Confidence-Building Measures in South Asia

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Confidence-Building Measures in South Asia

The end of the Cold War has ushered the world into an era of mixed blessings. Conflicts in Somalia, Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia continue to highlight the instability inherent in the emerging international system. On the other hand, the end of bipolarity has paved the way for "regional detentes." Following the historic accord between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in September 1993, the Jordanian Government also ended its hostility towards Israel in July 1994. Other countries in the region, especially Syria, are also inching towards some form of accommodation with Israel. In Southeast Asia, after bringing  Vietnam into the mainstream of regional relations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has also taken the lead in ending Myanmar's self,imposed isolation. Latin America has already seen a rapprochement between the two traditional rivals, Argentina and Brazil, highlighted by the conclusion of nuclear and missile nonproliferation agreements.

Unfortunately, the benefits of the changed international environment have eluded South Asia. The two major regional rivals, India and Pakistan, remain entangled in an adversarial relationship. The continuing controversy over Kashmir is the main political symptom of this conflictual relationship. Islamabad consistently demands a plebiscite in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and argues that the uprising in the Valley is proof that the Kashmiris wish to join Pakistan. New Delhi, on the other hand, asserts that the uprising in Kashmir has been perpetuated primarily by Islamabad's active support for the rebels. As for the plebiscite, the Indian Government routinely asserts that Kashmir is an integral part of the Union of India.

The continuing arms race between India and Pakistan is another indicator of their hostile relationship. Islamabad and New Delhi spend 6.5 percent and 3.1 percent of their respective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense. This earns them a ranking among the top ten largest buyers of weapons among developing states. With its arms imports totalling $12.2 billion during 1988,1992, India tops this list. Pakistan, with its average annual arms imports of $697 million during the same period, ranks as the ninth largest arms importer. These imports enable both India and Pakistan to compete with each.

Significantly, the Indo-Pakistani arms race has included weapons of mass destruction (WMD). With their nuclear programs dating back to the early 1960s and 1970s, India and Pakistan are believed to have the capacity to produce fifty and eight nuclear weapons, respectively. At the same time, they are engaged in a leisurely pursuit of ballistic missile capability. India has successfully developed a short-range missile, the Prithvi, with a range of 250 kilometers (km), and is in the process of developing an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Agni, with a range of 2,500 km. Pakistan is engaged in a similar process with attempts to develop short-range missiles, the Hatf I & II, with a range of 80 and 300 km, respectively. With the help of China, Pakistan is also developing another missile, the Hatf III, with a range of 600 km.

This attention to and expenditure on defense contrasts sharply with the expenditure on other significant areas. Pakistan's military spending, for instance, is estimated to be 125 percent of the combined education and health expenditure. India's military expenditure, on the other hand, is estimated to be 65 percent of its combined education and health expenditure. These sectoral imbalances have had serious repercussions for New Delhi's and Islamabad's performance in areas important for human development. India has the largest number of people living in absolute poverty (350  million, or 26 percent of the world total). Pakistan accounts for 2.7 percent of the world's total with 35 million people (over one quarter of its population) living in absolute poverty. India spends 3.5 percent of its Gross National Product (GNP) on education and has an adult literacy rate of 50 percent. Translated in real terms, this means that India has the largest number of illiterate adults (272 million in 1992) in the world. Pakistan spends 3.4 percent of its GNP on education and only 45 million people or 36 percent of its total adult population is estimated to be literate. In India, where life expectancy at birth is 59.7 years, 3.5 million children die before reaching the age of five, while another 69.3 million in the same age group remain malnourished. Pakistan's performance is no better; it has an infant mortality rate of 99 per 1,000 live births and the number of malnourished children under five is estimated to be 3.7 million. In India and Pakistan, approximately 844 million people have no access to sanitation facilities and an estimated 281 million have no access to safe drinking water. Hence, India and Pakistan are ranked 135 and 137 out of 173 states on the Human Development Index (HDI) designed by the United Nations Development Program. Given that these two states are moving down the HDI ranking each year, it can be safely assumed that both India and Pakistan run the risk of further depriving their people of basic necessities unless they spend less on defense and more on health and education.

This reallocation, in turn, necessitates a real relaxation of tension between India and Pakistan. Can this relaxation - a South Asian detente - be achieved? What role can confidence-building measures (CBMs) play in this process and how? We attempt to answer some of these questions in this essay. To this end, the essay looks at the concept of confidence building and how it has been applied in  the past in the South Asian context. It then assesses and analyzes the reasons for the only limited success of lndo­ Pakistani CBMs. We argue that a perceptual blockage and an enemy mythology surrounding both India and Pakistan are the real impediments to the success of CBMs. Not only do they prompt governments of the two states to engage in hostile actions which reinforce the image of an enemy across the border, but they also prevent them from hearing each other's legitimate concerns. This, in turn, contributes to a perpetual state of hostility. The real route to confidence building lies in altering these myths  by measures such as improving people-to-people contacts.