In­dia’s ig­nited arms race in S Asia

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Bahri Karam Khan

THE tra­di­tional mind­set of con fronta­tion be­tween the two ad ver­saries—In­dia and Pak­istan—led to nu­clear and mis­sile arms race in South Asia that ul­ti­mately cul­mi­nated into nuke det­o­na­tions by the two in 1998 amid global ef­forts for nu­clear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion. And thus both the coun­tries, in vi­o­la­tion of the global opin­ion, went be­yond their ‘thresh­olds’ sta­tus. No mis­for­tune other than this can be had for masses of both these coun­tries whose bulk is liv­ing be­low the poverty line and have no ac­cess to ba­sic ameni­ties like hy­gienic wa­ter, ed­u­ca­tion, health­care, etc, yet a lion-share of their scanty re­sources is spent on weapons of mass de­struc­tion in­stead of their up­lift.

But, in­deed In­dia was the first to tread the dan­ger­ous path. Her nu­clear ex­plo­sion in 1974 ex­posed its de­sire for at­tain­ing nu­clear tech­nol­ogy in a bid to emerge a for­mi­da­ble nu­clear power in Asia in com­pe­ti­tion with China. Thus, she had hege­monic de­sire in the re­gion. This how­ever forced Pak­istan that had not yet for­got­ten the 1971’s tragedy of East Pak­istan..

New Delhi pushed up its nu­clear and mis­sile pro­gramme and de­vel­oped short, medium and long range “Akash”, “Prithvi” and “Agni” mis­siles un­der the In­te­grated Guided Mis­sile De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram (IGMDP). These were re­sponded by Is­lam­abad with “Hataf” se­ries (HatafI, II, III), “Ghauri”, “Ghaz­navi” and “Sha­heen” mis­siles. And, of late, New Delhi test fired a new bal­lis­tic mis­sile which can de­stroy in­com­ing nu­clear ca­pa­ble ve­hi­cles at an al­ti­tude of 40 kilo­me­ter which is yet an­other set­back in the arms race. The mat­ter didn’t con­fine merely to mis­siles de­vel­op­ment pro­gram. On May 11 and 13, 1998, New Delhi con­ducted five un­der­ground nu­clear tests at Pokhran in Ra­jasthan desert. And 17 days af­ter, on May 28, Is­lam­abad did the same ex­er­cise at Chaghi. In this way, both the in­ter­na­tion­ally ad­mit­ted “thresh­old” coun­tries gate crashed into the “nu­clear club”. Though the five de jure Nu­clear Weapon States (NWS) which are per­ma­nent mem­bers of the UN’s Se­cu­rity Coun­cil as well, were not ready to ac­cept their sta­tus at far with them.

The In­dian nu­clear ex­plo­sions were the apex of its pro­longed nu­clear pro­gram that spread over many decades. Since its first nu­clear ex­plo­sion, it got a stock­pile of the most so­phis­ti­cated nu­clear weapons. Even then, the In­dian lead­er­ship didn’t spare a mo­ment in pre­tend­ing that its nu­clear pro­gram was for peace­ful pur­pose. But, once, the cat had to come out of the bag. In­dia could no longer con­ceal the fact and once had to show to the world that she had since crossed the nu­clear ru­bi­con and was de facto the nu­clear weapon state.

Af­ter oc­cu­py­ing “Takht-e-Delhi” in March 1998, the BJP led coali­tion govern­ment gave a strange na­tional agenda, which in­ter alia in­cluded in­duc­tion of nu­clear weapons. BJP is in­deed a Hindu ex­trem­ist party which re­flects a typ­i­cal Hindu mind that was vis­i­ble in the “Si­vaji’s cult”, “Brahma Sa­maj” and “Arya Sa­maj”— all aimed at re­vival of Hin­duism and es­tab­lish­ing “Hindu Raj” af­ter down­fall of the Mus­lims’ rule over Hindu dom­i­nated united In­dia. In De­cem­ber, 1992, it had com­mit­ted an un­par­don­able act of de­mol­ish­ing the “Babri Masjid” at Ay­o­d­hya in UP. And af­ter com­ing to power, the BJP led coali­tion govern­ment vowed to build the nu­clear weapons by stat­ing that it “would re-eval­u­ate the nu­clear pol­icy and ex­er­cise the nu­clear op­tion to in­duct the nu­clear weapons”.

