US Double Standard of Arms Supply in South Asia
International community is so focused on the double standard of the United States in Syria that it has ignored America’s similar policy in South Asia, which also needs appropriate attention.
In this regard, the US expressed concern on February 12, this year over the security of Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons. The statement followed the US announcement about its intention to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. At a State Department news briefing, Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said, “Tensions between India and Pakistan is equally worrying…we’re concerned both about the security of those nuclear weapons, and that’s been a common refrain in our discussions with Pakistan.”
Tone elaborated, “We believe it’s in our vital national security interests to support Pakistan in carrying out its efforts to destroy these terrorist networks, and we believe it’s an important partner in the region in achieving a stable and secure Afghanistan.”
Next day, India summoned the US envoy in New Delhi, Richard Verma and recorded protest over the US announcement to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
On February 17, 2016, rejecting Indian reaction to the F-16 deal with Pakistan, the Pentagon Press Secretary Petro Cook stated, “We don’t think this deal should concern India in any way. Pakistan is combating terrorism and its defence capability needs to be enhanced accordingly.”
In this context, during his briefing to the National Assembly, on January 19, last year, while confirming anti-Pakistan lobbies in the US, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif had revealed, “Pakistan is trying to acquire eight F-16 fighter jets from the US on lease, but Husain Haqqani, the former ambassador to the US is campaigning along with India to malign Pakistan and to block delivery of F-16 fighter jets.”
On February 11, 2016, in a testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, US Defence Intelligence Agency Director, Lt-Gen. Vincent Stewart (R) termed Pakistan’s counter-insurgency operations along Pakistan’s western border [Across Pak-Afghan border] and military operation Zarb-e-Azb and Karachi operation as successful in reducing violence in Pakistan.
Lt-Gen. Stewart explained, “Pakistan is fast improving its nuclear security and is aware of the threats posed by extremists to its nuclear arsenal.” But at the same time, he remarked about the increasing risks of an incident associated with the growing nuclear stockpile.
However, Lt. Lt-Gen. Vincent Stewart’s contradictory statement is part of US double standard and ambivalent policy in South Asia. Overtly and covertly, US-led India, Israel and some western countries keep on conducting propaganda against Pakistan, because it is the lonely nuclear country in the Islamic World.
When terrorists had attacked on Pakistan’s Naval Airbase in Karachi on May 23, 2011, US-led some western countries, including India and Israel exploited the situation through disinformation about the security of Pak nukes. And another terrorists’ assault on Kamra Base was successfully foiled by the personnel of Pakistan Air Force, but, a baseless report, published in the New York Times had indicated that suspected militants attacked a major Pakistani Air Force base where some of the country’s nuclear weapons were considered to be stored in the early hours of the militants’ attack. The ex-US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had also stated, “There is a danger of nuclear weapons of Pakistan, falling into hands of terrorists.”
Particularly, in 2009 when the heavily-armed Taliban entered Swat, Dir and Buner, US high officials and their media had exaggerated the ‘Talibinisation’ of the whole Pakistan, while showing concerns about Pakistan’s atomic arms. In that regard, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had warned that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. But, when Pakistan’s armed forces ejected the Taliban insurgents out of these areas by breaking their backbone, she started appreciating the capabilities of Pakistan’s armed forces.
Undoubtedly, Pakistan’s nuclear assets are in safe hands—well-protected and are under tight security arrangements, having the best command and control system. This fact has also been recognized by some top officials of the US and some western countries.
It is notable that Indian past record proves various kinds of unprotected incidents, security lapses in relation to various nuclear plants and the related-sensitive materials including events of nuclear theft and smuggling.
In this respect, in the end of November, 2009, more than 90 Indian workers suffered radiation due to contamination of drinking water at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka. On July 27, 1991, a similar event took place at the heavy water plant run by the Department of Atomic Energy at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan. Nuclear radiation had affected and injured many labourers there.
In July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation seized eight kg. of nuclear material from Arun, an engineer in Chennai, including two other engineers. It was reported that the uranium was stolen from an atomic research center. On November 7, 2000, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicated that Indian police had seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men for illicit trafficking of radioactive material. IAEA said that Indian civil nuclear facilities were vulnerable to thefts. On January 26, 2003, CNN disclosed that Indian company, NEC Engineers Private Ltd. shipped 10 consignments to Iraq, containing highly sensitive equipment including titanium vessels and centrifugal pumps. Indian investigators acknowledged that the company falsified customs documents to get its shipments out of India.
On June 12, 2004, Berkeley Nucleonics Corporation, an American company was fined US $ 300,000 for exporting a nuclear component to the Bhaba Atomic Research Center in India. In December 2005, United States imposed sanctions on two Indian firms for selling missile goods and chemical arms material to a Muslim country in violation of India’s commitment to prevent proliferation. In the same year, Indian scientists, Dr. Surendar and Y. S. R. Prasad had been blacklisted by the US due to their involvement in nuclear theft. In December, 2006, a container packed with radioactive material had been stolen from an Indian fortified research atomic facility near Mumbai.
Nevertheless, an alarming increase has been witnessed in the acquisition of arms and ammunition on the part of India; and it is likely to spend around $250 bn. on acquisition of weapons in next few years. The appetite is regional-specific with Pakistan being the prime target including China. India has also developed considerable nuclear weaponry and delivery systems.
