Nuclear Missile Defence and India's Options --

IDC Analysis

New Delhi, 22 May 2001

Four Elements of NMD

It’s three weeks since President Bush announced his NMD plan despite the 1972 ABM Treaty, on the grounds that the cold war between Russia and US is over. So is the concept of MAD, hence the world must take a relook at the nuclear defence and disarmament systems as a whole. To support his missile defence shield, Bush has offered limited cover to all friends and allies –– who give up their right to manufacture missiles –– and reduction of US nuclear weapons by as much as 70 percent.

His envoys have been to the capitals of several important countries to explain and obtain a ‘no objection’ to the American proposals. The Foreign Ministers of Russia and US have also had a round of talks and a summit between Bush and Putin has now been preponed to mid Jun to continue the dialogue. However, a hint has been dropped by American Secretary of State Powell that discussions on the US proposals cannot go on and on. In Delhi Richard Armitage the US Deputy Secretary Defence talked of the 'four elements' of the framework: non proliferation, counter proliferation, missile defence and reduction in US strategic nuclear arsenal.

World Reactions

The reactions of the world can be summed up in three categories, firstly of unqualified support from Australia and UK, secondly welcome to further nuclear disarmament but no abrogation of existing arms control treaties without putting up alternative structures and questions on the extent of the missile defence programme that US has in mind. Most European and other countries except China fall in this group. The third reaction is of general opposition led by China and supported by Pakistan for whom the development and deployment of ballistic missile defence would jeopardise strategic stability, trigger a new arms race and undermine international efforts aimed at arms control and disarmament.

With the second largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, Russia despite its diminished economic status, still remains a force not to be disregarded. Hence Bush is prepared to have detailed discussions with them to arrive at as much mutual understanding as possible. But there are strong hints that Moscow whilst being critical in public would press in private for a prominent role in a missile defense programme, like other major NATO countries. In other words Russia would press for a "joint" approach to missile threats in which it could participate with the Americans, the Europeans and others as partners. Their position should become more evident after the summit in June.

Technological Supremacy

It is clear that everyone is aware of the underlying American intentions of keeping an undisputed lead over the rest of the world and ensuring its national/territorial security to an impregnable degree. The tools that they have are their vast economic resources and technological prowess. They are aware that whilst they could be possibly challenged in the economic field by a single country (China) or a combination –– China, Japan, Russia, Europe and/or India, their overwhelming superiority in discovering, harnessing and mastering newer technologies will remain supreme for at least a century to come. They have been able to manage and control to their advantage the present 20th century world order and the state of armament (nuclear included),. Their concern is for the new millennium, which they want to lead on the technological front. The first indication of which is the missile shield using the mediums of land, sea, air and space.

Weaponisation of space though not spelt out in clear cut terms is implied. They are also fairly confident that they neither have to fear or defend anyone in Europe. The African continent is the sick man of the world and can be taken care of by economic means. The arena of attrition hereafter lies in the Asia and Pacific region. Hence the antimissile shield to protect their own territory and people, and a capability of long distance warfare –– the ability to inflict without self-infliction. These are the US military/strategic aims, which can be achieved only by use of long-distance missiles, UAVs, submarines and space. The first part, the missile shield has been unfolded by Bush already in his address at the US National Defence University and the second one will be done by him next week at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis.

India’s Options

Let us now look at what India should do. The next two decades will pose following demands on its policy and strategy:

(a)     A sizable foreign investment and trade.

(b)     Continuation and acceptance of multiethnic, multireligious and democratic socio-political structures, for which support on Kashmir is essential.

(c)     Access to advanced technologies.

(d)     Removal of constraints of CTBT and recognition as a nuclear power.

(e)     A permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

(f)       Acceptance of its natural role in South East Asia commensurate with its size, population and economic potential.

Reopening of existing nuclear arms treaties by US and discussions to build new regulations will help India’s cause for recognition as a nuclear power and remove the irritants of CTBT. A vibrant economic partnership between the world’s two great democracies should be the natural goal, which is quite possible due to India's potentially huge market and the highly visible role played by Indians in key sectors of the US economy. Lifting of US sanctions imposed after the Pokhran II will give access to advanced technologies. US understanding of India’s position on Kashmir has become more positive after their own experience with terrorism and the drug menace. Thus India stands to benefit on all counts from a positive and more friendly relationship with the US as commonality of interests now are in ascendancy as never before. Hence we need not go out of our way to find holes in the US policies. What we need to safeguard is that our search for friendliness with the US does not come in the way of our time tested friendship with Russia and is not at the cost of an even relationship with China. The Indian Government’s stance so far on the American proposals has been in consonance with the above inferences.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has lauded Bush's vision of nuclear disarmament but has stopped short of openly endorsing the NMD plan. He also pointed out that India would retain its minimum viable nuclear deterrence. Despite virtually being the first on the block in welcoming the Bush speech, New Delhi's formal response has not been without nuances. India needs to remain in close touch with Russia and France and be aware of Chinese machinations, in building up its own public stand on new American politico military policies.

Effect on ABM Treaty

Under the new NMD concept, the ABM treaty will go for a six. The ABM treaty was signed in 1972 between USA and then USSR. It prohibited manufacture of  defensive ballistic missiles. It was amended in 1997 when it permitted for area defence provided  that the development did not involve testing against missiles having ranges in excess of 3500km and/or speeds in excess of 5000 m/sec. USA wants to keep ahead of technology and has a hidden agenda for NMD as a push for its Military Industrial Complex.  Armitage calls this " a new security regime for the whole globe“ and it is not for India to argue, as we can gain brownie points if we do not oppose USA.

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