Wednesday, April 25, 2012
You might think that a country in receipt of billions in aid would voluntarily subject itself to a degree of austerity. The UK donates £650million of its overseas aid budget to Pakistan (more here) in order to feed the starving, house the homeless, heal the sick and educate the children (of whom 17 million are not in school). We do this because it is the moral thing to do, not to say the Christian thing to do. His Grace has long argued (contra many Conservatives) that overseas aid is not simply a question of political economics but of moral justice. Charity does not begin at home: it is the plainest teaching of the New Testament that it begins with one’s neighbour (eg Lk 10:27-37). And throughout the Old Testament, we are exhorted certainly to look after our own widows and orphans, but these are rarely divorced from the divine command to show compassion to the ‘alien’ or ‘stranger’ (ie foreigner), which the Jews considered a moral duty (eg Deut 10:18f cf Mt 25:44).
But in a time of austerity at home, it is difficult to persuade British taxpayers that hundreds of millions of pounds in aid money should go to a country suffering from delusions of nuclear phallic grandeur. The Pakistani government may be weak and unstable, but the waste and extravagance are self-evident. The Pakistani military seeks to upgrade its intermediate-range ballistic missiles as a deterrent. These missiles are capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Is the British taxpayer subsidising an imminent strike against Pakistan’s arch-enemy? Where else might be the target for nuclear-tipped missiles with a range of c1,500 miles? Targeting Iran might help kill two Shi’as with one stone, but we all know that Pakistan has India within its sights. Perhaps we ought to note that Pakistan's missile arsenal includes short, medium and long-range missiles, all named after Muslim conquerors.
Why are we contributing £650million per annum to a country beset by chronic political instability, and which sacrifices goats to nukes named Saladin, Suleiman and Babur? Islamabad is besieged by the Taliban and threatened by al-Qaeda, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons might one day be compromised. Indeed, it is highly probable that strategic nuclear assets could be obtained by terrorists or used by rogue elements in the Pakistani government.
Pakistan continues to produce fissile material for weapons and is manifestly augmenting its weapons production facilities. The country has signed neither the UN nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty nor the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. However, UN Security Council Resolution 1172, which was adopted in 1998 after India and Pakistan’s nuclear tests earlier that year, called upon both countries to ‘stop their nuclear weapon development programmes, to refrain from weaponization or from the deployment of nuclear weapons, to cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and any further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons’.
Obviously, that resolution is being ignored. The FCO has argued that ‘Pakistan’s strategic posture, including nuclear, is clearly framed around its perception of the threat from India’. But this cannot justify the possession of c90-110 nuclear weapons and the development of more advanced warheads and delivery systems while its own people are begging in the streets, homeless, starving and illiterate. Given the expanding threat of Pakistan’s domestic insurgency, the further development of nuclear materials appears to be inconsistent with its immediate security threats, and is manifestly unhelpful in the context of efforts to ameliorate the plight of the poor.
Perhaps if HM Government were to reduce aid to those countries which spend it on arms proliferation as it does to those who persecute homosexuals, we might move closer towards an ethical foreign policy. Why should Overseas Aid be contingent on international gay rights but not on averting imminent nuclear holocaust?