It is mentionable that in its report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) had disclosed on February 22, 2015 that India is the world’s largest recipient of arms—“India (14 percent of global arms imports), China (4.7 per cent), Australia (3.6 per cent) and Pakistan (3.3 per cent).”
New Delhi’s military is acquiring a slew of new equipments from combat aircraft to submarines and artillery. It is currently finalising a deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to buy 126 Rafale fighter jets in a contract worth an estimated $12 billion.
Although peace and brinksmanship cannot co-exist in the modern era, yet India seeks to destabilize Asia through its aggressive designs.
While, as part of the double standard, America brushed aside the Indian poor record regarding the safety of nuclear weapons and materials. And despite, Indian violations of various international agreements and its refusal to sign Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Additional Protocol with the IAEA, Washington signed a pact of nuclear civil technology with New Delhi in 2008. During American President Barack Obama’s visit to India, on January 25, 2016, the US and India announced a breakthrough on the pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology.
On November 2, 2010, US agreed to sell India the most expensive—the new F-35 fighter jets including US F-16 and F-18 fighters, C-17 and C-130 aircraft, radar systems, Harpoon weapons etc. Besides acquisition of arms and weapons from other western countries—especially Israel, America is a potential military supplier to India. US also pressurized IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to grant a waiver to New Delhi for obtaining civil nuclear trade on larger scale.
As a matter of fact, US wants New Delhi to assume anti-China role. Beijing is apprehensive about the emerging threat, as the intent of President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quite clear, while mentioning about free sea lanes and air passages in the South China Sea.
In this connection, tension arose between India and China when Indian army erected a military camp in Chumar Sector of Ladakh at the Line of Actual Control (LAC)-disputed border, situated between the two countries. Similarly, Indian soldiers crossed over the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir on January 6, 2012 and attacked a Pakistani check post, killing one Pakistani soldier. Afterwards, Indian troops shot dead more Pakistani soldiers on the LoC.
It is noteworthy that under the Pak-China pretext, Indian ex-Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor disclosed on December 29, 2010 that the Indian army “is now revising its five-year old doctrine” and is preparing for a “possible two-front war with China and Pakistan.”
It is worth-mentioning that that after 9/11, both India and Israel which had openly jumped on Bush’s anti-terrorism enterprise are acting upon a secret diplomacy, targeting Pakistan China and Iran. It could be assessed from the interview of Israel’s ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, published in the Indian weekly Outlook on February 18, 2008. Regarding India’s defense arrangements with Tel Aviv, Sofer had surprisingly revealed, “We do have a defense relationship with India, and “with all due respect, the secret part will remain a secret.” In fact, with the support of Israel, New Delhi has been acquiring an element of strategic depth by setting up logistical bases in the Indian Ocean for its navy.
Particularly, fast growing economic power of China coupled with her rising strategic relationship with the Third World, and especially Pakistan—after signing of agreement, “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” which is, though for the benefit of South Asia, but, has irked the eyes of Americans and Indians. Owing to jealousy, America desires to make India a major power to counterbalance China in Asia—while, New Delhi has continued violations at the LoC and cross-border terrorism in Pakistan.
For the purpose, by availing the phenomenon of lawlessness in Afghanistan, secret agencies like American CIA, Israeli Mossad and Indian RAW have well-established their covert network in that country, and as part of the double game, they are using the terrorists of the Islamic State group (ISIS) and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for conducting various terror attacks in Pakistan. These secret agencies are also making efforts to weaken Tibetan regions of China, Pakistan’s province of Balochistan and Sistan-Balochistan of Iran by promoting acrimonious sense of dissent and political volatility.
Notably, on July 20, 2011, while hinting towards Pak-China ties, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged India to be more assertive in Asia, saying that as American ally, the country should play more of a leadership role. She explained, “India has the potential to positively shape the future of the Asia-Pacific.”
It is owing to the US dual policy that New Delhi openly follows threatening diplomacy in South Asia. In this context, in May 1998 when India detonated five nuclear tests, it also compelled Pakistan to follow the suit. The then Defense Minister George Fernandes had also declared publicly that “China is India’s potential threat No. 1.” New Delhi which successfully tested missile, Agni-111in May 2007, has extended its range to target all Chinese cities. Now, by setting aside peace-offers of Beijing and Islamabad, New Delhi has entangled the latter in a deadly arms race.
While, international community has been making strenuous efforts for world peace in wake of global financial crisis and war against terrorism, but India has particularly initiated deadly nuclear arms race in South Asia where people are already facing multiple problems of grave nature. Majority of South Asian people are living below the poverty level, lacking basic facilities like fresh food and clean water. Yielding to acute poverty, every day, some persons commit suicide.
Even, Indian civil society organizations, while complaining of excessive defense spending, recently, pointed out that the government spends very little amount for the betterment of people. Indian defense analyst Ravinder Pal Singh, while indicating New Delhi’s unending defense expenditures at the cost of poverty-alleviation, calls it guns-versus-butter question.
Nonetheless, by ignoring regional problems and especially resolution of Indo-Pak issues, particularly the Kashmir dispute which remains a nuclear flashpoint, Indian rulers state that they do not have any belligerent policy. But, it becomes a big joke of the 21st century, reminding a maxim, “armed to the teeth, but no enemy”, if we take cognizance of India’s increasing defense purchases in wake of her aggressive designs. In fact, it is the fault of the US which openly displays double standard of arms supply in South Asia
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations