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Nuke Arms Race Looms for Pakistan

September 23, 1999

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ While South Asian rivals Pakistan and India threaten to wage a costly nuclear arms race, most of the 1.3 billion people in the region remain mired in poverty, said a U.N.-sponsored report released today.

The annual Development in South Asia report criticized India and Pakistan for focusing on military needs at a time when per capital annual incomes in South Asia range from $500 to $800.

``When the most basic social services are missing in both India and Pakistan, the rising defense burdens in these countries continue to impose prohibitive social and economic costs on their people,″ said report said.

India allocated $9.9 billion on defense this year and Pakistan, $3.3 billion. Both countries are spending roughly one-third of their national budgets on defense.

``If the immense costs of conventional weapons and large armies are not already enough, new estimates for maintaining full-scale nuclear arsenals ... are expected to run India and Pakistan each _ at a bare minimum _ $750 million a year,″ the report said.

Over a 10-year period, the two uneasy neighbors are expected to spend about $15 billion to produce and maintain their arsenals.

That money, according to the report, could educate, nourish and provide health care to an estimated 37.5 million children in South Asia.

In contrast to the lack of progress made in education, health care and social services, Pakistan and India have raced ahead on nuclear and ballistic missile development.

The literacy rate in both countries hovers around 30 percent, and among women it is even lower. Education and health care budgets are a bare fraction of the amount spent on defense.

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