This was ob­vi­ously a clear in­di­ca­tion of New Delhi’s com­mit­ment to con­duct­ing nu­clear tests in vi­o­la­tion of the in­ter­na­tional norms. But sur­pris­ingly the so called cham­pi­ons of “nu­clear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion” didn’t take note of the same. And, even more sur­pris­ingly, when the then Pak­istan’s govern­ment (of Mian Nawaz Sharif), through a let­ter, drew their at­ten­tion to­wards new de­vel­op­ments in the wake of BJP’s com­ing to power, they turned a deaf ear to the same. Ac­cord­ingly, the BJP’s govern­ment did what it had vowed when the then In­dian premier A.B Va­j­payee proudly an­nounced about the Pokhran tests and showed to world that In­dia had atom bombs in its pos­ses­sion.

With this, how­ever, the BJP lead­er­ship didn’t demon­strate ma­tu­rity be­cause the en­vi­ron­ments, both at global and re­gional level, were not con­ducive for such tests. There was global trend to­wards nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment, and, at the re­gional level too, noth­ing un­usual was hap­pen­ing at any of In­dian bor­ders that could pose threat to its se­cu­rity. New Delhi ar­gued that its nu­clear pro­gram man­i­fested to de­ter China’s that posed threat to its se­cu­rity. The then In­dian de­fense min­is­ter George Fer­nan­des, in a state­ment be­fore the Pokhran tests, re­garded Bei­jing as New Delhi’s threat num­ber one. But it was mere rhetoric be­cause China has, all along, been a peace lov­ing coun­try with no ag­gres­sive de­signs against any of its neigh­bors in­clud­ing In­dia; with her, ex­cept a few bor­der skir­mishes in early 60s, China had never soured its re­la­tions.

What ac­tu­ally the mat­ter was that both In­dia and Pak­istan have his­tor­i­cally strained re­la­tions that re­sulted in three wars in the past in­clud­ing the 1971’s in which our eastern wing was dis­mem­bered and con­verted into a sov­er­eign state. Kash­mir is the core is­sue be­tween the two on which there how­ever seem no prospects of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween them. Hence, so long as this is­sue is in­tact, the pos­si­bil­ity of fourth war couldn’t be ruled out. The volatil­i­ties by In­dian troops on the LoC and work­ing bound­ary ev­ery now and then caus­ing heavy ca­su­al­ties to in­no­cent cit­i­zens are an open se­cret. In­dian In­tel­li­gence agency RAW is ac­tively in­volved in cre­at­ing in­sur­gency and un­rest in Baluchis­tan and Karachi. Par­tic­u­larly, af­ter on­set of the Chi­naPak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC), RAW has in­ten­si­fied its ac­tiv­i­ties. The ar­rest of its agent Kul Bushan Ya­dav in March last and his con­fes­sional state­ment on the score is tes­ti­mony of this fact.

The Pak­istan’s then govern­ment had its hand on the pulse of its masses and was feel­ing pre­cisely what their sen­ti­ments were. None­the­less, there had been enor­mous pres­sure on Is­lam­abad from the US led coali­tion plus Ja­pan not to adopt the match­ing re­sponse to what New Delhi had done. Wash­ing­ton of­fered a pack­age of in­cen­tives in­clud­ing re­lease of the with­held F-16 air­crafts and fur­ther mil­i­tary and eco­nomic as­sis­tance if Is­lam­abad agreed to give up the nu­clear op­tion. The lat­ter how­ever adopted a bold and vivid stance and told them cat­e­gor­i­cally that she had the right to adopt the mea­sures what­ever deemed ap­pro­pri­ate to ad­dress the se­cu­rity con­cerns New Delhi had cre­ated for her. —The writer is re­tired of­fi­cer of Pro­vin­cial Man­age­ment Ser­vice KPK.

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