India, Pakistan and inverted priorities (off-topic)

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend – William Blake

I meet a few Pakistanis here in Germany – mostly cab drivers. It is a pleasure to meet somebody who speaks Hindi here.

There is more we have in common. We share a history and eat largely the same cuisine. The big Indian store we buy provisions from has a Pakistani owner. Several restaurants here serve ‘Indian and Pakistani’ cuisine.

The two countries also have something else in common – we both have world-class military. The Indian military is seen as being the 4th strongest in the world, while the Pakistani military, at 17th place, isn’t far behind. This video compares the two countries’ military prowess head-to-head. Kashmir is the world’s most militarized zone. No two neighbours “hate” each other as much as we do.

But where else are we world class? Let us look at a few other social and economic indicators alongside our military ranking.

Indicator
India
Pakistan
4
17
157
172
HDI
130
150
133
75
All numbers here are global ranks

As you can see, we may have world-class military (Pakistan ranks just 1 place below Israel). But both nations rank way behind in almost every economic or social indicator.

And those numbers are tightly intertwined. India spends 12.1% of its national budget on its defense forces. With Pakistan, that number is nearly double in percentage terms, at 21% of total outlay. All those billions of rupees, that could have been invested in health-care and education, end up in the coffers of arms manufacturers instead. For more than 7 decades, the two neighbours have been pumping themselves up with steroids at the cost of nourishing what is most important for both their economies in the long-term.

In comparison, let us look at the same numbers for two countries that top the global happiness index rankings – Finland and Norway, who are incidentally neighbours.

Indicator
Finland
Norway
59
36
38
11
HDI
1
2

It appears as though the tables, the one below and the one above, are inverted.

I know that this is a simplified perspective, that these indicators have their limitations and that I speak with the benefit of hindsight. Nevertheless, a time of crisis is also a time of clarity. For the 72 years since our independence, military one-upmanship hasn’t served either country well.

As tensions rise across the border could we adopt a different approach this time? Could we prioritize better? Could we see the consequences of shooting ourselves in the foot for more than 7 decades?

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