Inciting Impediments: The Harm of U.S. Nuclear Policies to Prospects for Peace in India and Pakistan
Elizabeth J. Shafer, J.D.
Board Member, Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy
The current crisis--of India and Pakistan, both nuclear-capable states, with thousands of troops massed along the international border and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir--has existed since December 2001, but has deep longstanding roots, and is now exacerbated by U.S nuclear and other military policies.
The ongoing U.S.-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan was listed in April 2002 by Admiral L. Ramdas, Former Chief of the Indian Navy, as a major factor in increased nuclear tensions in South Asia. U.S. involvement, such as enlisting Musharraff to crack down on the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other extremist groups in Pakistan, has led to large migrations of militants across porous borders, violent incidents by both Islamic and Hindu extremists, and insistence by India for immediate, effective cessation of terrorist infiltrations to avoid an imminent Indo-Pakistan war.
Within India, America's rationale for bombing Afghanistan "is most often cited in justifying a similar Indian strategy..."On what grounds, asked Bharat Karnad, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, 'would the Americans protest the Indians doing to Pakistan precisely what Americans are doing in Afghanistan to root out terrorism?'" (Celia Dugger, "India and Pakistan Face New Pressures for War, and Peace", New York Times) Continued U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, with all the attendant risks to civilians, and the recent disclosure of hundreds of civilian deaths, underscore this position.
Linking the U.S.-led war on terrorism to rising nuclear tensions in South Asia, Admiral Ramdas notes specific dangers such as the safety and control of India's nuclear arsenal, and emphasises the rudimentary command and control systems of both India and Pakistan. Ramdas warns trenchantly, "This threat is real...The chances of a nuclear exchange due to miscalculation, misinterpretation or by accident are therefore very real indeed." ("Challenges and Opportunities for Nuclear Disarmament in South Asia", speech given at the Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] PrepCom at the United Nations, April 2002).
Three other, specifically nuclear policies of the U.S. are listed by Admiral Ramdas as disincentives to nuclear disarmament in South Asia. These are: "the leaked details of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review indicating [U.S.] nuclear war plans against non-nuclear states that are party to the NPT and possible move [by the U.S.] to develop and use more usable nuclear weapons; the abrogation of the AntiBallistic Missile Treaty (ABM) by the U.S. and [U.S.] policies regarding national missile defense (NMD) programs; and the failure [of the U.S.) to ratify The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty." (Ramdas, speech, op. cit..)
More basic is the U.S. failure, for more than three decades, to carry out its legal obligations--along with those of the four other nuclear weapon states (NWS) under the NPT. This Treaty, inherently discriminatory in legitimizing the possession and development of nuclear weapons by five states while prohibiting all other states from acquiring them, has been made further flawed and endangered by the consistent refusal of the U.S and the other NWS to execute their legal obligations under Article VI to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control".
Viewed in the larger context--the longstanding and ongoing failure of the U.S. in its nuclear policies, as well as other U.S. military policies that are currently exacerbating, rather than defusing, nuclear tensions in South Asia, the U.S. practice of sending Rumsfeld, Armitage, and other envoys seems not only arrogant and hypocritical but also short-sighted and beside the point.
Concerted citizen action is essential now. We urge you to write to your elected officials and request that the U.S. immediately:
Following is a list of relevant names and contact information: