of 5 biggest arms importer countries, during 2009-13, comprises India, China, Pakistan, UAE and Saudi Arabia. During this period, these 5 countries imported 32% (in terms of value) of the total arms exports made in the whole world. India’s arms purchases rose by 11%, enhancing its share to 14% in the world’s total imports — almost three times more than that of China and Pakistan.

At present, India is the world’s biggest arms importer. It makes 75% of its defence purchases from Russia, 7% from the US and 6% from Israel. 54% of Pakistan’s defence purchases, which rose by 119% in 2009-13 as compared to those in 2004-08, came from the US while 27% from China. As per the figures provided by SIPRI, during 2009-13, there were 55 countries which exported heavy weaponry whereas 152 countries imported these arms during the said period.

The large-scale manufacturing of arms and their sales thereof causes heavy human casualties as well as the devastation of infrastructure. Amnesty International says that since 1989 at least 250,000 humans lost their lives in 128 armed conflicts. Moreover, nearly 300,000 fatalities a year occur even in the countries where there are no such conflicts. These very weapons, when used in acts of violence, cause heavy casualties. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports say that with an average of 74.9 deaths per 100,000 people, Guatemala tops the list of countries where violent activities result in fatalities. Most of the other countries on this list are from Africa. In the context of South Asia, we find that Nepal — 73rd in the whole world — has the most such deaths where 10.4 persons per 100,000 population are consumed by violence. Nepal is followed by Bangladesh Bhutan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the Maldives; standing at third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth positions respectively.

Acts of bestiality, armed conflicts and violation of human rights are the factors which stand in stark contrast to peace. Due to these factors, another appalling human tragedy, the displacement or migration of peoples, takes place. A UNHCR report says that approximately 16.7 million people are living in alien lands as they had to leave their native lands due to unavoidable circumstances. Moreover, a report by International Displacement Monitoring Center entitled “Global Overview 2014” says that there were 33.3 million internally displaced peoples (IDPs) in the world at the end of 2013. These IDPs fled because of armed conflicts, rampant violence and excessive human rights abuses. This figure represents a 16% increase from 2012. With 1.6 million refugees — almost all from Afghanistan — Pakistan continues to host the largest number of refugees in the world, says a report of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). And now the number of IDPs, which by the end of June 2014 stood at nearly 1.15 million, as per the IMDC figures; has risen to make it the world’s second largest IDPs population, after Syria.

They say peace is shattered by the use of weapons, but it is also true that its restoration and re-establishment is also linked to their prudent use. And, probably, it is! Because if a meagre portion of the huge sums of money the world spends on strengthening defence mechanism is diverted to providing basic amenities like education, health, food, clean drinking water and sanitation to people, then there, perhaps, won’t be any need of defence expenses which amount to $1747 billion for the whole world. A comparison of expenses incurred on making world a better place to live in and then jeopardizing all peace prospects further elaborates this fact. In 2010, the United Nations spent $24 billion on development and human welfare projects. This amount is, no doubt, scant when seen in context of the formidable challenges the world faces today. The UN has to repeatedly appeal for funds to run its various development programmes but the world community turned a deaf year. Though it wasn’t a huge amount to eliminate deprivations and destitutions from the world, yet it was never provided. In order to extend basic facilities to people across the globe, the UN needs 206-216 billion dollars a year. But, how the world community, which doesn’t provide the UN with fund consummate to its needs today, would fulfil all the financial requirements to achieve the targets set for the year 2020?

On the contrary, a huge chunk of world economy is consumed by the defence expenditures which stood at 1747 billion dollars in 2013. During this year, the US emerged as the biggest spender on defence with expenditures reaching to $640 billion. It was followed by China with US$188 billion, and then Russia with US$87.8 billion. India was ranked 9th with US$47.4 billion defence spending. During 2013, only 15 countries spent 79% of the total world expenditure on defence and only 2 countries spent almost half of this amount: the US with 37% and China with 11% were the most prominent among them.

In South Asia, total defence spending of only six Saarc member states totalled $60231 million in 2013. In South Asia, India topped the list followed by Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal respectively. The region saw a rising trend in defence spending between 1992 and 2011. It fell during 2011-12 but rose again in the next year. The major reason of this unprecedented rise in the last decade (2004-13) was the beginning of military expenditures in Afghanistan and a continuous rise in it. During this decade, Afghanistan was among those 23 countries which raised their defence budgets in the range of 200% and 600%. A rise of 557% was noted in Afghanistan which is almost 6 times to its original defence spending. In 2012-13, the biggest rise in defence spending in a single year was also seen in Afghanistan with 77% rise. A major reason behind this rise is that the country has to ensure the establishment of a strong military, to provide for their salaries and facilities as well as the supply of arms in order to enhance their capacity so that the 350,000 army and police personnel could take the reins of their country’s security after the imminent withdrawal of Nato and Isaf forces.

All the 23 countries which raised their defence budgets spending by 200 to 600 per cent share, at least, one of three factors: substantial economic development, vast oil and gas reserves, and armed conflicts or other irritants. A rise of 26% in the defence budgets of the world speaks volumes about the world’s security situation. Though the old conflicts haven’t died down, yet new disputes, which may trigger some serious conflicts in future, are popping up with every passing day. India-Pakistan water conflict, which arose when India built dams on Pakistani rivers, is the most important one. Moreover, the acts of stopping water of Pakistani rivers, and releasing floodwater without any prior notice are further fanning the flames of the conflict. Similarly, the emergence of the ISIS monster will also be a formidable and daunting challenge in future. Moreover, the seeds of numerous conflicts in the whole world are being sown. What will be the prospects of world peace when we will have to harvest its fruits? A glimpse of the possible future scenario can be seen in the predictions made by a famous political scientist James A. Blight and a former US Secretary of Defence, Mr Robert McNamara, who opine that the number of fatalities in the armed conflicts during the twenty-first century may rise at an average of 3 million a year.

Fear and dread are the other names of the devastation of peace but this very element of fear and dread enables man to reform himself. It is always wise to learn from the past and avoid repeating mistakes. But, what can be done when man doesn’t understand this and is making every effort to destroy and annihilate himself.

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