RUSSIA LEASES NUCLEAR BOMBERS TO INDIA
1.9 Billion British Pounds Arms Deal to Give India Power of Mass
Destruction Across Pakistan and China
by LUKE HARDING
NEW DELHI, India, 20 January 2003 (The Guardian) -- India last night
signed a 1.9 billion [UK] pounds deal with Russia to lease four
long-range nuclear bombers and two nuclear-capable submarines, in a move
which campaigners say will dramatically escalate the
[India-Pakistan-China] arms race on the [South Asian] subcontinent.
On a visit to Moscow, India's Defence Minister, George Fernandes, said
the agreement -- which will also see Russia throw in an ageing aircraft
carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov, for free -- will be finalised by the end
of March .
"We have agreed that all efforts will be made to complete the three
contracts," Mr. Fernandes said. India and Russia will also pump more
money into a joint programme to develop a new long-range nuclear-capable
cruise missile, the BrahMos, he revealed.
The massive deal will dramatically improve New Delhi's ability to
deliver its nuclear warheads. It follows months of simmering tension
between India and its arch-rival Pakistan, the world's newest declared
nuclear powers [in South Asia].
The two countries almost went to war in June last year, and for 10
months deployed a million troops along their shared border.
India is believed to have more nuclear bombs -- between 60 and 150,
compared with Pakistan's 20-60. It also has a much larger conventional
army. But defence experts believe that Pakistan, which secretly acquired
much of its missile technology from China and North Korea in the 1990s,
has better means of getting them to their targets, and this is an edge
which New Delhi wants to eliminate.
Last night anti-nuclear campaigners in India said they were dismayed by
the nuclear deal with Russia.
"I think it is terrible," said Praful Bidwai, of the Coalition for
Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP).
"We are just going into a vortex that steps up the nuclear and missile
arms race. They are actually moving towards a high level of readiness to
use nuclear weapons. You are not talking about deterrence."
Under the package, India will lease four Tu22 M3 long-range aircraft --
capable of dropping nuclear bombs on China -- as well as two Akula class
submarines, which are nuclear-propelled and can deliver nuclear
India's existing submarine fleet is not nuclear capable. Indian
officials say that in the event of a nuclear attack by Pakistan, the new
Russian subs, which can hide underwater for months at a time, would be
able to launch a devastating response.
India has also agreed to pay about 370 million UK pounds to refit the
Admiral Gorshkov, a decrepit aircraft carrier which was completely
gutted by fire in the early 1990s.
The purchase has caused much raising of eyebrows in the Indian press,
and follows an expose two years ago of massive official corruption in
India's defence industry.
Mr. Fernandes was forced to resign in the wake of the scandal. He later
got his job back.
The Defence Minister put the finishing touches to his procurement spree
after spending six days in Russia, where he met his counterpart Sergei
The comparative speed with which India and Russia have wrapped up their
agreement is in stark contrast to Britain's attempts to sell 66 Hawk jet
trainer aircraft to the Indian Air Force.
Tony Blair and other ministers have so far failed to convince the
Indians to sign the billion-pound deal, despite more than 15 years of