March 2011, Week 2


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Wed, 9 Mar 2011 21:57:30 -0500
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Pakistan’s Nukes :The U.S. Connection

Dispatches From The Edge
Conn Hallinan 
Washington—New American intelligence assessments have
concluded that Pakistan has steadily expanded its nuclear
arsenal since President Obama came to office…for the Obama
administration the assessment poses a direct challenge to
a central element of the President’s national security
strategy, the reduction of nuclear stockpiles around the
world.”—New York Times

The above words, written this past February, were followed
by a Times editorial, titled “Pakistan’s Nuclear Folly,”
decrying that “the weapons buildup has gotten too little
attention,” and calling on Washington to “look for points
of leverage” to stop it.

Well, the administration and the Times may be unhappy
about Pakistan’s nuclear buildup, but it certainly should
not have come as a surprise, nor is there much of a secret
to the “points of leverage” that would almost certainly
put a stopper on it: scupper the so-called 1-2-3 Agreement
between the U.S. and India.

Back in 2003, Douglas Feith, then Under Secretary of
Defense for Policy in the Bush Administration, pulled
together a meeting of the U.S.-India Defense Policy Group
to map out a blueprint for pulling New Delhi into an
alliance against China. The code word used during the
discussions was “stability,” but as P.R. Chari of the
Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies noted, “What they
really mean is how to deal with China.”

The Bush administration changed the Clinton
Administration’s designation of China as a “strategic
partner” to “strategic competitor,” and in its U.S.-China
Security Review concluded that Beijing is “in direct
competition with us for influence in Asia and beyond” and
that in “the worst case this could lead to war.” Another
Pentagon document revealed by Jane’s Foreign Report argued
that both India and the U.S. were threatened by China, and
that “India should emerge as a vital component of US

One of the obstacles to that alliance was the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which blocks any country
that is not a signer from buying nuclear fuel on the world
market. Since neither India nor Pakistan has signed the
Treaty, they can’t buy fuel from the 45-member Nuclear
Suppliers Group. That has been particularly hard on India
because it has few native uranium sources and has to split
those between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. The ban,
however, is central to the NPT, and one of the few checks
on nuclear proliferation.

But the Bush administration proposed bypassing the NPT
with the so-called 1-2-3 Agreement that permitted India to
purchase nuclear materials even though New Delhi refused
to sign the Treaty. India would agree to use the nuclear
fuel only in its civilian plants and open those plants for
inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA). But the Agreement also allowed India to divert its
own domestic supplies to its weapons program, and those
plants would remain off the inspection grid. In short,
India would no longer have to choose between nuclear power
and nuclear weapons: it could have both.

In July 2008, Pakistan’s then Foreign Minister Khurshid
Kusuri predicted that if the 1-2-3 Agreement went through,
“The whole Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will unravel,”
and, in a letter to the IAEA, Pakistan warned that the
pact “threatens to increase the chances of a nuclear arms
race in the subcontinent.”

However, neither the Bush administration nor the Obama
administration paid any attention to Pakistan’s
complaints. The results were predictable.  Pakistan ramped
up its nuclear weapons program and may soon pass Britain
as the fifth largest nuclear weapons nation in the world.

It also dug in its heels at the 65-nation 2011 Conference
on Disarmament in Geneva and blocked a proposal to halt
the production of nuclear weapons-making material.  The
1-2-3 Agreement and the push to bring India into the
Nuclear Suppliers group, warned Ambassador Zamir Akram,
were “undermining the validity and sanctity of the
international non-proliferation regime” and would “further
destabilize security in South Asia.” The Fissile Material
Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) is a priority for the Obama

Islamabad is not alone in its criticism of the 1-2-3
Agreement or the FMCT. A number of nations are challenging
NPT signers, including the U.S., China, Russia, Britain
and France, to fulfill Article VI of the NPT that requires
the elimination of nuclear weapons. While the U.S. and
Russia have reduced their arsenals, both still have
thousands of weapons, and the Americans are in the process
of modernizing their current warheads.

Pakistan is a far smaller country than India, and would
likely face defeat in a conventional conflict. It has
already lost three wars to India. Its ace in the hole is
nuclear weapons, and some Pakistanis have a distressingly
casual view of nuclear war. “You can die crossing the
street, or you could die in a nuclear war,” remarked
former Pakistan army chief Gen. Mirza Aslem Beg. A BBC
poll found that the Pakistani public has an “abysmally
low” understanding of the threat.

Many Indians are not much better. Former Indian Defense
Minister Georges Fernandes commented that “India can
survive a nuclear attack, but Pakistan cannot.” And that
same BBC poll found that for most Indians “the terror of a
nuclear conflict is hard to imagine.”

Both countries have recently rolled out cruise missiles
that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The
Pakistani Hatf-7, or “Babur,” has a range of almost 500
miles and a speed of 550 miles. It appears to have been
copied from the U.S. BGM-109 “Tomahawk,” several of which
crashed in Pakistan during 1998 air strikes against
Afghanistan. The Indian PJ-10 BrahMos cruise has a shorter
range—180 miles—but a top speed of 2100 mph. India and
Pakistan also have ballistic missiles capable of striking
major cities in both countries.

In its editorial declaiming Pakistan as guilty of “nuclear
folly,” the Times pointed out that “Pakistan cannot feed
its people [or] educate its children.” Neither can India.
As a 2010 United Nations Development Program report
discovered, as bad as things are in Pakistan, life
expectancy is lower in India, and the gap between rich and
poor is greater. In fact, neither country can afford large
militaries—Pakistan spends 35 percent of its budget on
arms, and India is in the middle of a $40 billion military
spending spree—and a nuclear war would not only destroy
both countries, but also profoundly affect the entire

Nuclear weapons are always folly, but what is sauce for
the goose is sauce for the gander. The U.S. currently
spends in excess of $1 trillion a year on all defense and
security related items, while our education system is
starving, our infrastructure is collapsing, and hunger and
illiteracy are spreading.  If the Times wants to ratchet
down tensions in South Asia, let it call for dumping the
1-2-3 Agreement and beginning the process called for in
Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: “Each
of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue
negotiations in good faith on effective measure relating
to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date
and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty of general and
complete disarmament under strict and effective
international control.”


Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com


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