Crisis India-Pakistan:
Achtergrondinformatie, analyse en nieuws
uit de Indiase, Pakistaanse en internationale media.


Frontline, Volume 19 - Issue 05, Mar. 02 - 15, 2002

India & Pakistan are moving towards the deployment of nuclear weapons

An ominous stand-off

Recent developments suggest India and Pakistan are rapidly moving towards the deployment of nuclear weapons - with potentially disastrous consequences.

AS India and Pakistan carry their eyeball-to-eyeball military confrontation into its third month, can their citizens, and the larger world, feel reassured that the stand-off will not get out of control, by accident, overreaction or miscalculation? Is there real clarity on India's aims behind mobilising 700,000 troops and putting them on full alert, or on the conditions under which de-escalation can begin? Does India hope to secure the release of all 20 terrorists in its list, which curiously excludes Omar Sheikh? Or will it settle for some or all of the 14 Indian citizens? Does Pakistan understand those conditions? Are the two countries' political and military leaders reading the signals right? The honest answer to these questions must be 'no'. This is worrisome evidence that New Delhi and Islamabad continue to misread each other's intentions and plans, to think largely in worst-case-scenario terms, and to trade accusations and counter-charges.
Take General Pervez Musharraf's astonishing February 13 statement at the Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars in Washington, obliquely suggesting that India may have carried out a nuclear test, in addition to the January 25 test-flight of a new, improved short-range version of the Agni missile. To quote Musharraf verbatim: "The missile test carried out by India, and some information, some news even, of maybe a possibility of a nuclear test, is most untimely and may I also say, provocative." Indian officials promptly, vociferously, denied this. And some unnamed U.S. officials were quoted as saying "we don't have any information that would suggest anything like that having occurred". It is far from clear if, as claimed, Musharraf shared "this information" (which he admits is not "conclusive evidence"), with the U.S. Many Indian newspapers poured scorn upon Musharraf's charge that India might be preparing to conduct some kind of nuclear tests. Some attributed his charge to paranoia.
There is another way of looking at the issue - on the frank assumption that we do not know the truth about India's testing plans, including sub-critical tests, as well as test explosions; our secretive government is extremely unlikely to reveal the truth. That hypothesises that either New Delhi was dissembling, or Musharraf was indulging in wild, paranoid, speculation about India's actions and intentions: there was no Indian test, nor preparation for one.
Neither hypothesis is very reassuring. The second, in particular, implies a serious misreading of India's capabilities and intentions. This is part of a dangerous pattern replicated by both sides for at least two decades. The pattern involves making boastful claims about one's nuclear and missile prowess, and running down the adversary's capabilities - on the dubious assumption that the technologies in question are "advanced".
Thus, Indian leaders, misled by the nuclear scientocracy, repeatedly ignored until 1998 signs of progress in Pakistan's nuclear programme right since 1987 - when A.Q. Khan granted an interview to Kuldip Nayar, declaring "we have" the Bomb. Indeed, until Pakistan's first test of May 28, 1998, many influential figures in the Indian establishment refused to believe that Islamabad had the Bomb. Home Minister L.K. Advani's speech of May 18, threatening a "pro-active", aggressive Kashmir policy in the changed "geo-strategic" circumstances, was based on that hopelessly mistaken assumption.
This gives the South Asian nuclear standoff a particularly nasty, perhaps uniquely ominous, aspect. Put simply, two important pre-conditions for the feasibility of any kind of deterrent equation - however unstable and degenerative it may be - do not obtain here. These are, one, that adversaries have fairly reliable, accurate, knowledge of their ability to inflict "unacceptable damage" upon each other through nuclear weapons. And, two, they will adopt an extremely cautious approach as regards military confrontation.
Thus, ever since the USSR acquired nuclear weapons in 1949, there never was any doubt about its ability to inflict "unacceptable damage" upon the U.S., and vice versa. By the 1960s, both sides had the capacity to raze numerous mainland cities. By the 1970s, they had enough firepower to destroy the entire globe many times over - by the mid-1980s, some 50 times over. Both were clear they could not countenance tens of thousands civilian deaths in a nuclear attack.
Thus, Eisenhower in the late 1940s turned down proposals for a "preventive war" against the USSR. "How could you have one?" he asked, "if one of its features would be several cities lying in ruins, several cities where many, many thousands of people would be dead and injured and mangled?" There has been little ambiguity for decades about the world's first five nuclear states' (N-5) ability to wreak devastation upon one another (although with its 20 or so long-range missiles, China's second-strike capability vis-a-vis the U.S. might be in doubt). That is one reason why the N-5 have not traded nuclear threats against one another in a cavalier fashion, especially since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
As for the reluctance to start a conventional conflict, the U.S. and the USSR never fired a single shot at each other although they fought terrible proxy wars in the Third World. The sole exception to the absence of conventional war among the N-5 was the limited and sporadic Ussuri river conflict between the USSR and China. The assumption always was that a nuclear war was far too catastrophic to risk. There must be no conventional war either, with its potential for nuclear escalation.
By contrast, India and Pakistan fought an intense, prolonged medium- or large-scale conventional war, at Kargil, within a year of going nuclear. Now, they again confront each other with almost a million men at the border - their biggest-ever mobilisation, and one of the greatest anywhere since the Second World War. Their political and military leaders have widely varying definitions of "unacceptable damage". Some may think sacrificing 200,000 Indians or a million Pakistanis is not unacceptable. Farooq Abdullah even said it would be worthwhile to risk a nuclear confrontation with Pakistan: "We all have to die one day." To complete the picture, Defence Minister George Fernandes two years ago propounded an outlandish strategic doctrine: nuclear weapons only deter nuclear weapons, not conventional arms; nuclear powers can safely fight - and win - limited conventional wars against each other!
