Monday, March 10, 2008

Sagarika - A Case of Sword vs Shield

Sagarika - A Case of Sword vs Shield
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The test firing of Sagarika a nuclear-capable missile fired from underwater have several messages to convey. The first one advocates nationalism prioritizing defence spending to protect our national boundaries from any adversaries. The second one tries to convey the necessity of defence R&D for the development of country’s military establishment. However, I feel the basic point that has been missed out is the debate between defence spending verses human development. In the last sixty year or so all the South Asian nations have neglected the people’s development at the expense of protecting its national boundaries. The real or imagined threat perceptions and resultant insecurity have drawn them into rat race of building new Swords and new Shields. Pakistan spends over 50 per cent of its national budget on this exercise. The Chinese and Pakistani swords compel India to build its own shield. In this regard Sagarika is the latest addition. Similarly, Bangladesh, Nepal Sri Lanka all are sucked into the game of shield building. As the sword gets bigger the shield has to follow suit. This is a mindless game that’s going on this region for quite a while and it’s high time we should do some introspection over it. To stock pile the military arsenal by keeping the countrymen hungry is not nationalism but an act of crime against its own people. Here I do not advocate “Ahimsa” or for a defenseless country but pleading to have a minimum security apparatus in place and then divert the funds for the human development. Unfortunately this is not happening and the message that Sagarika tends to convey is that our nation is in no mood to scale down the defence expenses. On the contrary as reflected in the national budget, it wants to keep hiking defence budget for protecting the national boundaries. I really wonder when and where all this will end up. I would like to question the wisdom of keeping the differences alive and hiking the defence expenditure in the name of national defence. Why cant the South Asian nations to understand the cost benefits of ironing out their differences and scale down the defence expenses and utilize them for the welfare of the vast sea of humanity that exists here. I am one who is of the view that if any modicum of human development has to take place in this region then this crystallized mindset on mindless defence spending by the of South Asia n nations has to be broken.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

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