Inflicted conflicts, incurred costs

At regular intervals, economists and other intellectuals conduct studies into the cost of conflict between India and Pakistan and point out that an obscene amount of money is lost due to conflict, especially in Kashmir.

These studies usually find more receptive audiences in India and are used as arguments to prove why the country must make up with Pakistan because the costs of defending the country are too high. For example, a recent study tells us that manning the outposts on Siachen costs almost 0.1% of the GDP and a future ‘eyeball-to-eyeball’ confrontation with Pakistan may cost about 0.43% of the GDP. On an average a resident of Jammu and Kashmir state gets seven times more assistance from the central government than a resident of any other state.

The efforts of these studies to estimate the cost of conflict are applaudable. But to suggest India should stop defending itself because it is costly to do so is sheer stupidity. For one, this conflict is not self-inflicted – it is external aggression. By signalling that India will backtrack from defending its territory and people because it will incur costs sends a nice and warm signal to potential aggressors that there are easy pickings available.

The more appropriate conclusion from these studies should be that India’s economy has the wherewithal to bear these costs and wear down any aggression.