And now, some strategic hawks are advocating that India should "send clear signals to Pakistan by publicly debating how to administer some jabs before de-escalating. Limited retributive measures would aim to inflict calibrated pain and symbolically puncture Pakistan's Kargil-rooted belief that its nuclear weapons are an effective shield against Indian retaliation."
It is in this climate, one that favours military and nuclear misadventurism, that India and Pakistan are proceeding rapidly towards filling the gap between the manufacture of nuclear weapons and missiles, and their induction into military forces. India is taking the lead. Pakistan is likely to follow, as in the past. There are several indications of this.
* The test-flight of Agni-I on January 25. This missile is both road- and rail-mobile. It is claimed to be much lighter and more accurate than the older versions - Agni, range 1,500 km, and Agni-II under development, 2,000 to 2,500 km. The new missile uses an all-solid fuel. This offers a major advantage over the liquid fuel used in the second stage of the earlier models, which is corrosive and requires prolonged filling. This takes India one step closer to full readiness.
* The Vajpayee government has authorised the armed forces to use the shorter-range Prithvi missile in the battlefield, according to The Pioneer (January 31). This is conditional: it must be the "last resort", under the "utmost restraint". But it does devolve this critical decision-making power to the Services chiefs, as distinct from the apex political leadership.
The Prithvi has a range of 150-250 km, depending on the payload. It is nuclear-capable. The authorisation comes in response to a request from India's Chiefs of Staff Committee for directions for action in the eventuality of Pakistan using its short-range Hatf missiles.
Although the authorisation is (presumably) limited to the missile's use with conventional warheads, this status can easily change. In practice, adversaries have no sure way of telling if an incoming missile carries a nuclear or conventional warhead. Missile flight-time between Indian and Pakistani cities is as little as three to eight minutes - too short to determine whether an approaching warhead is nuclear or conventional.
* The Hindustan Times reported (February 15) that Indian Air Force and Navy personnel are being sent to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to learn how to handle nuclear devices. The training courses are aimed at building "synergy" between the DAE and the operators of nuclear weapons.
Under the existing division of labour, the DAE holds the nuclear cores, while weapons and delivery systems are with the armed forces. The training is meant to "establish vital linkages" between the two. An officer is quoted as saying: "These courses are meant to ensure complete clarity in the deliverer's mind about the process and the safety measures. So far, the drill has largely been at a conceptual level."
* India is also negotiating the acquisition of two nuclear-powered submarines from Russia. The two "Bars" class multi-role submarines are likely to be leased in 2004 and deployed in the Indian Ocean to "balance" China's growing presence.
This is significant because India's own nuclear submarine development project has repeatedly failed to deliver. In 1988 too, India had leased a Soviet nuclear submarine for three years. Nuclear-powered submarines can stay under water for up to a year and hence carry a big element of surprise.
* India is trying to buy long-range Tupolev nuclear bombers from Russia. Pakistan is also scouting the market for similar equipment.
The closer India and Pakistan move towards actual deployment of nuclear weapons, the harder it will be to roll back the nuclear arms race and advance processes of nuclear restraint and disarmament.
The arms acquisition programmes are buttressed by elevated nuclear rhetoric and India's acquiescence in the new ultra-hawkish approach to proliferation in George Bush's 'State of the Union' address. Examples of the first are Army chief Gen. S. Padmanabhan's January 11 statement, and the Navy chief's January 16 pronouncement hinting that India has a second-strike capability. Gen. Padmanabhan warned that although "nuclear weapons are not meant for war fighting", India would severely punish any state that is "mad enough to use nuclear weapons against any of our assets". He said, "The perpetrator shall be so severely punished that his very existence will be in doubt. We are ready for a second strike."
However, even more far-reaching is India's passive acceptance of Bush's new counter-proliferation doctrine, which violates the half-century-long consensus, which holds that the spread of weapons of mass destruction can only be stopped by political or peaceful, not military means.
When Bush said, "I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer, the U.S. will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons", he was no longer talking about merely extending the "war on terrorism", but of launching a series of larger wars to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. He was speaking of replacing diplomacy with military force. As The New York Times commented, "the application of power and intimidation has returned to the forefront of American foreign policy."
This is an ominous development. It will legitimise the routine use of military force as the preferred instrument of state policy. It will potentially replicate the example set by Israel's act of brigandage in bombing Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 to eliminate the "proliferation danger". We now know that Bush's father too was under pressure from Republican hawks in 1994 to bomb and destroy a North Korean facility where some spent-fuel rods from a nuclear reactor were supposed to have been stored. He resisted the pressure. His son is likely to capitulate to it.
It is a matter of shame that there have been no words of caution and restraint from New Delhi on any of this. It has maintained an unconscionable silence on the U.S.' reportedly advanced plans to attack Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. Nor has there been any noise from South Block on the "Axis of Evil", comprising North Korea, Iraq and Iran. The very least that the term implies is close coordination between the three. But North Korea has little contact with the other two. And these two have fought bitter wars, and continue to be rivals, although India has good relations with both.
New Delhi's genuflection before the arrogant, imperious U.S. is complete even as that Hyperpower divides the rest of the world into "vassals" and "tributaries". Where does Vajpayee's India belong?


