Connect with us

South Asia

Lab Rats of Pokhran Tests



Exactly four decades ago, India conducted its first nuclear test in Pokhran. Who in the world — wherever that is — could care less about India? The situation today is more despicable because of the dominant delusion they have of being a ‘great power.’

May 11 is celebrated every year in my house not because that on these dates India showed the world that it too had the Shakti to convert cities into radioactive rubble but it’s my birthday.

After all, this military fetish of India has caused serious disturbance in the region ranging from its unilateral nuclear arms race against itself and procurements that now affect the living standards of poor that absorb radiation and other diseases caused by nuclear explosions since 1974 test at Pokhran.

India tested its first nuclear device by exploding an eight-kiloton device in the Jaisalmer desert, five km from Loharki village. Though villagers have complained that they are suffering from diseases linked to radiation exposure, still authorities are of the view that inhabitants’ claims have no scientific basis.

Interestingly, the biggest lie told by army battalion, entering the Loharki on the night of 1974, was that those 2000 people living there would watch a firing show in the sky that could cause eye and nose irritation. However, that was of course a ruse and the things have never normalized thereafter. The radiation exposure has caused cancers and genetic disorder diseases still persist.

Now forty years after the misadventure nicknamed Smiling Buddha, fear of radiation exposure for peoples living in the vicinity of test range conducted by Indian military have long fallen out of the international spotlight. Instances of cancer are still commonplace, especially after the 1998 tests.

For instance, in August 2013, Om Prakash and his wife Tulsi Vishnoi lost their 18-year-old daughter. Their daughter was a high-school student who initially complained of a stinging pain in her ears and was soon struck with partial paralysis of her face. Which was later diagnosed as cancer by the doctors and died on August 20. Vishnoi is now collecting medical records and seeking the help of lawyers and the doctors who treated Manisha to investigate whether nuclear radiation was indeed the cause for her death.

Death from cancer has become a common occurrence in these radiation villages. Around six villagers die every year — all taken by cancer. That is not all. India has some twenty-one electricity generating reactors that are poorly regulated. India has the largest unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle in the world. People have died of cancer in the mining areas, or from ingesting contaminated water or from poor waste disposal. In a rush to expand its industrial base, caution is usually thrown to the wind. This mentality pervades across the spectrum. On the night of 2–3 December 1984, 3500 deaths people lost their lives at Bhopal in the Union Carbide chemical industry disaster and more than 8,000 died till now.

This nuclear misadventure on a vast scale has been a source of high incidence of breast cancer amongst women several other diseases. Children are showing developmental problems. No one in the government cares.

Since the tests conducted by India in Pokhran, government has done little to wipe away the fears of villagers living in the territory but have doubled it in the name of nuclear energy. An essential feature that has inhibited India’s nuclear-energy ambitions is its preoccupation with nuclear weapons.

Billions in India now face the fearsome prospect of living under the shadow of an Indian nuclear lust. The secrecy and opacity of Indian nuclear power industry refuse to reveal details on safety. India plans to source a quarter of its energy from nuclear power by 2050. Every society has to make a basic decision as far as use of nuclear power technology went but India clearly lacks in such situation. There hegemonic designs and class struggle has affected the common man’s life in the country. Diseases like cancer, goiter, infertility, mental retardation are common occurring due to uranium mining in India.

In an article for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1999), TS Gopi Rethinaraj writes:

“The department [of atomic energy] has happily exploited the ignorance of India’s judiciary and political establishment on nuclear issues. In the past, it has even used the Atomic Energy Act to prevent nuclear plant workers from accessing their own health records. While nuclear establishments everywhere remain in crosshair, have been notorious for suppressing information, nowhere is there an equivalent of India’s Atomic Energy Act in operation. Over the years, in the comfort of secrecy, India’s nuclear establishment has grown into a monolithic and autocratic entity that sets the nuclear agenda of the country and yet remains virtually unaccountable for its actions.”

That’s pretty clear that India created a dangerous new instability in their region. Nuclear power generation by India is inevitably fraught with radiation, an invisible and insidious poison, which is unsafe in all doses.

Continue Reading

South Asia

India’s Military Spending and South Asian Security



Over the past several years, unprecedented military modernization in Pakistan’s immediate neighbour, India, has worsened South Asia’s security environment. India’s heavy military spending and its unstoppable quest for the acquisition of sophisticated weapons have threatened regional stability. Indian desire to acquire global power status through military means has further been intensified as a result of US assistance particularly in former’s defence sector. Within quick span of time, defence trade between India and the US has shot from $1 billion to over $15 billion leaving other regional powers in the state of security consciousness.

