7th June 1998
The only surprise is why Bill Clinton was surprised. People, even non-expert journalists like myself, have seen the Indo/Pakistani bombs coming for a long time. John Kennedy would not be surprised. He foresaw 20 to 30 nuclear bomb powers by the year 2000. Nevertheless, it will go down as one of the great shocks of the twentieth century.
It is going to consume the minds and the political energies of the best and the brightest of the twenty-first century - how to avoid a cataclysmic nuclear war between these two antagonistic neighbours who rub elbow to elbow 365 days a year in one of the most densely populated parts of the world and how to avoid a struggle for power and hegemony between the two giants that are going to dominate the world in the future, India and China.
Clinton, to my knowledge, has said the only thing that has hit the nail on the head, yet the import of that is apparently clearer to the listener than to him.
"I cannot believe", he said last Thursday, "that we are about to start the twenty-first century by having the sub-continent repeat the worst mistakes of the twentieth, when we know it is not necessary to peace, to security, to prosperity, to national greatness or national fulfilment".
"Not necessary to peace"- what a perceptive, mind-blowing riposte to all those presidents from Truman to Bush who believed it was.
So why now does the U.S. on Clinton's watch maintain such a massive nuclear arsenal, years after its confrontation with the Soviet Union is over?
It has long been argued by some quite hard nosed types such as Paul Nitze, the Reagan arms advisor and General George Lee Butler, the ex-chief of US Strategic Command, responsible for all airforce and navy nuclear weapons, that there would be no way of stopping India's relentless progression to being a fully-armed, nuclear-missile power, capable like all the others of destroying half the world in half an hour, unless the U.S. itself took a lead in slashing its own nuclear stockpile. Either the sauce that is good for the goose is good for the gander or it is not.
Endlessly these experts have touted one good idea after another. The most elementary is to speed up the Reagan-created Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) process, which means, as compensation for Senator Jesse Helms' derailing it three years ago and thus giving the backwoodsmen in the Russian Duma time to mobilise against ratification of the latest treaty, a new deal is proposed by Washington that, unlike the past ones, is weighted in Russia's favour.
This would be no great disadvantage to the U.S., if one factors in that at least 25% of Russian missiles are now inoperable for lack of maintenance.
The stumbling block with these ideas is less the military and more the politicians with their uninformed posturing, playing to a populist gallery, undereducated by a superficial media.
Those who simplistically blame the military should recall the charged moment during the preparations for the Gulf War when Defence Secretary Dick Cheney asked the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to ready plans for the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons. Colin Powell shot back, "We're not going to let that genie loose."
A growing proportion of senior military officers in the West, and in Russia too, are confident that the real deterrent in today's world is modern conventional weapons that actually can be used. Indeed, the greatest irony of the Indian explosion is that, as long as there were no nuclear weapons on the Indian subcontinent, India had the advantage in men and machines.
But a Pakistani nuclear bomb effectively neutralises an Indian armoured punch across the plains. The Indian government has shot India in both feet.
As for winding up its confrontational rhetoric with China it has taken the dangerous step of opening its mouth ten years too early.
India's present generation of nuclear tipped rockets can only reach Tibet and a part of southwestern China that is industrially inconsequential.
Whereas China can move its rockets to the Tibetan plateau overlooking India and take out nearly every important Indian city with the flick of a switch.
At this late hour, to win a reversal of the Indian and Pakistani decision, the way out points in the same direction as it did a month ago not sanctions, disapprobation and isolation.
But the promotion, long overdue, of India to the Security Council and the Group of Eight and, in return, a demand from the UN that India honour the UN's 1948 request to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir to determine whether it stay part of India or be handed over to Pakistan.
At the same time a move to rapid nuclear disarmament by the present nuclear powers - as proposed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gobachev at their summit in 1986, until they were undermined and effectively over-ruled by their experts.
If Clinton wants to avoid a nuclear catastrophe for the world and the dustbin of history for himself he has no other choice.
His reward would be just as tangible - he'll be remembered as the greatest American president of the twentieth century.
UNITED NATIONS,Saturday - Rejecting India and Pakistan's bid to join the nuclear club, the Security Council reached broad agreement late on Friday on a resolution condemning both countries for their recent atomic explosions.
Barring last minute changes, the 15-member body on Saturday will demand that India and Pakistan "refrain from further nuclear tests" and will call on all states not to conduct any atomic explosions.
"We have a good strong text that sends an unmistakable message to India and Pakistan that they must stop their current proliferation policies and rejoin the international community," U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson said.
The resolution was originated by Japan, whose abhorrence of nuclear weapons dates to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States in 1945. It is co-sponsored by Costa Rica, Sweden and Slovenia
Discussions were bogged down for hours on Friday as Brazil, which has renounced its own nuclear weapons programme, lobbied for a stronger reference to a pledge from the five acknowledged nuclear powers to eliminate their arsenals.