Secular Perspective, March 1-15, 2002

Defeat of BJP is defeat of communalism

by Asghar Ali Engineer

The crushing defeat of the BJP in the recent elections in U.P. Uttaranchal and the Punjab is, in fact, defeat of communalism. The BJP for long had been playing double game. It pretended to be secular before the Indian people in general but maintained its communal face before its hard core cadre. It is not possible to deceive the people for ever. Its leaders, including the Prime Minister Shri A.B. Vajpayee told the nation that the construction of the Ramjanambhoomi Mandir was not on its (NDA) agenda but whenever elections were declared its other face appeared in the form of VHP and Bajrang Dal. And these outfits of the Sangh Parivar would threaten to construct the temple from a declared date to satisfy the Hindutvawadis. This bluff now has been called off.
Of course the VHP and some hard core elements still maintain that the BJP faced crushing defeat, as it did not fulfil its promise to construct the Ram temple in Ayodhya. They maintain that the BJP would have won had it taken up the cause of the Ram temple. However, this claim is not born out by the ground reality. All surveys show that people are tired of temple issue. They are more interested in developmental issues than temples and mosques. The BJP was defeated simply because it did not deliver.
The BJP failed on all fronts. Its slogan was "bhay, bhook aur bhrashtachar se mukti i.e. freedom from fear, hunger and corruption. It was nothing more than a deceptive slogan. The BJP governments in all states - in Gujrat, in U.P. and in Uttaranchal indulged in record corruption. In Punjab too, along with the Akalis it was partner in corruption. It had several criminals among the elected representatives and even in the Cabinets. In Gujrat the VHP and the Bajrang Dal repeatedly attacked the minorities and minorities including Muslims and Christians have been living in perpetual fear in Gujrat. In U.P. they had to moderate their attacks on minorities as they ruled in alliance with other secular parties. The Gujrat was referred to as the 'laboratory of Hindutva' by the supporters of the BJP.
The minorities in Gujrat are living in the constant fear of attacks. The attacks on Christians also began from Dang in Gujrat. Their churches were demolished and bibles burnt down in various parts of Gujrat. So much for their slogan of freedom from fear. While BJP launched a tirade against the corruption in the Congress it described itself as the 'party with the difference'. Its governments turned out to be more corrupt than the Congress governments.
As often asserted by this writer a democracy cannot be run by communalising the polity. A democracy has to be based on secular principles. In democracy it is citizenship which is fundamental category and not religion. Parties like the BJP in India and Islamic parties in other countries try to make religion as fundamental category rather than citizenship. Only a secular democracy can guarantee rights of all citizens irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. Communal parties cannot.
It is unfortunate that even Prime Minister Shri Vajpayee was not above this kind of politics though he is projected as moderate in the BJP politics and Shri L.K.Advani as the hawk. Shri Vajpayee went to the extent of saying during his election campaign that he does not care for the Muslim votes and that the BJP will win even if the Muslims do not vote for his party. This resulted in furore and Mulayam Singh went to the extent of demanding his resignation. The party managers had to do the damage control and Vajpayee issued a clarification maintaining, as politicians always do, that he was misquoted by the press.
But the fact is he did say the BJP could do without Muslim vote. No doubt he said this in sheer frustration. He was of course receiving the results of pre-poll surveys which clearly indicated that the BJP is losing and the Muslims will vote either for Samajwadi party of Mulayam Singh Yadav or the BSP of Mayawati. Muslim votes are crucial in more than 60 assembly seats of U.P. No party can win without the Muslim support in these constituencies and sixty seats matter a lot.
And it is interesting to note that it was not the first time that the BJP leaders had made such statement. In previous elections too, in U.P. in 1991 elections as well as in the Centre in the 1999 elections the BJP leaders had said that they have shown that one can win without Muslim votes. Shri A.B.Vajpayee spoke in the same vein. Somewhere it is the desire of the BJP to win the elections without the Muslim support and then dispense with their democratic and constitutional obligations towards minorities. This is what the communal politics is based on. After all the RSS talk about the Hindu Rashtra is not just a slogan. It is their deep desire and their political logic is based on this. Zial-ul-Haq also marginalised the Hindu and Christian minorities in Pakistan politics by introducing separate electorate for them.
