For the Galleries: Indian
and Pakistani Army officers shake hands on Independence Day
is No Justice or Moral Standards in the West on Nuclear Affairs
Special to the South Asia Tribune
August 19: Few people are aware just how close the world came
to a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan in the spring
the two old foes battled fiercely in northern Kashmir above the
strategic city of Kargil, over 1.5 million troops on both sides
were ready to attack. Powerful Indian armored 'strike corps’
were poised to strike into Pakistan and cut it in half. Unable
to match India’s overwhelming conventional might, Pakistan
prepared to defend itself with tactical nuclear weapons.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed
and the Kargil confrontation abated, but not before a horrible
scare. Western experts estimate a nuclear exchange between India
and Pakistan would kill up to 2 million people outright, cause
100 million casualties, and pollute the entire globe with radioactive
Today, Pakistan’s and India’s
nuclear forces remain on hair-trigger alert. Both nations fear
a surprise, decapitating first strike by the other could destroy
their nuclear forces and the command units that control them.
Flight times of India’s
and Pakistan’s nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are only
minutes. Neither side has adequate early warning systems against
nuclear attack – or the time to consider a response when
enemy missiles or aircraft are reported incoming.
On top of this, India’s
nuclear command and control system is still shaky, unlike Pakistan’s
which is believed to be more reliable and highly professional.
False reports approaching enemy missiles or aircraft, or a missile
test gone astray, could trigger a nuclear exchange. Even the most
advanced early-warning systems can fail or give false readings.
During the Cold War, a scientific
sounding rocket launched from northern Norway caused the Soviet
Union to believe itself under attack by American missiles and
begin a countdown to launch its own missile force. Fortunately
for mankind, the Soviets realized their error in time to abort
With these grim thoughts in mind,
the just-concluded agreement between Delhi and Islamabad to exchange
advance notice of missile tests is welcome and long overdue news.
They also agreed to extend the cease-fire along the Line of Control
that divides Kashmir.
But Indians and Pakistanis just
can’t seem to miss a chance to one up each other. A week
after the missile accord was announced, Pakistan proudly revealed
the test of its first nuclear-capable, 500 km-range cruise missile,
Pakistan didn’t warn India
of the test. Why? According to Islamabad’s lame excuse,
'Babur’ was an air-breathing missile and thus a different
class of weapon from ballistic missiles.
was not amused by such deceptive semantics, and rightly so. Pakistan’s
test blatantly undermined efforts to build confidence and normalize
relations between the two old foes. If anything, the terrain-hugging
'Babur,’ which is almost invisible to radar, poses even
a greater threat to India of a surprise first strike than Pakistan’s
2,000 km- ranged 'Shaheen-II’ ballistic missiles.
radar mapping technology and engine puts it in the class of western
and Russian cruise missiles – and will undoubtedly produce
a firestorm of protest from America’s right wingers and
pro-Israel lobby. Development of the cruise missile is a significant
achievement for Pakistani defense technology.
to be one-upped, India announced its 3,000 km-range 'Agni-III’
nuclear capable missile would be tested by year end. India’s
shorter-ranged 'Agni-II' and 'Prithvi’ missiles can hit
nearly all useful targets in Pakistan.
is clearly designed to be used against China, a point not lost
on Beijing. In fact, China has watched the recent strategic alliance
between the US and India with growing concern.
India has a very large nuclear
weapons program that is being covertly aided by Israel. India
is even building sea-launched strategic missiles and developing
an ICBM with a 7,000 km range that can serve only one purpose:
to attack North America or Europe. America’s defense establishment
has not yet comprehended this fact, or has turned a blind eye
to this new threat.
Delhi has always rejected UN nuclear
inspection, accusing western powers of 'nuclear apartheid’
in seeking to maintain their monopoly on weapons of mass destruction.
The Indians, of course, are perfectly correct. They and Pakistan
had as much right to nuclear weapons as France, Britain or Israel,
not to mention the United States which is updating its nuclear
arsenal and may soon begin work on small warheads designed to
attack underground targets.
Eager to enlist India in its so-called
'war on terrorism,’ and to build a strategic counterweight
to China, the Bush Administration recently embraced India, sanctified
Delhi’s covert nuclear program, and approved the sale of
US nuclear technology, conventional arms and advanced technology
to India while keeping Pakistan in the nuclear dog-house.
The Indians were cock-a-hoop o
be granted major ally status by the US and have their much-criticized
nuclear program sanctified by Washington. What many Indians failed
to see in their euphoria was that their entente with Washington
risked driving them into growing confrontation with neighboring
The Bush Administration’s
powerful neoconservatives opened all doors in Washington for India
after it became a close ally and major arms customer of Israel.
In fact, Israel has become India’s second largest supplier
of arms and military technology after Russia.
These same neocons have designated
China as America’s new enemy of choice - once Iran is destroyed.
They plan to use India as a weapon against both China and Pakistan,
whose nuclear arsenal is seen as a potential threat enemy of Israel.
The Indians are no fools. They
hope to use their new strategic alliance with the US to advance
their own very evident superpower ambitions. But Beijing must
view the new US-India alliance as a major national security threat,
and India as a primary enemy.
Moreover, far from promoting 'stability,’
as President Bush claimed, the US-India axis threatens to destabilize
Asia by re-igniting tensions between India and China that led
their Himalayan border war in 1962, as well as making Pakistan’s
position even more precarious.
But while the White House encourages
India’s nuclear power, it is moving closer to attacking
Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, as President Bush indicated
last week in a speech on Israeli TV.
intelligence estimates Iran would require 10 years to develop
nuclear weapons. But Israeli intelligence reportedly believes
Tehran could produce a nuclear warhead by 2006. So Israel has
been exerting intensive pressure on the Bush Administration through
its US supporters to destroy Iran’s nuclear plants. Pakistan
may be the next target.
Ironically, India, Pakistan, Israel
and North Korea all rejected UN nuclear inspection, and all developed
nuclear weapons. Taiwan and South Korea have all had secret nuclear
weapons programs. Iran has no nukes but is suspected of wanting
to develop them behind the cover of a civilian power program.
However, a UN nuclear agency report
last week confirmed Iran’s assertion that particles of enriched
uranium found by inspectors on some of its centrifuges were indeed
of Pakistani origin. This important finding was largely ignored
by the US media which has joined the neocons in agitating for
war against Iran.
resuming uranium enrichment for civilian purposes last week, Tehran
now faces sanctions or even war over what it might do in the future.
There are clearly no justice nor moral standards when it comes
to nuclear affairs.
The writer is a Canada-based Defense Analyst & Columnist
who contributes to several leading newspapers including Daily
Dawn, Karachi. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org