In the end, members settled for "welcoming the determination" of the five powers to fulfil their commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995.
This convention commits Russia, China, Britain, France and the United States, all of whom had tested a nuclear weapon before 1967, to work toward atomic disarmament. In turn the rest of the world promised not to acquire nuclear weapons.
India and Pakistan have not signed the treaty, contending the stalled disarmament among the nuclear powers was unfair to all other nations.
The five nuclear powers are also permanent members of the Security Council. But only the United States had the bomb when the United Nations was founded in 1945.
The draft in general reflects and endorses the joint communique the five approved in Geneva on Thursday at an emergency meeting of their respective foreign ministers.
By getting approval of the 10 non-nuclear states in the Security Council, diplomats say they hope to send a message to India and Pakistan that disapproval of their actions extends beyond the five powers.
But as in Geneva there are no international sanctions and Japan's effort to get the council to threaten further measures was deleted.
India, which first exploded a bomb in 1974, conducted five underground explosions on May 11 and 13. Pakistan followed with seven tests on May 28 and May 30.
The resolution also urges India and Pakistan to resume the high-level dialogue between them on all issues, including the disputed region of Kashmir.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars since 1947 over Kashmir, which is divided between them.
The document calls upon both countries to immediately stop their nuclear weapons development programmes as well as work on ballistic missiles capable of delivering atomic arms.
And it "expresses its firm conviction" that neither country could have "the status of a nuclear-weapon state."
Nations are "encouraged" but not ordered to prevent any material or equipment from reaching India or Pakistan that could be used in nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles capable of delivering them.
NEW DELHI,Satrurday - India on Friday accused the Big Five nuclear powers of turning a blind eye to violations by China of non-proliferation accords and rejected any outside involvement in its dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
New Delhi held back all day from responding to Thursday's joint communique from the United States, China, Britain, Russia, and France — the so-called Big Five nuclear powers or P-5 — on last month's nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, which have heightened tensions on the subcontinent.
But a statement late on Friday by India's Ministry of External Affairs, in a clear reference to New Delhi's accusation that China has been aiding Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, said: "The clandestine transfer over the years of nuclear weapons technology and fissile material to our neighbourhood is well known."
"The P-5 are not unaware that one of the most serious threats to our security has arisen because of the non-observance of the obligations they have undertaken under the NPT...Nevertheless the P-5 have declined to take any action to address a serious violation of a treaty provision to which all of them were party."
Minister of State for External Affairs Vasundhara Raje told parliament on Thursday India was aware of China's involvement in Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.
"China has provided assistance, inter alia, in setting up unsafeguarded research reactor and plutonium reprocessing facility, providing ring magnets, heavy water, diagnostic equipment et cetera," she said.
Friday's statement said India had not violated any treaty provisions it had undertaken.
"Our (nuclear) tests are not directed against any country. We have not raised tensions nor do we intend to do so. India remains strongly committed to a comprehensive, universal and non-discriminatory global nuclear disarmament regime."
Foreign ministers of the P-5 meeting in Geneva on Thursday called on India and Pakistan to "stop all further such (nuclear) tests" and refrain from deploying nuclear weapons.
The Indian statement hit back by saying the Big Five had not taken "credible and effective steps" towards nuclear disarmament.
"What has been put in place is a deeply flawed and discriminatory non-proliferation system which has legitimised the possession of nuclear weapons by a few countries and their presence in our neighbourhood," it said.
The Big Five communique said despite their nuclear tests, India and Pakistan "do not have the status of nuclear weapons states" under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Indian statement ignored this rebuff and said in keeping with its "responsible approach as a nuclear weapons state" India was committed to continue "observing the strictest control on export of nuclear material or related technologies".
The Indian statement noted New Delhi would observe a moratorium on further nuclear testing, if necessary by formalising the self-imposed ban by law.
It said India was also willing to participate in negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Convention in the Conference on Disarmament, and repeated it was ready to discuss a non-first-use agreement on nuclear weapons bilaterally with Pakistan, as well as bilaterally or in a forum with other countries.
In response to the P-5 ministers' plea that New Delhi and Islamabad discuss issues at the root of tension between them "including Kashmir" the Indian statement said: "We reiterate once again that there is no room for any outside involvement of any nature whatsoever in this process."
Earlier on Friday Pakistan expressed satisfaction that the Big Five had mentioned the Kashmir dispute, which Islamabad insists is the "core issue" in any peace talks with its arch-rival.
The Indian statement listed several issues it had proposed for talks with Pakistan and added: " Our specific and well-considered proposals for modalities for further talks have been with Pakistan since January 1998 and a response from them is awaited."
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