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July 17, 1999
Amartya Sen opposes calls for increased defence budget
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has disapproved of calls to increase India's defence budget in the wake of the Kargil conflict and said the country should concentrate on social commitments.
"Nothing can make a country stronger than a sound economy. The economic strength of a country is also its political strength, and that includes military strength too," Prof Sen told a press conference in Calcutta.
China has emerged as a major economic power and its economic strength is much more than its military strength, he said.
"I find it surprising that instead of concentrating on economic development, the country's attention is revolving around the victory over Pakistan," he said.
Sen, who was in Calcutta to see his ailing mother, said the Kargil conflict had proved disastrous for Pakistan both economically and politically, but that could not be a consolation for India.
"No, I don't think India should increase its defence expenditure. I have said on record that one of the biggest hurdles in fulfilling India's social commitments is its huge expenditure on defence," he said.
Sen said India might have to consider signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty now.
"After the tests by India and Pakistan, it has become a different ball game altogether and India's military advantage over Pakistan has been neutralised to the extent that Pakistan has procured nuclear weapons," he said.
He, however, suggested that more efforts must be made to improve relations between the countries. "We must think of making the situation less hostile and more friendly," he observed.
But he parried a question as to whether India should go in for fresh taxes to meet the expenditure incurred on the Kargil conflict. He just said the country would have to bear "the burden of the conflict".
Sen said India would not be able to reap the benefits of a bullish capital market if it fails to concentrate on its weaknesses like illiteracy and poor health care.
"A booming stock market is good for the economy and investment, but it concerns only a few people. The removal of maladies like illiteracy and poor health care will make the Indian economy more vibrant," he said.
Sen, who won the Nobel Prize for economics, said it would be difficult for India to reap the benefits of globalisation if it fails to eradicate illiteracy. China was able to get the maximum benefit of globalisation because of adequate literacy, he said.
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