The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, September 30, 2001

Defusing South Asian tensions
Review by Ivninderpal Singh

Nuclear and Missile Race in South Asia: Relevance of Military Restructuring
by Vinay Kumar Malhotra. Wisdom House Publications Ltd., England. Pages 144. Rs 225.

TWENTY-FOUR years after taking the first major step towards demonstrating its nuclear capability, India displayed its nuclear prowess once again in May, 1998, by successfully conducting five nuclear tests at Pokhran. Pakistan gave a fitting and timely response by exploding five nuclear devices, the country’s first-ever nuclear tests.

Along with the development of nuclear technology, both countries are making missiles to threaten each other, thus escalating tension in South Asia. Though India is depending on indigenous technology in this missile-making race, Pakistan is taking the help of China and North Korea.

With Pakistan following India in testing its nuclear capabilities and both competing in the collection of missiles of different ranges, the security situation in South Asia has been radically transformed. Both factors have ignited a regional cold war between the two countries as they have triggered off an arms race in South Asia.


Nuclear and Missile Race in South Asia: Relevance of Military RestructuringMany questions arise from this situation which remain unanswered for peace researchers. Are both countries in a position to carry on with such costly nuclear and missile race when around half of their population is not getting two meals a day and other basic needs? Should they spend money on development of national infrastructure or on such things which destroy the already developed infrastructure and are against humanity? Why both countries are spending too much on military build-up rather then on social and economic sectors?

This book is an outcome of a peace project that was financially backed by the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI). The author has stressed the need for propagating non-offensive defence (NOD) and military restructuring as these have assumed greater significance in South Asia in the wake of arms race in this part of the world.

He has also discussed the nuclear race and missile development programmes of India and Pakistan. Military expenditure of South Asian countries and major world powers have also been discussed along with the military restructuring experience of West Europe, South Africa, the USA and China and the lessons to be learnt by South Asia.

Explaining the concept of NOD, the author says, "Armed forces and military postures should be restructured with a view to maximising their defensive and minimising their offensive capabilities… The role and capability of a weapon makes it either offensive or defensive," he writes. "Weapons like tanks, artillery, warships, combat aircraft and helicopters are considered as offensive and thus incompatible with NOD. On the other hand, fortification, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons are regarded as defensive."

The author opines that the defence forces should be restructured in such a way that they provide deterrence by offering an obstacle to invasion, but which would not themselves threaten others with invasion or obliteration. The adoption of NOD would eliminate a chain action reaction—escalation in the arms race. And this is the need of the hour as both countries cannot afford to spend too much on military build-up when there is a long agenda of unfinished work in social and economic sectors..

The nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan, their ramifications, change of position in the world nuclear map and its effects on the nuclear nonproliferation regime have also been discussed. These countries are now endeavouring to build a range of delivery systems to drop these bombs accurately and quickly.

A comprehensive and comparative analysis of the missile capability has also been done. One can know about the nature of a missile (surface-to-surface, surface-to-air or anti-tank), its range, cost per unit, nature of fuel used and other details from this book. The latest medium range indigenously developed smissile, Dhanush, a navel version of Prithvi, has also not escaped the author’s attention.

The author has discussed many other countries which have adopted the NOD up to a certain extent. Changes in nature of weapons and military restructuring by Russia, European countries, China, etc. have been highlighted. The role of China in escalating the arms race in the South Asian region has been discussed in detail along with instances when China passed on nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, China is perceived as a major power with economic and military resources to play a global role. India’s nuclear tests were directed more towards checking the increasing influence of China than tackling the security threat from Pakistan.

The emergence of the "China factor" has changed the face of this region which now attracts the attention of peace researchers.

From May to July, 1999, India and Pakistan were engaged in a war-like situation. This limited war in Kargil (Kashmir) threatened the peace of the whole region. The author has suggested many peace tasks to avoid such low-intensity conflicts which have the capability of turning into a full fledged war.

Overall it is a book on peace. The author has stressed on the fact that as both India and Pakistan are facing social and economic problems that require immediate attention, they should curtail their military expenditure and restructure the armed forces in such a way to strengthen its defence capabilities. But to what extent will such ideas find acceptance? Many a time these are confined to the academic community and only lauded at seminars and conferences, but never implemented. Still it is a commendable effort which may attract the attention of policy makers of this region.