The turn-out by the prime minister, and other key officials, to watch the three Azm-i-Nau-3 exercises conducted by the army and the air force in the Bahawalpur desert highlights the importance given to these war games.
Indeed, it is worth noting that the prime minister braved the hottest April day in decades to watch the manoeuvres in the desert, which included a demonstration of a drone being shot down. Such exercises are of course standard in military life.
This time around there has been conjecture about whether the purpose behind the exercises was to send a message of some kind to India.
It is of course impossible to determine this with any degree of certainty. But what can be said is that all such military displays are intended to demonstrate readiness and show off skills and weaponry available. From the perspective of the men in khaki, this is of course necessary.
The huge standing army’s tasks to keep its manpower alert and to build its pool of ability are essential. But at a broader level, perhaps we need to ask whether today we can continue to maintain such immense war machinery. Each year, a huge proportion of our budget goes to the armed forces and we have previously lacked the courage to openly question the issue.
Apart from salaries, equipment and infrastructure, large amounts are spent on exercises of the kind seen in Bahawalpur. There is perhaps a need to question if we should be doing more to demilitarise our state, to divert more funds towards development that can benefit citizens and build a stronger nation.
In the age we live in, it is after all questionable what war can achieve. What we need is a sustainable peace in the region
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