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India-Russia defence deal

Last week, India and Russia signed a 5.2 billion dollar air defence deal for S-400 system which is expected to be delivered by the year 2020. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was on a two-day visit to India, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 5, and was personally welcomed by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at the airport. The S-400 Triumf is an advanced surface-to-air missile system, developed by Russia’s state-owned company Almaz-Antey, and can shoot down hostile aircraft and ballistic missiles. It has an estimated range of 250 kilometres and a possible upgrade is speculated to extend it to 400 kilometres. One cannot deny the importance of a strong defence system of the nation-states, more particularly in the prevailing global uncertainty and insecurity. But the basic question is does the purchase of heavy and sophisticated arms help meet the challenges facing the nation states. A strong defence system can protect the country from outside transgression. How can these help in terminating internal issues. The instance of the erstwhile USSR is before the world. The Soviet Union was equipped with over 10,000 nuclear arsenals before its death in 1989. It was no less powerful than America. But its sudden demise in 1991 showed that no amount of arms can protect a country from the internal turmoil caused by falling living standards, abject poverty, inflation, and the lack of basic amenities. It goes without saying that India are facing more internal challenges than the external ones. These challenges are in the shape of poverty, lack of basic amenities, social imbalance among various communities, communal onslaught, and the last but not the least, free-will political objectives. Ignoring the fundamental problems and spending on arms is bound to multifold the problems instead of solving one. Indian houses the poorest of poor people more than any other country in the world. In 2013, a United Nations survey revealed that African Sub Saharan countries were the poorest in the world. The same report, however, said that India house 40crore people poorer than Sub Saharan African people. In India 1.77 million people are still homeless. Around 732 million people don’t have access to toilets. Only 48.4 percent of households in India have improved sanitation facilities and the prevalence of diarrhoea in the country stands at 9.2 percent. Around 53.10 percent of non-pregnant women are anaemic while 50.30 percent of pregnant women suffer from the deficiency. Around 60,700 children die of diarrheal diseases every year. Analysts say that only $30 billion is needed to build 111.1 million toilets that can benefit a large number of people and help prevent many diseases. Another 100 billion dollar invested in social and health sectors would take the country to the new heights social standard. It needs to be understood that America is not a world power merely for possessing nuclear arms and military might. Its strength lies in providing quality healthcare, free education, decent housing, and other basic amenities to its citizens. The history of France and the UK isn’t different either. British fleets and French jets weren’t the only elements that turned Britain and France, respectively, into great powers. The real strength of these countries also lies in empowering their people by offering various provisions. The major fallout of India-Russia arms deal is that Pakistan, which is no different from India with regard to internal problems, will follow the suit. Islamabad is has already lagged behind New Delhi in terms of conventional strength. Despite being a smaller economy, Pakistan is already spending a huge amount on its defence. Forcing it make more spending on in unwanted sector could have catastrophic consequences not only for Pakistan also for the entire south Asian region. Government of India need to look inwards instead of outward and make policies and take decisions in tune with the needs of the common people.