India activates dangerous arms race

Sajjad Shaukat

IT is most regrettable that by ignoring the modern global trends like renunciation of war, peaceful settlement of disputes and economic development, India has activated dangerous arms race in South Asia. In this respect, India test-fired its longest range surface-to-surface nuclear ballistic missile Agni-5 from the Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha on December 26, this year. Agni-5 is capable of striking a target of more than 5,000 km away. The missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tone. It can target almost all of Asia including Pakistan and China and Europe while the Agni-6 is reported to be in early stages of development and the most advanced version, with a strike-range of 8,000-10,000 km.
New Delhi already has in its arsenal—the Agni 1, 2, 3 and 4 missile systems and supersonic cruise missiles like Brahmos. According to Times of India, “Once the Agni-V is inducted, India will join the super exclusive club of countries with ICBMs (missiles with a range of over 5,000-5,500km) alongside the US, Russia, China, France and the UK.” It is notable 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 (14pc of global arms imports), China (4.7pc), Australia (3.6pc) and Pakistan (3.3pc).”
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. In fact, US wants New Delhi to continue anti-China and anti-Pakistan role. Beijing is apprehensive about the emerging threat, as during Obama’s last visit to India, 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 in the recent past, 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, tension remains over the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, as India keeps on violating the ceasefire-agreement in wake of the unsettled issue of Kashmir. It is mentionable 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 noteworthy that in his interview, Israel’s ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, published in the Indian weekly Outlook on February 18, 2008 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 Tel Aviv, New Delhi has been acquiring an element of strategic depth by setting up logistical bases in the Indian Ocean for its navy. Particularly, Pak-China relationship—after signing of agreement, “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” has irked the eyes of Americans, Indians, and Israelis. Owing to jealousy, America desires to make India a major power to counterbalance China in Asia.
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.” 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 initiated dangerous 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. Nevertheless, by ignoring regional problems, especially 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.”
—The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist.
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