Seminar on War, Violence and Health
29 February 2004,
One hundred sixty five physicians, medical students, health workers, and others from different countries of the world including the USA, Sweden, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and different states of India, gathered at the India International CenterNew Delhi to share the results of their research into the impact of war and armed violence on the health and security of people in India, Pakistan, and neighbouring countries in the South Asia region.
Dr. Ron McCoy, President of IPPNW, shared his experience of having met decision makers in Pakistan on 26 and 27 February. He said that the people across the border are equally concerned about the threat of nuclear weapons. Admiral Ram Das and Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat also addressed the gathering.
The international delegates who participated in the seminar included Dr. McCoy (Malaysia); Dr. Hans Levander, Dr Gunnar Westberg,,Dr Martin Tondell, and Dr. Neli Jonnason-Filipova (Sweden); and Dr. Geeta McGahey and John Loretz, Programme Director of IPPNW (USA). Delegates from South Asian countries included Dr. Rashid E. Mahbub (Bangladesh); Dr. Asoka Hettiarachchi (Sri Lanka); medical student Rameez Hasan (Pakistan); Drs. Mahesh Maskey, Sharad Onta, and Somnath Aryal, and medical student Khagendra Vikram (Nepal). Dr L. S. Chawla, President of IDPD, welcomed all the delegates and stressed the necessity of more and more cooperation among South Asian doctors on the question of peace and health. Dr Arun Mitra, General Secretary of IDPD, noted that IDPD has units in 16 states and that more are likely to come up in the future. Medical students participated enthusiastically and in large numbers.
The participants in the seminar unanimously adopted the following statement of their concerns, including policy recommendations that can more effectively promote health, security, and social welfare throughout the region.
Medical students played a prominent role at the Delhi seminar on War, Violence and Health.
This DWD mission to Pakistan and India has strengthened the regional IPPNW affiliates in their work for a nuclear weapons free future for South Asia. A meeting of Indian and Pakistani physicians and medical students is planned in Karachi for June 2004. PSR Nepal, which will assume the regional vice presidency after the Beijing Congress, has expressed a willingness to serve as a facilitator for regional collaboration. A new group of Sri Lankan doctors will soon apply for IPPNW affiliation.
The present political negotiations between India and Pakistan give us considerable hope. Some of the politicians that we met seem not to have a real understanding of the nature of a nuclear war. If the two countries again enter into a conflict, a nuclear war is a real and not unlikely outcome, possibly started by mistake, or by extremists on either side. Political disputes must be solved by political means. Politicians and diplomats, in collaboration with civil society and NGOs, can formulate ways to find such solutions. Increased efforts in military as well a civil society confidence building measures can act as a kind of vaccine for military conflicts.
Ms. Neha Venkatesh, Member, Students' Wing, IDPD