Shri. Vajpayee also sings different tunes in different places. First he said in Staten Island in USA among the crowd of the VHP sadhus that "RSS is his soul" and changed his statement when he returned to India. To please his Hindutva constituency he made a statement that construction of Ram temple reflected national sentiment but when he came under attack from opposition he mused from his holiday resort in Kerala that " do not disturb the status quo" at Ayodhya, Kashi, Mathura and other places. "The Government will not remain a silent spectator" he said "and adopt delaying tactics, as unfortunately happened eight years ago."
The BJP, and any communal party for that matter, tries to arouse communal sentiments and bases its politics only on these sentiments. Under compulsions of the NDA politics the BJP-led Government at the Centre tries to maintain a moderate and secular face but reverts to its communal face when it comes to winning election taking people's religious sentiments for granted. The BJP had totally failed to provide good governance in U.P. and other states and as soon as the U.P. elections were announced it resorted to various emotional measures like banning the SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), enactment of POTO in the teeth of opposition to fight terrorism and raise the Mandir issue through VHP and Bajrang Dal.
However, as the results show nothing helped it. The BJP by itself could not get even 100 seats in U.P. The SP of Mulayam Singh Yadav has emerged as the largest single party with 148 seats and Mayawati's BSP got 94 seats, which is an impressive gain. This is the worst performance of the BJP since its ascendance to power on the Ramjanambhoomi issue. Not only this Shri Vajpayee, sensing the defeat, was not referring to local issues in his campaign speeches at all both in U.P. as well as in the Punjab. He was referring only to emotional issues of cross border terrorism and attack on parliament on 13th December.
Again it was keeping in view the U.P. elections that the Vajpayee Government severed all connections with Pakistan. Rail, bus and air links with Pakistan were snapped to arouse emotional hysteria. The people to people contacts in both the countries are very important to promote amity and friendship between the two countries and peace in South Asia depends on peace between India and Pakistan. Now it will take, one does not know how long, to restore these links again. Pakistani rulers of course are no less to blame. It is, however, another story.
The BJP should now learn a lesson that its communalism and politics of religion will not take it far. The basic issues of the people will have to be addressed which are issues of development, poverty, unemployment and housing. People cannot vote for it indefinitely on issues of temple and mosque. The defeat in the U.P. elections is a clear writing on the wall for the BJP. The Hindutvawadis, it must be understood, will not rest in peace. They may put more pressure on the BJP leadership to intensify the Mandir issue arguing that it lost because it did not fulfil its promise to build the temple.
Thus one has to wait and watch. One does not know who will form the Government in U.P. If Mulayam Singh forms the Government the BJP may intensify the Mandir issue to embarrass the Mulayam Singh Government. Or under pressure from its hard core elements the BJP leadership may try to intensify it and put the country again on fire. The Gujrat elections are due in next 11 months and conditions in Gujrat are also not very congenial for the BJP. The BJP lost heavily in Panchayat elections in Gujrat last year despite weak and faction ridden Congress. In bye-elections in Gujrat along with the elections in U.P. though its Chief Minister Narendra Modi scrapped through the BJP lost two other seats to the Congress.
Thus it is not the end of woes of the BJP. It has lost the biggest state of U.P. and is likely to face tough time in its 'laboratory of the Hindutva'. It may play its Hindutva card much more intensely as Gujrat is also quite crucial to the survival of the BJP. The secular forces, unfortunately, are endlessly divided. The future of the country lies only in strengthening secular democracy.
There may not be immediate fall out of the U.P. results on the NDA Government at the Centre but cracks may appear soon. There are already rumblings within the BJP against the Vajpayee leadership. They now doubt his capacity to deliver. His charisma is wearing thin and the hawks may gain upper hand. And if the secular forces fight among themselves as in Maharashtra, only the communal hawks will gain.

Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
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