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Blinded by the Bomb

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  • sacw
    Himal - Southasian November 2005 Analysis BLINDED BY THE BOMB Against all civilisational values, Islamabad and New Delhi proceed to prepare their bombs and
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 13, 2005
      Himal - Southasian
      November 2005



      Against all civilisational values, Islamabad and New Delhi proceed to
      prepare their bombs and missiles - for nuclear war to be fought on
      our soil.

      by Zia Mian

      For decades, leaders of India and Pakistan have been bewitched by the
      power of the bomb. Regardless of their various other differences,
      they seem to have believed that the threat of massive destruction
      represented by nuclear weapons is a force for good, and that the
      weapons themselves are vital to the well-being of their respective
      countries. President A P J Abdul Kalam, for instance, has claimed
      that nuclear weapons are "truly weapons of peace". For his part,
      President Pervez Musharraf has declared that his country's nuclear
      weapons are as critical and important as national security, the
      economy and Kashmir.

      For those not blinded by the Bomb, however, the pursuit of nuclear
      weapons has brought nothing but a competition in destructive
      capabilities and crisis after crisis. The Cold War seemed proof
      enough, but the lessons have been lost to those who rule in India and
      Pakistan. New Delhi's nuclear ambitions have served only to encourage
      Islamabad to follow blindly. The 1974 nuclear test at Pokhran
      sharpened Pakistan's determination not to be left behind and, as many
      had feared, the bomb was not willing to be left in the shadows for
      long. First India and then Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in May

      Things went from bad to worse. The Kargil War followed barely a year
      afterwards, proving that two nuclear armed countries could indeed
      fight wars - contrary to the suggestions of some. Many hundreds of
      soldiers died on each side, as the leadership in the two countries
      threatened apocalypse. A little over two years later, India and
      Pakistan prepared to fight again. An estimated half-million troops
      were rushed to the border and, as days turned into weeks and months,
      nuclear threats were made with abandon. What lessons were learned
      from the extended standoff at the border? None, it seems - other than
      perhaps that each country needed to be better prepared to fight a
      nuclear war.

      In 2005, both countries carried out major war games that assumed the
      possible use of nuclear weapons. An India-Pakistan nuclear war, in
      which each used only five of their available nuclear weapons, would
      kill an estimated three million people and severely injure another
      one-and-a-half million. Meanwhile, even as Southasian and world
      public opinion press both countries to step back from the nuclear
      brink, New Delhi and Islamabad respond with efforts to portray
      themselves as 'responsible' nuclear states. At the same time, they
      continue to push forward as hard as possible with their arms race.

      The abyss between words and deeds was clear from the first public
      show of nuclear responsibility - the 1999 Lahore summit between prime
      ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mian Nawaz Sharif. Even though the
      two men had ordered their nuclear establishments to undertake tests
      barely a year earlier, in Lahore they discussed "sharing a vision of
      peace and stability" and "progress and prosperity" for their peoples.
      The summit produced little in the way of tangible progress on
      controlling the nuclear arms race. The two states did agree to inform
      each other about ballistic missile tests, but it was only in October
      2005 that they finally followed through on that agreement. Even so,
      the accord does nothing to limit the future development or testing of

      War games
      The Subcontinent is in the middle of a missile race. Both India and
      Pakistan have tested various types of missiles in recent years, even
      taking initial steps towards the deployment of nuclear-armed
      missiles. India has introduced the 2000 km-range Agni-II missile into
      its arsenal. Pakistan has done the same with the 750 km Shaheen
      missile, as well as having tested the 1500 km Ghauri. These missiles
      would need as little as five minutes of flight time to reach
      important cities in the 'opposing' countries.

      Just as happened during the Cold War between the United States and
      the Soviet Union, in Southasia the development of these missiles has
      triggered a frantic search for a defence shield, as well as a counter
      to such a defence. India has sought ballistic missile defences from
      Russia, Israel and the US to neutralise Pakistan's missiles. Pakistan
      has responded by testing a 500 km-range ground-launched cruise
      missile, which General Musharraf linked to concerns about Indian
      plans: "There was a feeling that there was an imbalance, which is
      being created because of the purchase of very advanced-technology
      weapons ... Let me say this improves the balance."

