A debate has opened up whether, instead of vaccinating secondary pupils, the UK should send more Covid vaccines to India, in the light of the alarming and growing spread of Covid there by over 400,000 new cases each day. While the humanitarian impulse to consider such action is laudable, nobody seems to be holding the Indian Government to account for the priorities it followed that led to this lamentable state of affairs.
“Despite warnings from them in March, four of the scientists said the Indian federal government did not seek to impose major restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.”—Reuters, May 1st 2021.
“28 Millions of largely unmasked people attended religious festivals and political rallies that were held by prime minister Narendra Modi, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party and opposition politicians. Tens of thousands of farmers, meanwhile, continued to camp on the edge of New Delhi protesting Modi’s agricultural policy changes.”—The Guardian, May 1st 2021.
Both issues point to poor management by the Indian government, for which they should be roundly condemned for negligence, at the very least. But thee is at least one area where there has been a wilful neglect of their people’s welfare in the cause of militaristic aggression which runs counter to the most basic teachings of Hindu religion, not to mention the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the most famous and most influential of their teeming peoples.
“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”—Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Narendra Modi and his government do not seem to be familiar with this. In the last fiscal year, his government budget of $338 billion spent $29 billion on health. That may seem a lot, but it constitutes just 2.1% of the total budget. Spread over India’s 1,326 million people gives just $22 per head. As a contrast, from a budget of $1,442 billion, the UK allocates $293 billion, or 20.3%—equivalent to $4,507 per head or 200 times India’s spend.
“Fair enough” you might say. “India is a poor country that can’t afford to spend on a scale that the UK can.” Nor true.
Take defence. Britain prides itself in being a global power that “punches above its weight” and spends $68 bn each year to prove it. It deploys nuclear weapons. It boasts spiffy new aircraft carriers, with one about to deploy to the Far East. At $15 billion per annum, it is the world’s second-biggest arms exporter. India must surely be third-rate when it comes to that. Not a bit of it.
At $71 bn, India’s defence budget is LARGER than the UK’s. They have 1.32 million in their active armed forces, plus another 0.8 million in reserve. The equivalent figures for the UK are 135,444 active and ~30,000 reserves. So, let’s try to get our collective heads round this: while the UK allocated 4.7% of its budget to defence and 20.3% to health, India allocates 2.1% to health, while spending TEN TIMES that on defence? Does anyone wonder why their hospitals are overwhelmed. Yet the UK sends £100 million to India in aid each year.
It doesn’t stop there. Over the last decade, India has spent $60 bn on arms. They have a nuclear programme and an estimated stockpile of 130 warheads (i.e. comparable to the UK). The have a space programme costing $2 billion each year (three times the UK’s space budget).
The fact that the UK is not hauling Modi and his Bharatiya Janata party over the coals for pouring money into armaments while starving their health service of funds could have anything to do with two statistics above being in some way linked, could it? Remember Robin Cook’s “Ethical Foreign Policy”? Surely a $60 bn shopping list would have no influence on the attitude of the second-biggest arms exporter in the world…would it?
“The Defence Ministry’s role is not used for diplomatic or soft targets. Soft methodology is normally used in political or diplomatic channels. The Defence Ministry is the hard way.”—April 21st 2017