Saturday, 1 March, 2008

nulcer race in rough sea of southasia

The warning from Pakistan's naval chief of a new nuclear arms race in the offing after India's recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile must raise anxieties for south Asian regional security.
The Indian test from a submarine essentially raises the security stakes in an already troubled region. A submarine-based capability of this kind allows India to develop a second strike capability which fundamentally means that in the event of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange, Delhi would still have the capability to strike back.
For Pakistan, there is now added pressure to acquire a similar capability which enables the country to also equip itself with a submarine-launched nuclear missile. Going by Pakistan's own history, there is every possibility that the country will eventually meet the Indian threat, as Pakistan has done at every stage of the way since India's maiden nuclear tests in 1974.
It is a colossal mistake by India to keep up its drive for building up nuclear weapons especially when its robustly growing economy still leaves behind the challenge of meeting the needs of its many poor. While India continues to shine in parts with lots of economic success stories, there are other parts where the poorest of poor Indian suffers abject poverty.
Pakistan's own track record is not unblemished. Revelations in 2004 that Abdul Qadeer Khan, founder of the nuclear bomb project traded knowhow and technology with Iran, Libya and North Korea, only brought disrepute for the country worldwide.
However, Pakistan has done much since then to clean up its act, installing new security arrangements against leakages, and introducing a personnel reliability programme which oversees the activities of up to 2,000 people working at the core of the programme.
Pakistan has consistently demonstrated in the past 30 years that it has eventually caught up with the threat from India, either in terms of lethal strategic weapons like nuclear bombs or delivery systems with different kinds of ranges.

Future tasks
Now to assume that Pakistan will not catch up with India is simply to defy the logic of Pakistan's own track record. Assuming that the acquisition of Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile(SLBM) technology will only remain in India's domain would therefore be naïve if not simplistic.
The way to the future clearly has to be built up on three equally relevant strategies. First, Pakistan has to be given a sense of international support which is demonstrated through a public and robust opposition by the world to India's development of an SLBM. Lukewarm opposition or no opposition at all will simply demonstrate to Pakistani policymakers that the global community accepts the arrival of SLBMs in Indian hands as almost a fait accompli.
Second, there has to be a clear-cut link between concessions of the kind the world has to offer on the nuclear front and development of new strategic weapons. India's deal with the US for a series of civil nuclear reactors could well be put on hold till such time that Delhi at least acknowledges the need for a compromise on nuclear weapons.
At the same time, the global community must open a dialogue with Pakistan, offering advice and support for safeguards as it seeks to tackle the newest nuclear development by India.
Finally, if all else fails and India continues with its SLBM project eventually followed by Pakistan, there has to be demonstration to both countries that their acquisition of conventional weapons could be in jeopardy. This is however much easier said than done. A strong international regime will have to be put together to deny modern weapon systems to both countries.
It is still likely that Russia which has close links with India and China with its own ties to Pakistan, may both opt to stay out of such a regime. But still, western industrialised countries including important weapons suppliers such as Britain and the US, must come together to give a big push to this important initiative.
The alternative of allowing an India-led and Pakistan-followed robust development of nuclear weapons in South Asia can just not be an acceptable choice in view of the global security environment and its related challenges.

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