Letters: In defence of India

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Paul Vallely's article on Oxfam's report on education in poor countries ("Read between the battle lines", 27 March) criticises countries like India for their spending on defence.

Britain, a member of the world's most powerful military alliance , spends more than three times as much on defence ($33bn, or 3 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product, in 1996) as India, with 16 times the population, 13 times the area and very real security concerns on its borders ($10bn, or 2.8 per cent of GDP). (UNDP, Human Development Report 1998.)

In the past few weeks Britain has played a prominent role in the Western bombing of two small, relatively poor countries far from its borders (Iraq and Yugoslavia). Given such graphic illustrations of how military power is being used in the post-Cold War world, most Indians would support the need to ensure an adequate defence to deter any potential aggressors.

As far as education is concerned, it was only in a free India that, even as the population more than doubled, the literacy rate tripled, from a paltry 17 per cent at independence - after 190 years of British rule - to 52 per cent by 1991.

Poor states, just as much as rich ones, need to protect their freedom in a dangerous world where might appears to remain right.

Dr JAMES CHIRIYANKANDATH

Department of Politics and Modern History

London Guildhall University

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