Acquisition of more weapons by India


PATRON Lt Gen (Retd) SARDAR FS LODI discusses the procurement of more nuclear weapons by India.

India continues to purchase large quantities of modern and sophisticated arms from abroad. The latest cause for anxiety and alarm is India's defence agreement signed with Russia, during Russian Prime Minister Primakov's recent visit to India. Under the agreement India will spend a staggering amount of US $ 15 billion to purchase latest arms and weapon systems from Russia which includes the new anti-missile system S-300, the latest T-90 tanks, additional SU-30 state-of-the-art fighter aircraft, three modern frigates, one nuclear submarine and the updating of India's large fleet of MIG-21 aircraft.

The induction of S-300 anti-missile system into the already bloated, Indian arms arsenal, is an attempt to neutralize Pakistan's ballistic missile capability. This would add a new and dangerous dimension to the arms proliferation in South Asia as the strategic balance would again have been disturbed in favour of India. Pakistan would consequently have to adopt appropriate measures to safeguard its military and strategic options.

By India forging new defence ties with Russia and making heavy purchases of modern weapons, her real and aggressive intentions in the region become apparent. If she wants peace in the area on the basis of sovereign equality of nations this is the time, while there is defence parity between India and Pakistan. But it seems India wants peace on her own terms by the threat or use of force, which can never be durable. Since May 1998 when India and Pakistan became overt nuclear powers both have maintained an undeployed nuclear deterrent for their own national security. This' it was hoped would help to maintain peace in the region. Both sides were coming around to the idea of a minimum deterrent in terms of missiles and warheads. This mutual understanding would avoid a nuclear arms race in South Asia.

With the induction of an anti-missile system it is evident that India is planning to change the defence equilibrium in her favour by depriving Pakistan of its missile capability. This requirement could only arise when India's intentions were far from honourable and in fact offensive in nature. Pakistan will have to take effective counter-measures, which would have to be offensive and defensive in nature. In the offensive one, more missiles will need to be stockpiled and fired from dispersed locations to dispersed targets. It is estimated by experts that over 60 per cent of the attacking ballistic missiles should get through to their targets, inspite of an anti-missile system being deployed by the defence. As for the defensive measures, there are only two countries in the world who are developing anti-missile systems at present, with some measure of success, these are the United States and Russia and both will not help Pakistan. China is, however, likely to help Pakistan when it develops an anti-missile system of its own.

How accurate and effective would be the Russian S-300 anti-missile system, being planned for deployment by India, prove to be, is still a matter of conjecture although press reports indicate that the system shot down 60 tactical ballistic missiles at a demonstration in Russia, showing a single-shot probability of 40 to 70 per cent. Although the United States with a much more advanced technical base has not been able to perfect an anti-missile system yet owing to the high speed of re-entry of a ballistic missile. The Patriot missile used in the Gulf War was designed as a high altitude air defence missile system and its use against Iraqi SCUD missiles was an effort to diversify its role. Which it was hoped would boost public and military morale with the confidence that a weapon was available to provide protection against the incoming SCUD missile. At present also the United States does not possess a satisfactory answer to a missile threat.

The International Herald Tribune reported in its issue of Wednesday, May 13, 1998 that 'The Pentagon's missile defence system failed a fifth attempt to intercept a target on Tuesday (May 12). The Theatre High Altitude Area Defence or THAAD system, built by Lockheed Martin Corp, failed to intercept a target in flight test at white Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the Pentagon said. It appeared to be caused by a booster rocket problem. Preliminary investigation indicates that the THAAD missile lost control shortly after launch, the statement said. Analysis of the flight data is underway to determine the cause of the malfunction. This failure is a major blow to the THAAD programme, which has been struggling to prove it could be used to defend US troops in the field against missile attack'.

The report goes on to say that, 'The THAAD system is designed to provide US forces in the field protection from attack by SCUD and other short and medium-range missiles. Its technology involves 'hitting a bullet with a bullet', a technical challenge the programme's designers and managers have so far failed to meet. THAAD is designed to provide broader defence coverage than the PATRIOT missile system first used in the 1991 Gulf War. The failure could have implications beyond theatre missile defences and affect debate over development of a national missile defence shield'.

The report concludes by saying that 'Senate Republicans impatient with the pace of the Pentagon's efforts to develop a national missile defence system, are pressing to commit the nation to such a shield even before the technology is fully developed. The administration's present programme requires identifying an emerging ballistic missile threat first; then, if necessary, three years would be provided to put the programme into effect'.

From the foregoing account it is evident that even eight years after the Gulf War the West does not have a satisfactory answer to the Russian designed SCUD missiles used by Iraq during the Gulf War in 1991. The answer is of course in an adequate second strike capability or even a preemptive one. The question is, why is India keen to invest a large amount in acquiring the Russian S-300 anti-missile system, which Europe refers to as the 'Grumble missiles'. Each missile system costs over Rs. 800 crore and consists of target tracking missile and radar, and four launchers with missiles. India's problem could well be that the Pakistani missiles are more accurate and reliable in the launch and flight. As Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's top nuclear scientist said in November 1998 that the Ghauri missile has an accuracy rate of 99.94 per cent. In January 1999 Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan said that the missile could hit any Indian city within 10 to 15 minutes at a speed of three kilometres per second. He reiterated that Pakistani missiles could not be neutralized or destroyed once they were launched.

