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                    NUCLEAR WAR BREWING?


MiD-EasT RealitieS (MER) - WASHINGTON - 21 March 2000:
   Clinton is in the subcontinent taking his "peace-making" pretensions on the road.  The problem is, neither he nor the country he represents have much credibility, especially when it comes to the subject of militarism and nuclear weapons.
   Clinton comes to the subcontinent representing a country that in recent years has destroyed Iraq, bombed Yugoslavia, occupied Arabia and watched on the sidelines while the Russians pulverized Chechnya.  No wonder the Chinese have said in actual words, "We are not Iraq or Yugoslavia", and publicly warned the U.S. regarding Taiwan that they too have a nuclear arsenal which they are understandably rushing to enlarge.
   When it comes to the subcontinent, the undiscussed backdrop to this visit by an American President is that the Israelis helped the Indians develop their nuclear weapons during the past two decades while the Americans have greatly furthered nuclear proliferation in our world by helping the Israelis develop theirs.
   Moreover, this same American President has given the Israelis a secret letter essentially exempting them from the same nuclear non-proliferation standards applied to every other country in the world because of their "special circumstances" -- one of many pay-offs the Israelis have managed to extract from an Administration they helped bring to power and whose affairs they dominate.
   It was only a few years ago in fact that the Indians, again with Israeli help and American awareness, were attempting to secretly attack Pakistani nuclear targets, including the Kahuta reactor, in an attempt to do to Pakistan what was done to Iraq.  Still top secret reports indicate they may have made one, maybe two, actual tries to bomb Kahuta but in each case were detected
by Pakistan and retreated quickly back across their own border.
   Now the Americans, with this track record and with their own Congress refusing to even ratify the nuclear non-proliferation treaty they themselves championed, come calling in the subcontinent with sage advice and the usual litany of threats and bribes.  This recent article by columnist Eric Margolis is abit dated since Clinton is after all making a short stop in Islamabad, but even so the analysis is quite important.  We add to it these considerable interconnections with Israel and the Middle East situation, which of course are all too often and oh so conveniently overlooked.
   The weapons of mass destruction situation in both the subcontinent and the neighboring Middle East is likely to fester and threaten for some time to come.
   It's a dangerous situation, true enough, and in all likelihood it will get worse.
   In the Middle East, while the headlines speak of "peace process" the military budgets remain growing, the weapons systems continue to expand, and literally as the diplomats talk missile proliferation and a combination of nuk, bio, and chem weapons are spreading.  Need we add that Americans arms salesman are at the top of the list of those shoveling in the money while Israelis arms sales around the world, including to China, are also considerable and rising all the time.
   In the subcontinent, it's a terrible shame these two poor countries continue to squander their resources and threaten each other with oblivion.  But the notion that the USA, with its own miserable and hypocritical track record, is going to be able to do much about it as a credible intermediary is just not in the cards.
   Whatever happened to the idea of an independent international community and a viable, serious, credible United Nations anyway?  Good questions of course, but the answers aren't very pretty either.
   Meanwhile, let's not forget that it is the Anglo-Saxons who left both the subcontinent and the Middle East the legacy that is today's divisions, today's conflicts, and today's escalating arms race.  The Kashmir issue and the partition of the subcontinent, as well as the partition of Palestine, were brought to us originally compliments of the British Empire.  Israel's birth in 1948, it's expansion in 1967, it's settlement policies, it's defiance of world law and international human rights, and yes, it's nuclear arsenal -- these come from the policies of the American Empire.
   Also to be remembered is that Pakistan's original nuclear weapons program began in the 1970s, partly fueled by the 1967 and 1973 Middle East wars, and was aided by Libya (and later Saudi Arabia) which provided considerable funding to the then government of Zia al-Huq for what was at the time called by some the "Islamic bomb" and understood to be a counterweight to the Israeli bomb.


        By Eric Margolis

India and Pakistan are engaged in an increasingly dangerous confrontation
over the divided Himalayan mountain state of Kashmir which they have
disputed for the past 53 years. For the first time since the 1962 Cuban
missile crisis, the armed forces of two nuclear-armed powers are
clashing directly.

This week, Indian troops crossed the Line of Contro1 (LOC) that divides
Kashmir and slaughtered 14 Muslim villagers, beheading some of the victims.
Pakistani troops killed seven Indian soldiers. Inside the two-thirds of
Kashmir controlled by India, Muslim guerrillas fighting for independence
killed ten Hindu civilians and Indian troops. As the decade-old rebellion by
Kashmir's 80% Muslim majority against often brutal Indian rule grows, 10-20
people are dying daily in Kashmir. Indian and Pakistani artillery trade
heavy fire along the entire LOC and are on high alert. According to CIA, the
Kashmir LOC is the world's most dangerous border and the likeliest place for
a nuclear war to occur.

India just announced a staggering 38% increase in its defense budget. In
Delhi, PM Atal Vajpayee threatened Pakistan with nuclear attack if Islamabad
dared use its own strategic arsenal and proclaimed there would be no further
negotiations with Pakistan until it handed its third of Kashmir over to

Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Abdus Sattar, says he has never heard such
threats from India, calling Vajpayee "shrill" and irrational. Hindu
extremists may be driving government policy, Sattar suggests. India is
violently frustrated and enraged over Kashmir and ready to lash out.
Here in Rawalpindi, the former headquarters of the British Indian Army on
the wild northwest frontier, I met with Lt. Gen. Muhammed Aziz Khan, chief
of the general staff of Pakistan's 587,000 armed forces. Though guarded and
soft spoken, Aziz Khan is tough, highly intelligent and fiercely determined.
He is one of the three strongmen of the new military regime, along with his
superior, Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and the redoubtable Lt.
Gen. Mahmud Ahmed, Director General of Inter-Service Intelligence.
I asked Gen. Aziz if India's 700,000 regular and paramilitary troops now
crammed into Kashmir - including three overstrength corps, 250 warplanes,
and 300 heavy - were not poised to attack Pakistani Kashmir. "India has the
capability to undertake tactical action," replied Aziz. "On the Kashmir
front they outnumber us five to one. But our troops are prepared to fight at
a moments notice."

