''A wink and a nod to India's Weapons of Mass Destruction''
By Ullas Sharma
YellowTimes.org Columnist (India)
(YellowTimes.org - 1-15-03) – The U.S. and its allies are going to attack Iraq. American and British warships are in the Gulf and another 35,000 American soldiers will join the allied forces there. It is immaterial that Hans Blix and his team of U.N. weapon's inspectors could not find anything in Iraq that could remotely be classified as "weapons of mass destruction." The inspectors are to submit their report by the 29th of January, but it is clear they have found nothing and will not find anything in the remaining few days. So where does that leave President Bush and his men? They will go ahead and attack Iraq anyway.
Iraq has done all it could to avert this war. On the other hand, the U.S. has gone to ludicrous extents to attack Iraq. Saddam's desperation could be gauged by the fact that he invited the CIA to come and inspect if there were any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq! Most people, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, U.N. chief Kofi Annan, Bishop Desmond Tutu and so many other personalities from all walks of life have condemned the way the U.S. has gone about the whole affair. President Bush remains unfazed.
The crisis in North Korea, one would have thought, might make Bush shift focus, considering the fact that 37,000 American troops are stationed in the Korean peninsula. Their safety is the responsibility of the American leadership. With a Quixotic ruler in Pyongyang, one would have expected the American President to be more serious about the North Korean threat. President Bush ruled out any military initiative in Korea and called for "diplomatic efforts" to diffuse the situation there.
Here in the Indian subcontinent, there are two nuclear weapon states, Pakistan and India. Pakistan's nuclear capabilities are rather limited and their technology, too, seems to be borrowed from their time-honored friend, China. India, on the other hand, is a nuclear weapon state in its own right. The Pokharan tests in 1998 were quite advanced technologically, and India also tested small hydrogen bombs at that time. India has recently tested an Agni II missile that has a range of 2000 kilometers. Agni I, with a strike capability of 700-800 kilometers, was tested sometime earlier and is ready for induction in the Indian army. India now plans to test fire Agni III with a range of 3000 to 5000 kilometers sometime later this year. It is clear that Agni III is being tested with the Chinese threat in mind. An Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile is next on the anvil.
India formalized its status as a nuclear power when it was announced that the Prime Minister should have the nuclear button. The chain of command has been clearly identified. India has also appointed a commander-in-chief of the Indian defense forces which became imperative when India realized that there could not be any ambiguity as to the hierarchy among the chiefs of the various wings -- the army, the navy and the air force. India realized the need for such a clear chain of command when General Musharraf said that he had contemplated using nuclear weapons if there were an escalation of tension during the recent build up on the Indo-Pak border. Of course, the Pakistani diplomats later rejected any such comment from the General, but this did make the Indian leadership nervous enough to hasten the process of readying the nation for any such eventuality.
The West, including the U.S., has been watching the developments in South Asia. What India and Pakistan have done with their nuclear weapon programs could not have gone unnoticed in Washington. But to the United States, India and Pakistan can go ahead and declare themselves nuclear powers while a nation in the Gulf that has tottered along all these years and has had sanctions imposed must be punished with war. The contrast could not be more glaring. But then India does not have oil while the Iraqi people are unfortunate enough to be sitting on the world's second largest oil reserve. Must not they be punished for what they have?
The latest American efforts to build missile interceptors, famously called the Star Wars program, smacks of dualism of the worst kind. The U.S. can have the forbidden nuclear weapons and can go on and develop other more sophisticated weapons while the Iraqi's must be punished even if they show an inclination towards such technology. The latest American offer of a $1 million prize to develop robot warfare makes one wonder whether there is any justice in this mad, mad world.
[Ullas Sharma writes on political and economic issues, especially on South Asia. A post-graduate in marketing management, he is a publisher of academic books on social sciences and humanities. He lives with his wife, Aruna, and their five-year-old son, Utkarsh, in Varanasi, India.]
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