By Sajjad Shaukat
During American President Barack Obama’s visit to India, on January 25, this year, the US and India announced a breakthrough on a pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology.
In this regard, both the countries had signed a deal in 2008, but, Indian access to civilian nuclear technology was held up for six years amid concerns over the liability for any nuclear accident or Indian poor nuclear safety.
However, an alarming increase has been witnessed in the acquisition of arms and ammunition on the part of India; and it is likely to spend around $250 bn. on acquisition of weapons in next few years. The appetite is regional-specific with Pakistan being the prime target including China. India has developed considerable nuclear weaponry and delivery systems, and its armed forces have been equipped with nuclear weapons. In fact, India’s eagerness for entry into Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and other regimes is aimed at enhancing Defence-related capacities rather than meeting its energy requirements.
Therefore, extension of specific exemption to India by the US would be harmful to the norms of nuclear non-proliferation treaties/regimes and runs against the ethics of American nation. In this respect, US apprehensions are justified, as India may also use nuclear technology covertly for production of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), as since independence, it is busy in acquisition of these fatal weapons.
It is notable that in its report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) disclosed on March 20, 2012, “India is the world’s largest recipient of arms.”
New Delhi’s military is acquiring equipments from combat aircraft to submarines and artillery. It has almost finalized a deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to buy 126 Rafale fighter jets in a contract worth an estimated $11 billion.
On November 2, 2010, US agreed to sell India the most expensive—the new F-35 fighter jets including US F-16 and F-18 fighters, C-17 and C-130 aircraft, radar systems, Harpoon weapons etc. Besides acquisition of arms and weapons from other western countries—especially Israel, America is a potential military supplier to India.
In recent past, Ne Delhi also signed an upgrade service contract with the Russian Aircraft Corporation to upgrade its MiG 29 squadrons. Several deals are planned for the near future including one of the largest arms contracts of recent times—12 billion-dollar project to acquire 126 multi-role combat aircraft.
Particularly, on October 15, 2010, under the Pak-China pretext, the then Indian Army Chief Gen. VK Singh had openly blamed that China and Pakistan posed a major threat to India’s security, while calling for a need to upgrade country’s defence. Indian former Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor had also expressed similar thoughts.
Defence experts opine that taking the concept of a two front war, India has launched an ambitious military buildup plan along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in state of Arunachal Pradesh and Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir near Pakistan. Under the pretext, India has been fulfilling its unlimited nuclear ambition. With American support, New Delhi which has obtain the NSG waiver has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with France, Russia, United Kingdom and some other countries.
It is mentionable that Indian past record proves various kinds of security lapses regarding various nuclear plants and the related sensitive materials including events of nuclear theft, smuggling and killing.
In this context, in the end of November, 2009, more than 90 Indian workers suffered radiation due to contamination of drinking water at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka. On July 27, 1991, a similar event took place at the heavy water plant run by the Department of Atomic Energy at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan. Nuclear radiation had affected and injured many labourers there. In July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seized eight Kg. of nuclear material from three engineers in Chennai, which was stolen from an atomic research center.
On November 7, 2000, International Atomic Agency (IAEA) disclosed that Indian police had seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men for illicit trafficking of radioactive material. IAEA had revealed that Indian civil nuclear facilities were vulnerable to thefts.
On January 26, 2003, CNN pointed out that Indian company, NEC Engineers Private Ltd. shipped 10 consignments to Iraq, containing highly sensitive equipments entailing titanium vessels and centrifugal pumps.
In February 2004, India’s Ambassador to Libya, Dinkar Srivastava revealed that New Delhi was investigating that retired Indian scientists could possibly be engaged in “high technology programs” for financial gains during employment in the Libyan government.
In December 2005, US imposed sanctions on two Indian firms for selling missile goods and chemical arms material to Iran in violation of India’s commitment to prevent proliferation. In the same year, Indian scientists, Dr. Surendar and Y. S. R Prasad had been blacklisted by Washington due to their involvement in nuclear theft.
In December 2006, a container packed with radioactive material had been stolen from an Indian fortified research atomic facility near Mumbai.
In June 2009, India’s nuclear scientist, Lokanathan Mahalingam missed from the scenario and after a couple of days; his dead body was recovered from the Kali River. Indian police concocted a story that Mahalingam had committed suicide by jumping into the river. It is a big joke to hide some real facts behind his death because wisdom proves that if an educated person decides to commit suicide, he will definitely adopt a soft way to eliminate his life. Afterwards, Dr. Haleema Saadia said that death of the scientist was a conspiracy.
It is regrettable that by setting aside the Indian irresponsible record of proliferation, security lapses and poor safety, especially, the US is likely to supply India civil nuclear technology.
Although peace and brinksmanship cannot co-exist in the modern era, yet India seeks to destabilize South Asia through its aggressive designs. Coupled with the acquisition of its other defence-related arms, India’s unlimited nuclear ambition is posing a serious threat to the whole world.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations