The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Planners give tips on Pak defence

New Delhi, Jan. 23: A plan for the coming two decades, to be placed before the Cabinet soon, sees no end to the ongoing conflict with Pakistan and wants planners in Delhi to work out not only defensive steps to cover security but also economic measures against possible future conflicts.

Vision 2020, drafted by the Planning Commission, points out that territorial disputes like Kashmir are unlikely to be settled and would, in all likelihood, continue to simmer.

“The fundamental ideological conflict with Pakistan is (also) unlikely to be resolved without a major socio-political change” in that country, argues the plan document.

India is consequently advised to take “adequate measures to fortify its own strengths”. The document obviously is not talking of mere defence preparedness or building of nuclear shields but rather of an all-out preparedness for a festering conflict.

Elsewhere, the document highlights the need for buffer stocks of oil, food and strategic minerals. In an obvious reference to the conflict in Kashmir and communal riots in other parts of the country, it states that the “capacity to build lasting peace for Indians will depend...on determination of our political leaders to remove injustices”.

The document adds: “A positive strategy for national security must reinforce secular and democratic values.”

The plan argues that while it is inevitable that rapid social, economic, technological and political developments would cause internal turbulence, it is essential that this be “managed and confined” within India’s limits so that the nation’s transformation continues. The document implicitly states that internal conflicts, if allowed to fester, will attract further foreign interventions, which could change India’s security paradigm drastically.

The vision statement, which will also be laid before Parliament, chalks out a plan to make India the fourth-largest economy globally. The document visualises a four-fold increase in per capita income and reducing the number of people living below the poverty line to just 13 per cent.

Though the population will constantly rise, Indian farming is expected to be able to meet the projected food demand through a second Green Revolution, which will diversify agriculture in northern India and increase productivity in eastern and southern India. The infotech and telecom revolutions will continue with, among other things, the number of fixed-line telephones multiplying seven-fold in the next 18 years. The country as a whole is expected to “evolve into an information society and knowledge economy.”

However, the biggest problem will be the population mix. The total population is expected to be around 1.3 billion in 2020, compared with just over 1 billion now. But while this will be because the birth rate is expected to fall, with life expectancy going up, the number of people above 60 years of age will double to 120 million.

This means that India will have to gear up to spend far more on healthcare, pensions and old age support — areas in which the country spends very little now. With the further nuclearisation of families, this spending will become a must as the age-old tradition of younger people tending to old folks in their family may not remain a strong cultural value.

The report sets a goal of doubling education expenditure by 2020 from the current 3.2 per cent of GDP, to attain 100 per cent literacy. A large part of the money infused will, however, go towards another plan chalked out by the report — converting the entire higher education curriculum into a multimedia, web-based format so that Indian school and college graduates are able to continue leveraging the country’s infotech gains in the global marketplace.

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