Home >News >India >Warmongering in India, Pakistan: what data says

I have never seen my country at peace with its neighbour," wrote the Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto in a recent The New York Times column. “But never before have I seen a war played out between two nuclear-armed states with Twitter accounts."

Bhutto’s description is perhaps the most succinct summary of what happened last week as India launched a counter-terror strike against Pakistan after the Pulwama terror attack, and Pakistan responded by sending over its own fighter jets, which according to Indian officials, targeted Indian military installations.

Even as the armed forces of the two nations prepared for further escalation, it was the virtual warriors on social media and beyond who seemed to egg on their respective leadership to escalate the conflict.

Data from the last round of the World Values Survey (WVS) conducted in 2010-14 show that the share of respondents who believed that a war may be necessary to obtain justice was far higher in India and Pakistan than in most other countries.

A third of respondents in both countries said that they were very much bothered about a war involving the country, slightly less than the global average.

But an overwhelming majority in Pakistan, and a large majority in India said a war may be necessary to obtain justice whereas only a third of respondents globally responded in the same manner.

With respect to terrorism, however, both countries identified themselves as victims of terrorism. Close to 37% and 39% of respondents in India and Pakistan, respectively, worried “very much" about a “terrorist attack involving the country". This proportion was relatively high in comparison to other countries such as the US and China.

The WVS 2010-14 round covered nearly 90,000 respondents spread across 60 countries. More than 4,000 respondents were surveyed in India while 1,200 respondents were surveyed in Pakistan (See chart 2). In both India and Pakistan, nearly half of the respondents professed to having “a great deal of confidence" in the armed forces in 2010-2014.

However, what is interesting is that while Indians’ confidence in the armed forces has risen over time, the opposite is true for Pakistanis. In 1994-98, 79% of respondents in Pakistan had a “great deal of confidence" in their armed forces.

This proportion fell drastically after the Kargil war in 1999 and has continued to decrease even as the role of the armed forces in the country’s politics has grown since then.

Perhaps, it is the growing role of the armed forces in the country’s politics and an increasingly volatile security situation that has made Pakistanis lose faith in the institution.

Similarly, it is likely that a long affair with despots has made Pakistanis wary of authoritarian leadership. Pakistan had among the highest share (44%) of respondents in the early nineties who supported an authoritarian ruler who “does not have to bother with Parliament and elections" but by 2010-14, that share fell drastically to 12%.

In stark contrast, democratic India has seen a sharp rise in the support for authoritarian leadership, with the share of respondents who support such a leader rising from 17% in the early nineties to 35% in 2010-14. Surprisingly, this proportion was higher than in countries such Brazil and Russia, which now have authoritarian strong men at their helm.

While the intensity of warmongering has come down after Pakistan returned one of India’s fighter pilots captured by them after the skirmish between the two air forces, this does not rule out an escalation in future.

The events of the past week, and the WVS data both suggest that there is a significant constituency for war in the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

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