Peace is a quality, a way of approach, and it is an objective that most people wish to achieve, but generally cannot because of factors often beyond their control.
There is little doubt that over the centuries man has failed to ensure peace; there have been wars, conflicts and armed clashes in many parts of the world every few years, so much so that peace has come to be regarded by many people as a short respite, an interregnum, from fighting to attain some objective, or for mere defense against a greedy aggressor.
Mankind’s failure and bungling in the art of peace is writ large on history. The countless wars and the military expenditure running into astronomical figures provide convincing proofs of this bungling.
Peace is admittedly a precious commodity; it is essential for social, economic and political progress, but it must not be bought at too heavy a price, such as surrender of principles or of national territory, integrity, honour and sovereignty.
Peace must not mean appeasement of war-mongers; history has shown clearly that wherever peace has been bought at the cost of honour, it has been short-lived and transitory. India has stood for peace throughout its history, though it has had to fight many wars, both internal and external.
Occasionally, there is evidence of a passion for peace, but then there are countervailing compulsions of various kinds, notably the economic interests of the manufacturers of weapons and the armaments industry as a whole, backed by a lobby that feeds it ceaselessly.
The armaments industry and the manufacturers sell lethal weapons. To maintain themselves and expand sales the weapon barons cause a scare and do not hesitate to bring about the horrors of war. This tribe prospers on death and destruction of other people.
Ironically, with the advance of all-round progress and civilisation, the manufacture of weapons of various types has become the most prosperous and flourishing industry in the world. Wars, and the rapid use of weapons and yet more weapons, bring substantial profits to them.
The situation has assumed such a sordid shapes that disarmament and agreements for durable peace threaten to bring ruin and disaster to the weapon manufacturers. No wonder, the leading producers of armaments, including the sophisticated nuclear armaments, have become very influential in government circles and manage to manipulate foreign policies.
They have infiltrated into the decision-making bodies at the highest levels. While man, as a rule, regards war as a catastrophe that should be avoided through all possible means, the weapon manufacturers regard peace as a veritable catastrophe which signals the onset of a period of heavy losses and setbacks to their economic well-being.
The fact that man’s heart is in his weapons is also proved by the mounting expenditure on the purchase of weapons by apparently peace-loving countries which have nothing to gain by going to war, and which urgently need long periods of freedom from conflicts for economic development. It has been found as a result of prolonged studies on a worldwide scale that mankind has known only 292 years of peace since 3600 B.C.
According to a book called “Evidence For Prosecution”, jointly authored by Russian authors J. Firsova and G. Gurkov, a gold band 130 km wide, 20 meters thick and running all around the earth, could be purchased in exchange for all that mankind has lost in material terms in these wars.
Over one million dollars have been spent for military purposes during each minute in last few years, more than is required to feed thousands of badly undernourished children in the poorest countries for an entire year. If somehow the worldwide military expenditure could be stopped for one minute, 2,000 children could be saved; if the expenditure could be halted for eight hours (one working shift in factories), the menace of malaria could be eliminated from the world.
The challenges are grave, but the earnest and repeated appeals of well-wishers of humanity fall on deaf ears. The military expenditure graph continues to soar, regardless of the human misery and the setbacks to social welfare it invariably causes.
More effort, energy and money are being spent in the world today on the production of weapons, than on health, social reconstruction, relieving poverty and promoting economic development. Highly sophisticated war machinery is speedily devised as soon as one war ends and a peace agreement is signed; in other words, active preparations start for another round of conflict to wreak revenge.
War capability is considered essential, and science and scientists are being utilised intensively to devise more and more destructive weapons. It is estimated that more scientists in the leading countries are engaged in research on military matters than on work for peaceful reconstruction. It is widely recognised that a nation which is militarily weak cannot exercise much influence on international affairs; it is military might that determines a country’s international image and influence and ensures for it a voice in shaping things.
Mankind seems to have realised that patriotism and a policy of peace and advocacy of non-violence are not enough. These are regarded as signs of weakness and often amount to invitations for attack. Countries, it is said, must speak from positions of strength, which means that a large percentage of their annual budgets must be earmarked for military purposes. This is precisely what is happening.
If man’s heart had not been in weapons, then most of humanity would have been peace-loving and would have instinctively despised weapons, weapon producers and sellers. But, unfortunately, the reverse is the case.
Genuine peace lovers, who are willing to go to any length to check war and discourage the manufacture of the weapons of war, are in a small minority; their voice is lost in the wilderness. The armaments lobbies succeed in the leading countries. Weapons and more weapons seem to be the accepted policy of most countries, big and small, strong or weak. Each country buys weapons on a massive scale and at any cost—even by borrowing money.
Surely, the services of the millions of workers, including scientists of ill categories, currently engaged in arms manufacture and weapons research can be usefully utilised in scores of constructive projects.
Science must help build, not destroy, and man himself must ensure reorientation of outlook and interest. Even if there are some temporary economic losses, the long term gains would be more than make up for them.