India may cherish ahimsa as an ideal, but it is futilely chasing after peace and paying heavily for violence. So much so that the country spent as much as 680 billion dollars last year to contain violence, which was a whopping 9 percent of its GDP. In the latest Global Peace Index (GPI) report, India comes in at a lowly 141st among 163 countries. Compiled by the global think tank Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), this annual index measures 23 indicators including incidents of violent crime, political instability, terrorist activity, military expenditure levels and weapons imports. All these are primarily grouped under three broad themes — the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic and exterl conflict, and the degree of militarization. India’s present ranking shows that its peace scores have deteriorated slightly for ongoing domestic and exterl conflict and militarization. ‘The country remains vulnerable to acts of terror and security threats at its shared border with Pakistan. As such, the number of deaths caused by exterlly organized terror strikes has risen over the year,’ says the report. In a violent neighborhood, India’s security related expenditure has risen by 2 percent from 7 percent of its GDP in 2008. This is a considerable rate of increase, indicating clearly the toll on the country’s economy.
In ranking terms, India has fallen below countries like Burundi, Serbia and Burki Faso, while it is followed in the South Asian theatre by Pakistan (153rd). Bhutan is the only bright spot in this region with an overall ranking of 13, which can be attributed largely to its isolated location, firm stand against insurgency and pursuit of gross tiol happiness for citizens. As for Sri Lanka, it has become far more peaceful both interlly and exterlly, improving from 114th last year to 97th rank currently. Apart from continuing to improve relations with neighbors, the Maithripala Sirise government has drawn kudos in the GPI report for its work on ethnic reconciliation, strengthening democratic institutions, reversing authoritarianism and combating corruption. Bangladesh has been placed at 83rd rank, thanks largely to the Sheik Hasi regime’s focus on development and uncompromising stand against terrorism. However, the killing spree by Islamic terrorists targeting bloggers and minorities, as well as the determined crackdown by the Awami League government making thousands of arrests — indicates how challenging it is to keep the peace in Bangladesh. This puts in perspective the Indian government’s continuing efforts to strengthen Dhaka’s hands, which bears implications for the Northeast as well.
Nepal at 78th rank is more peaceful than it was in 2008 with a 2 percent improvement in its interl peace score. Its fractious parliament now has a new constitution to implement, but the GPI report highlights interl security concerns ‘owing to anti-government protests that have led to an increased number of detainees’. The support Madhesi protestors have been drawing from New Delhi vis-a-vis Beijing’s determined efforts to woo Kathmandu has to be seen in this light. Myanmar ranked 115th has come up by 15 notches, making significant progress in ‘reducing political instability’ following peaceful elections, as well as signing of a multiparty ceasefire in October last year, so that the ‘risk of conflict is now more contained in smaller parts of the country’s border areas’. Overall, the GPI report has concluded that the world has actually become less peaceful in 2016. Intensifying conflicts in the Middle East and Africa have more than offset higher peace dividends elsewhere in the world. As a result, battle deaths are at a 25-year high, terrorist attacks at an all-time high and more people displaced than at any time since the Second World War. Syria, followed by South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia are bearing the major brunt of this unrest. In India’s vicinity, Pakistan and Afghanistan figure among the five countries worst affected by terrorist violence. This has had spillover effects in India, particularly through Kashmir. Keeping the peace in South Asia therefore boils down to Sino-Indo-Pak dymics, even as other countries in this region are growing more peaceful.