Regarding the strategic arms race between Pakistan and seven-times larger
India, whose population just reached 1 billion, Aziz says his nation can
still keep up with India's growing military power. "But, if the relative
strategic balance keeps shifting against us, I am concerned."
India has embarked on a massive arms buildup, including new aircraft from
Russia and France, an aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine, ballistic
and cruise missiles, space warfare systems, and a large nuclear arsenal
developed with covert aid from Israel and France.

The US Congress cut off all military and financial aid to Pakistan a decade
ago to pressure Islamabad to give up its nuclear program, which Israel's
friends on Capitol Hill saw as a possible threat to the Jewish state -
though Pakistan has never shared any of its nuclear technology. Meanwhile,
Washington winked at India's far larger, older nuclear program, which was
seen as a useful counter to China.

Ironically, due to the US embargo, Pakistan has had to rely increasingly on
its nuclear forces to offset India's growing superiority in men and
material. India is now trying to spend Pakistan, which is almost bankrupt,
into the ground by developing new high-tech weapons systems, such as
anti-missile defenses and satellite surveillance.

Pakistan's tough new military leaders refuse to be cowed. Gen. Aziz is said
to be the main planner for Pakistanís incursion across the LOC last spring.
In May, Pakistani special forces and Kashmiri guerrillas crossed the LOC and
seized commanding positions atop the towering mountains above the
Indian-held city of Kargil. Pakistan staged the operation to
internationalize the Kashmir issue, which was fading into obscurity at a
time when brutal Indian repression was threatening to extinguish the

Two months of fierce combat ensued, costing India 400 lives and a huge
amount of money. The fighting ended when Pakistan's then prime minister, the
inept and despotic Nawaz Sharif, was ordered to Washington for a humiliating
public dressing down by President Clinton. Nawaz, who had approved the
operation, denied prior knowledge and blamed it all on his generals. He then
tried to split the army and dismiss its professional leadership. The
military struck back, deposing Nawaz, to great public delight, and named
Gen. Musharraf as Pakistan's new leader.

Pakistan is now waging a war of nerves against India, convinced the
rebellion in Kashmir, discreetly supported by ISI, and growing regional
rebellions inside India in Assam and the eastern hill states will eventually
force India to withdraw. India is retaliating by upping military pressure
against Pakistan and using its intelligence agency, RAW, to stage bombings
and sabotage designed to destabilize Pakistan. At the same time, the 800,000
Indians living in the US have formed a powerful lobby that has teamed up
with the influential Israel lobby to militate against Pakistan and get it
branded a "terrorist state."

President Clinton, who is due to shortly visit the subcontinent, may skip
Pakistan because of charges it backs "terrorists" in Kashmir, the Taliban in
Afghanistan, and was involved in the hijacking of an Indian airliner.
Pakistan considers Kashmiri insurgents "freedom fighters," not terrorists.
Islamabad has little influence over the fiercely independent Taliban, nor
was it involved in the recent hijacking. Little matter. Any state or person
accused these days of being involved in "Islamic terrorism" is guilty until
proven innocent.

But, as usual, Clinton is driven primarily by domestic politics, and may bow
to lobby pressure by avoiding Pakistan or merely making a "refueling" stop.
This would be a grave mistake. Only the United States has the diplomatic
clout to prevent the drift to war now underway between India and Pakistan,
who have already fought three wars since 1947. American diplomatic
intervention is urgently required, as is outside mediation of the explosive
Kashmir dispute.

Clinton's failure to visit Pakistan, and increasing US hostility to old ally
Pakistan could be taken by Delhi as a green light to launch an offensive
against Pakistani Kashmir. The huge number of Indian troops being maintained
in constricted Kashmir, where they have no operational room, suggests a sort
of counter-Kargil offensive is in the works. India is seething with revenge
for being humiliated last spring by Pakistan. An Indian attack would not
cross the international border between the two foes, but penetrate only into
Pakistani Kashmir. By seizing parts of Pakistani Kashmir - possible the Lipa
or Nilum valleys or Kotli - India would restore face, weaken Pakistan, and
undermine the military leadership in Islamabad.

Wars too often begin because of miscalculation or over-estimation of one's
power. This is precisely the case between India and Pakistan. Neither wants
a general war, but both believe they can keep up the war of nerves and
limited military operations under security of their nuclear umbrellas.
This week India gave its commanders the right of hot pursuit of Kashmiri
militants across the LOC. CIA analysts have long said that just such an
event may trigger a large battle that risks escalating into a full-sca1e war
that might end with a nuclear exchange. According to Rand Corp, a nuclear
conflict between India and Pakistan would kill 2 million people at once, and
100 million subsequently as well as polluting the entire globe.
If ever real diplomacy was needed, it is now.
Copyright: E. Margolis, March 2000

Note: "War at the Top of the World" by Eric Margolis - the struggle for
Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet will be published in March by Routledge.

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