What is the Prognosis for Peace and Stability in South Asia?

This was the title of a discussion sponsored by Science for Peace in the series of University College Lectures in Peace Studies at the International Student Centre, University of Toronto, on November 5, 1999, from 10 A.M. to noon. The discussion was led by two eminent physicians, Dr. Shambhu Shrivastwa of New Delhi and Dr. Tipu Sultan of Karachi, who were on a cross-Canada tour sponsored by Physicians for Global Survival and South Asia Partnership.

Dr. Shrivastwa spoke of confidence building measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan. These include both CBMs designed to reduce the risk of war, particularly accidental nuclear war, between the two countries, and non-military CBMs towards conflict resolution. Measures to reduce the likelihood of war include frequent meetings between representatives of the two countries, including Heads of State, provision to notify each other about such things as ballistic missile tests and military exercises and provision for each country to notify the other without delay of any incident that might be misinterpreted and lead to nuclear war. Non-military CBMs include measures to make it easier for citizens of one country to visit the other, removal of restrictions on the free flow of publications, films and the like between the two countries, and increasing cooperation between the two governments to suppress drug trafficking, smuggling and terrorism.

Dr. Tipu Sultan discussed the dividends of peace in South Asia. He spoke of the terrible cost of the mutual distrust that has existed between the two countries since independence, which has led to three major wars and many smaller wars, as well as continuing low-intensity conflict. The enormous expenditure on armaments, including the development of nuclear weapons, has lead to serious neglect of other areas, especially education and health, leading in turn to social and political tensions which further increase the stability of the region. The establishment of genuine peace between the two countries would not only allow them to attend to the pressing needs of their citizens but would permit trade and economic cooperation between them, to the enormous advantage of both.

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