Another reassuring aspect of the nuclear deterrent is, that Pakistan has an assured second strike capability that cannot be neutralized or destroyed. In other words if India was to launch a nuclear strike against Pakistan, it could face massive retaliation as Pakistan's counter-strike capability would, by and large be intact. India is aware of this contention as it was also publicly hinted at, by their outgoing Naval Chief Admiral Vishna Bhagwat. India does not seem to reconcile itself with defence parity in South Asia brought about by the nuclear deterrent creating equilibrium of forces, essential for lasting peace in South Asia. India is attempting to regain military ascendancy in her stance towards Pakistan, by inducting superior arms and equipment into her forces. This is bound to increase, to a certain amount a form of nuclear arms race in the region, at a time when attempts are being made to foster some understanding between the two countries.

As far as Pakistan is concerned the present government, eversince coming into power has consistently been making efforts to solve all outstanding issues with India peacefully and avoiding any confrontation. Recently on January 9, 1999 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated that 'we are a peaceful country and we do not threaten anyone. We want to have the best of relations with all countries, especially our neighbours'. He went on to say, 'But we are a proud, a self-respecting nation. We refuse to be browbeaten; we reject unfair and unjust efforts to deny us our right to self-defence. On the other hand the Indian Prime Minister Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee while addressing a public meeting in Bangalore on January 4, 1999 had said that the Kashmir territory forcibly occupied by Pakistan would be demanded back in future peace talks. Such statements by responsible leaders do excite public opinion and hamper peace talks. The Indian Army Chief had to add his bit by saying on November 29, 1998 in New Delhi that India needed a nuclear deterrent to keep Pakistan from fuelling more insurgency in its territory. He said Islamabad has intensified its interference in Kashmir. Was he suggesting use of nuclear weapons in Kashmir where he has already moved surface-to-surface missiles.

So it can be seen that the threat emanates from India not Pakistan, yet India continues to arm. While she is purchasing arms at a hectic pace she makes an effort to deny the same weapons to Pakistan. After signing the defence deal with India worth US $ 15 billion the Russian Prime Minister said, no doubt on India's behest that Russia would not provide military equipment or supplies to Pakistan. Similar policy is being attempted in France which is now a major source of Defence supplies for Pakistan. The Indian Defence Minister Mr George Fernandes after returning from a four-day trip to France said in an interview to the Press Trust of India that India and France are seeking to develop their defence cooperation into a long-term military partnership. 'There is already a very close relationship between defence enterprises of the two countries', he said 'besides cooperation between (India's) Defence Research and Development Organization and its French equivalent'. He dangled the carrot by saying that New Delhi would decide soon on the US $ 1.16 billion military jet trainer deal for which Britain, France and Russia are bidding. The French Dassault Aviation recently transferred technology to India to overhaul its Mirage-2000s and offered ten more fighters at the original 1982 prices which New Delhi has reportedly accepted as a 'War reserve'.

The United States Government is making every effort to see that peace prevails in South Asia and the region around it, yet Russia is being allowed to destabilize South Asia by supplying another 15 billion dollars worth of modern equipment. When India has already deployed a one billion dollar air defence artillery system procured from Russia. India's director of Air Defence Artillery Lt. General A. Mukherjee said in New Delhi on January 9, 1999 that the Russian made air defence system called 'Tungushka' was fully inducted into the forces. These have been deployed in Indian-occupied Kashmir and the northern desert state of Rajasthan to 'provide battlefield support to tank regiments' and air cover to attacking artillery formations. The system has twin high velocity machine-guns and eight radar guided missile batteries. It is able to track and attack several targets at the same time, including, helicopters, fighter aircraft and cruise missiles. The system is said to be the most advanced of its kind in the world.

India's acquisition of more weapons is certainly against the spirit of fostering and encouraging confidence building measures in South Asia that would be conducive to and help the peace talks that are going on between India and Pakistan. But India's decision to import 15 billion dollars worth of modern sophisticated arms rings alarm bells in Pakistan. As Pakistan foreign secretary said at a press conference in Islamabad on 28 November 1998 that Pakistan was concerned over the latest defence agreement between Russia and India for supplying sophisticated weapons, which would aggravate the security situation in South Asia. He said Pakistan had noted with disappointment that Russia, one of G-8 group, which are committed to non-proliferation, is becoming a party to arms race in the region.

While briefing the press in Islamabad on 24 December 1998, Foreign Office spokesman Mr Tariq Altaf expressed the government's grave concern and dismay on the Indo-Russian military cooperation agreement signed in New Delhi on 21 December and said it 'would destroy the balance of power in an already precarious and highly volatile security environment' he went on to warn that as a result of this agreement the bilateral Delhi-Islamabad dialogue process will suffer immeasurably. He said that at the turn of the millennium when promotion of peace and economic development are focus of endeavours in other regions, South Asia must bear the burdens of new weaponization for the fulfilment of India's hegemonistic goals. He said South Asia as a region could hardly afford an arms race and added, the agreement will force Pakistan to appropriately augment its defence capabilities by all available means.

Similarly the Foreign Minister Mr Sartaj Aziz while talking to the visiting British Permanent Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Sir John Kerr, at Islamabad on 28 December 1998, expressed concern over the arms build-up by India and stressed the need for finding a just solution to the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions. This he said was imperative for lasting peace in the region.

In the end India must now realize that the acquisition of additional sophisticated weapons into the region will not serve the cause of peace and economic progress that the peoples of South Asia now desire. Induction of additional weapons will increase tension and eventually lead to a conflict. Source of the on-going dispute and confrontation must be resolved. The core issue of course remains Kashmir which must be accorded the highest priority and settled in accordance with the wishes of its people.