      The quest for advantage triggers the quest for balance and on it
      goes. It is no surprise that military budgets in both India and
      Pakistan have spiralled since the nuclear tests began. India spent
      over INR 2.2 trillion on its military between 2000 and 2004. Gen
      Musharraf has revealed that Pakistan has spent more since 2000 on its
      nuclear arsenal than it had in the previous 30 years.

      The future looks worse. In June 2005, the US and India signed a
      10-year defence-cooperation agreement, which involves the sale of
      advanced weapons and assistance to both India's space and nuclear
      programmes. As a senior US official explained: "[Our] goal is to help
      India become a major world power in the 21st century," adding, "We
      understand fully the implications, including military implications,
      of that statement." The agreement's purpose was made clear when
      former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, asked, "Why should
      the US want to check India's missile capability in ways that could
      lead to China's permanent nuclear dominance over democratic India?"

      The June decision was followed in July with a more explicit nuclear
      deal, in which the Bush administration agreed to overturn US and
      international regulations that have for decades restricted India's
      access to uranium, the raw material for both nuclear fuel and nuclear
      weapons. For its part, India will separate its military and civil
      nuclear facilities and programmes and will volunteer its civil
      facilities for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency
      (IAEA). The US has not asked India to halt the production of nuclear
      weapons material as part of the deal; India is unlikely to do so.
      Access to the international uranium market would allow India to free
      up more of its domestic uranium for a significant expansion of its
      nuclear weapons capabilities. India's options could, for example,
      include building a third nuclear reactor to make plutonium for more
      weapons; beginning to make highly-enriched uranium for weapons; or
      making fuel for the nuclear submarine it has been trying to build for

      Pakistan has now asked for the same deal from the United States.
      Former army chief Jahangir Karamat, now ambassador to the US, has
      warned: "The balance of power in Southasia should not become so
      tilted in India's favour, as a result of the US relationship with
      India, that Pakistan has to start taking extraordinary measures to
      ensure a capability for deterrence and defence." The US has refused
      Islamabad's request, citing, among other things, Pakistan's role in
      spreading nuclear weapons technologies to North Korea, Libya and
      Iran, and its refusal to come clean on the A Q Khan affair. Despite
      all the talk of a 'minimum deterrent', Pakistan may now seek to
      prepare for an expansion of its own programme. A former Pakistani
      foreign secretary has even argued that Islamabad "should refine its
      deterrent capability by stepping up research and development and by
      integrating strategic assets on land, air and sea - though even that
      project would be costly and take years."

      Time of madmen
      The increasingly powerful nuclear weapons complex in both India and
      Pakistan is overwhelming good sense and derailing the possibility of
      peace. On both sides, with similarly narrow goals, nuclear weapons
      proponents are driving the Subcontinent ever faster down the path
      toward bigger and more dangerous nuclear arsenals and war. The time
      has come for us to echo the words of the American sociologist Lewis
      Mumford, writing soon after the dawn of the nuclear age: "Madmen
      govern our affairs in the name of order and security. The chief
      madmen claim the titles of general, admiral, senator, scientist,
      administrator, Secretary of State, even President."

      If Southasia is to survive its own nuclear age, we will need strong
      peace movements in both Pakistan and India, as well as throughout the
      rest of Southasia. The first steps have already been taken. The
      Pakistan Peace Coalition, founded in 1999, is a national network of
      groups working for peace and justice. On the other side of the
      border, Indian activists in 2000 established the Campaign for Nuclear
      Disarmament and Peace. These movements will need all the help and
      support that they can get to keep the generals, presidents and prime
      ministers in check. Leaders in India and Pakistan must be firmly told
      that the people will not allow a nuclear war to be fought.


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