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Doctors in Pakistan and India against war

As a million soldiers face each other across the volatile line of control and the border between India and Pakistan, the arguments have shifted from no use of nuclear weapons to their potential use in the event of conventional war, to the current state of actual deployment…a nuclear first strike becomes a frighteningly real possibility…

In contrast to the nuclear disarmament appeals from a few years ago, most of the medical associations on both sides of the border have maintained an ominous silence… (One) explanation is that few among the health professionals are even remotely aware of the true meaning and consequences of a nuclear conflict….

The current nuclear imbroglio in India and Pakistan is a direct consequence of a lack of human and social development in the region. Malnutrition rates in the region are among the highest in the world, and successive generations have been fed a daily gruel of intolerance, jingoism, and religious fervour by political and military governments. The current military standoff must also be viewed in the context of the growth of religious intolerance and lack of social development in both countries. A conservative estimate of the costs of nuclear weaponisation in India placed it at well over $10bn and although modest by comparison, it is sobering to note that Pakistan’s recent ballistic missile tests alone could have funded the entire health budget of several districts…

With Hindu extremists tugging at its sleeves and Islamic militants attempting to trigger an all-out conflict, neither India nor Pakistan possesses stable command and control systems ensuring that an accidental conflict will not be triggered … The only prudent way ahead for the leadership of the two countries is to step back from the brink and start substantive discussions and political dialogue. The large cadre of health professionals and societies in both countries, as indeed globally, must assume responsibility for the promotion of peace, and eventual nuclear disarmament.

Extracted from: Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta, Karachi, Samiran Nundy, New Delhi, Editorial. Thinking the unthinkable! Preparing for Armageddon in South Asia. BMJ June 15, 2002

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