Muhammad Irfan Abbasi

South Asia is the most populous region of the world and almost one-fifth of the world population resides in this region. Due to its geostrategic importance, it has always been the focus of world powers in order to gain access to energy-rich Central Asia and the untapped reserves of Afghanistan.

Pakistan and India are the two leading countries of this region and have had unresolved issues since the independence of the Subcontinent. Kashmir is the main unresolved dispute between India and Pakistan despite being on United Nations Security Council agenda for over half-century.

Economic Impact of Nuclearization on South Asia

The security, as well as the economic situation in the region, largely depends on the relations between these countries. Driven by the ambitious agenda of regional hegemony, India is the largest importer of weapons which results in a perpetual arms race in the region.

Smaller nations of South Asia always feel insecure due to the mass import of modern weapons by India and try to counterbalance depending on their resources.

Pakistan amidst having an unresolved Kashmir issue has had serious and valid concerns about arms build-up by India as both countries have already fought three wars on one or the other issue.

This unending hostility between the two countries always became a hindrance to the progress in the region and the social well-being of the public in both countries.

The largest chunk of the budget in both Pakistan and India goes to the defense sector. As a result, they have little to spend on improving governance, education, and development. Hence the majority of the public in the region, especially in India is living below the poverty line.

Taking the example of Europe, the European nations have resolved their conflicts, and therefore have a lot to spend on public welfare programs. While South Asian countries have always needed the help of international institutions and leading nations for public welfare.

Ironically, a large population in India is still deprived of basic facilities. Likewise, the situation is not any different in some far-flung areas of Pakistan too but that is meager as compared to India.

Both India and Pakistan conducted successful nuclear tests in 1998 and joined the nuclear state’s club, but when compared with other nuclear states in the economic sphere, they are lagging far behind.

After attaining the nuclear status by both, a strategic balance was restored but both countries still spend a large amount on the safety of nuclear weapons and experiments on missile systems.

The point to be noted here is that India started the arms build-up and nuclearization of South Asia while Pakistan responded in the like manner due to valid security concerns and strategic imbalance in the region.

Attaining nuclear status by both countries indeed lessens the chances of conventional arms conflict but it also leads to finding other solutions of missile defense technology to keep an upper hand in the region.

The Cold Start Doctrine was also introduced by India as an option which was responded to by Pakistan in the shape of tactical weapons. The response though necessary has inevitably created an economic crunch for both countries.

However, it is predicted that the economic growth of India will further improve this year as compared to Pakistan. The security situation of South Asia will always remain volatile until and unless a political party with social welfare agenda comes to power.

Hatred-based politics always leads to division and conflicts not only internally but also with neighbors in order to garner maximum votes. Interestingly; the Indian card is not used in the politics of Pakistan but in India, the situation is otherwise and BJP is continually ruling India for last almost one decade due to the use of religion and Pakistan cards in politics.

Provocation with Pakistan suits BJP and escalating tensions as well as deteriorating situations are evident between both countries especially when the election in India is nearing.

Unfortunately, the Indian arms buildup still continues and other regional countries especially Pakistan always feel insecure, thus have to counterbalance it one or the other way by spending a lot on security.

If India sincerely moves towards resolution of the Kashmir issue or even normalizes the situation in the valley, this could lead to the restoration of Pakistan – India dialogue, and trade, and ultimately into reliable economic ties that would benefit the masses of both countries and improve their life standard. This would be a true service to humanity.

*The writer is an Islamabad-based media analyst.

**Disclaimer: The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues. The views represented in the write-ups published are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and position of The Diplomatic Insight and its staff.

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