Fresh Nuke Threats Follow India-Pakistan “Peace Talks”


Richard Moore

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    Fresh Nuke Threats Follow India-Pakistan "Peace Talks"
    By J. Sri Raman
    t r u t h o u t | Columnist
    Wednesday 22 November 2006

Diplomats of India and Pakistan spent two days resuming "peace talks" last week.
Within four days of the talks, the security establishments of the two countries 
have test-fired two nuclear-capable missiles, sending tremors through the entire

And both have served notice of a reckless nuclear arms and missile race ahead, 
with the participation and collaboration of major external players.

The resumption of the "peace process," rudely interrupted by the serial bomb 
blasts of July 11 in Mumbai, did not seem real to anyone. Sections of the media,
however, saw it as "realism" - in the sense that both official sides accepted 
the need to keep the "process" going since both wanted to coexist as members of 
the "global coalition against terror." All the media and other observers agree 
that the talks have produced no results worth talking about. But certainly 
worthy of serious note is the nuclear sequel to the talks.

President Pervez Musharraf and his men fired the gun to start this round of the 
race. The day after the talks (November 14-15), Pakistan's Army Strategic Force 
Command carried out a successful test of an improved version of the Ghauri V 
missile at an undisclosed site. The surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a 
range of 1,300 kilometers, which is capable of delivering nuclear hits to 
targets in India, is obviously not meant for use against Taliban terrorists on 
Pakistani territory.

There was no mistaking the message of the test. As eminent Pakistani analyst 
Khaled Mahmood pointed out, the test was General Musharraf's loud and clear 
answer to domestic critics accusing him of "unilaterally giving concessions to 
India." What Mahmood saw as "a show of power" was also a promise to the hawks 
that the "peace process" would pose no hurdle to Pakistan's nuclear-weapon 

A Pakistani military official told the media that India had been given advance 
notice of the test as agreed in an earlier phase of the "peace process." The 
prior information to India's government may not reassure its people living 
within the missile's range that the test carried no threat to them at all. The 
agreement, however, is repeatedly advertised as one of the "confidence-building 
measures (CBMs)" produced by the "process."

The official took away some of the surprise of India's riposte, saying Pakistan 
had received prior notice of it. The Indian test of a short-range, but no less 
scary, missile came three days later.

An improved, air-force version of the surface-to-surface Prithvi II missile, 
successfully tested at Chandipur-on-Sea in the State of Orissa (known hitherto 
more for periodically recurring starvation deaths than for contributions to the 
country's weapons modernization), caused notable consternation in India's 
neighborhood. The ballistic missile, with a range of 250 kms (which can be 
enhanced with reduced payload), has been advertised as a "nuclear, 
seek-and-scan, targeted, tactical device to pierce the ground and air defense 
systems of the enemy." The "enemy," obviously again, is not far away.

The self-appointed sentinels of India's "security" have more missile tests up 
their sleeves. Scheduled for early next year is a flight trial of Sagarika, the 
country's first submarine-launched cruise missile. With a range of 700 nautical 
miles, it will be capable of delivering a 500-kilogram nuclear warhead. Under 
development is a submarine-launched version of a BrahMos-model supersonic cruise
missile yet to be given an endearingly Indian name. The military deployment of 
these two missiles, boasts the country's Defense Research and Development 
Organization (DRDO), "will turn India into the world's fifth power with such a 
capability." Heartening news for Indians who might have found the Human 
Development Index (HDI) rank awarded to their country - a way-down 127 - 

The DRDO has also proclaimed its resolve to repeat its test of what was once 
supposed to be its trump - Agni III. The first test-firing of this 
surface-to-surface ballistic missile, with an ambitious range of 3,500 kms, 
failed last July. Despite the failure, it is officially claimed, the test gave 
the country "a robust second-strike nuclear capability" - a nuke jargon that 
translates into a capacity for a nuclear strike or a series of such strikes that
can "cripple" the nuclear-armed enemy. Agni III, if operationalized after a 
successful re-trial, can carry a nuclear warhead of 300 kilotonnes.

India's program of indigenous missile technology, however, is only the tip of an
iceberg, by many expert accounts. The fiasco of the testing of Agni III and some
other missiles, for example, has only helped the army top brass push through a 
deal with Israel, worth nearly 20 billion India rupees (approximately 400 
million US dollars), for the Spyder anti-aircraft missile systems, with a 
reputed capacity for tracking as many as 60 targets.

Promotion of India's military relations with Israel, serving as a proxy for the 
US, has continued ever since the post-9/11 initiation of the US-India "strategic
partnership" under the far-right regime of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari 
Vajpayee. The change in New Delhi has made no difference, except to make 
high-ranking army officers' visits to Israel under the present Manmohan Singh 
government hushed-up affairs.

The highlight of the relations in this regard during the Vajpayee days was the 
$1-billion deal for Phalcon airborne warning and control systems (AWACS), a 
product of US-Israel collaboration. India's Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, 
recently in Israel, reviewed the project, and the first three AWACS are 
scheduled for induction in the Indian Air Force in November 2007.

A wide array of other missiles - ranging from the air-to-surface Crystal Maze 
and air-to-air Python to cruise Popeye - are reportedly soon going to strengthen
India-Israel military ties, which both sides underplay under a tacit accord. And
the relations can only be reinforced, if a determined George Bush regime does 
push through the US-India nuclear deal.

This reminds one of General Musharraf's dire threat of turning to an 
"alternative," if Pakistan were not offered a similar deal. The "alternative" 
was neither new nor unidentified. Former Indian diplomat G. Parthasarathy was 
trying to be tauntingly facetious, perhaps, when he said Ghauri V was test-fired
to welcome Chinese President Hu Jintao (to visit Pakistan later this week). 
Seriously, however, the missile is believed to be modeled on the Chinese M 11, 
as Pakistan's Shaheen 1 (a surface-to-surface vehicle for nuclear delivery with 
a 2,000-km range) was seen as a modified version of the Chinese M 9. India must 
expect more missile fireworks from Islamabad in the months ahead.

The people of India and Pakistan are not supposed to worry about all this. They 
have been told that, in the resumed round of "peace talks," both sides have 
agreed to work out ways of avoiding nuclear accidents. The objective of avoiding
nuclear damage by design, obviously, is outside the purview of the talks.

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