India’s obsession with its military build-up doesn’t end here. According to the Stockholm International peace Research Institute (SIPRI) a prestigious international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament, India, once again tops the list as world’s largest weapons importer. This is not a new development as previously, India also topped the list for the same reason.

As per SIPRI estimates, Russia remains top arms supplier to India. However, surprisingly arms deliveries from the US increased more than six-fold in the five-year period to the India. This trend in long run will definitely reduce market space for Russian arms and ammunition to India.

Despite the fact that, India’s unbridled military modernization is the primary impetus behind South Asian instability, global power’s economic expediencies in South Asia also undermines delicate conventional parity between India and Pakistan. For instance, Indo-US strategic partnership, which apparently touted as US’ China containment policy, seems more of a Pakistan containment policy. Much of the US provided weapon-tech to India is more useful against Pakistan in a conventional warfare. Almost 70% of Indian military troops and weapon system are deployed against Line of Control, (LOC). Interestingly, peaceful settlement of Docklam issue between China and India as well as sky-rocketing bilateral trade between both countries, which has reached to $84.44 billion last year, makes prospects of conflict almost impossible.

However, in contrast to aforementioned facts, the influx of massive military hardware from western capitals to India continues and in certain cases the flow of arms has gained momentum. There are two primary motives behind India’s overwhelming spending in defence industry.

First, India aspires for greater role in global environment and in certain ways it has been demonstrating its will and capability to influence global dynamics. India’s successful test of Agni-5, a long-range ballistic missile, capable of carrying nuclear weapons with a strike range of more than 3,000 miles, is a practical demonstration of its military capabilities to influence other powers around the globe. For hawkish policy makers in New Delhi, a strong military power can extend India’s global influence.

Secondly, India is following a policy of coercion at regional level primarily, against Pakistan which shares history of hostility and violence due to longstanding territorial disputes such as Kashmir. There is growing perception in New Delhi that militarily strong India can dictate South Asian affairs. That’s why India has been consistently opposing diplomacy and dialogue for peaceful resolution of disputes. Therefore, to meet its foreign policy goals, which are based on coercion and usage of hard power, India spends massive in military build-up.

Ironically, South Asia is called as nuclear flashpoint due to history of animosity and violent conflicts between India and Pakistan. With its mighty military power, India has emerged as the most potent threat for not just Pakistan but also a security challenge for other powers in the region.

Given the advantage it has in terms of nuclear missiles, military hardware and submarine fleet, India has been trying to create an environment conducive to wage limited war against Pakistan. For that, India has not just developed its military doctrine, Cold Start Doctrine, but also initiated and sponsored sub conventional war in Pakistan’s chaotic province, Balochistan.

In such circumstances, Pakistan needs to maintain delicate conventional military balance vis-à-vis India. Despite the fact, Pakistan has been facing number of issues at national, regional and international levels which include on-going military operation in tribal areas to hostile border skirmishes; a robust military modernization plan has become inevitable. A militarily strong Pakistan will be able to maintain its territorial integrity against aggressive yet militarily mighty India.

It’s an open fact that Pakistan has consistently called for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes and it has offered to resume diplomacy and dialogue over Kashmir dispute. Unfortunately, India’s cold response has not only restricted Pakistan’s peaceful overtures but also refused to accept third-party mediation in peaceful settlement of Kashmir issue. This clearly shows that, current ruling regime in India is not serious for peaceful settlement, rather more inclined to use of force and coercion. Under such circumstances, Pakistan needs to strengthen its force posture to pre-empt any kind of misadventure from its adversary. However, Pakistan, as it has done in past, must embrace peaceful overtures to bring stability in the region.

Continue Reading

South Asia

US Call for a New Relationship



U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad

‘Trust, but verify’ an Old Russian proverb that President Reagan liked to repeat often. Trump is neither the first President nor he is going to be the last to criticize Pakistan of deceit and threaten to cut off American assistance. Notwithstanding, the last six decades of the US support, the US has failed completely in cultivating an ally in Pakistan nor has it meaningfully changed the nature of its relationship with Pakistan, which can be best described as ‘transactional’. A quid-pro-quo relationship between the two has never been established with regards to the assistance they both offered to each other. In truth, United States has never really trusted Pakistan.

President Trump avowed in his New Afghan Strategy that the US has been paying Pakistan ‘billions of billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting for’ but the mantra should be put to a halt. Likewise, the US must be conveyed boldly to stop continuing its false claims that Pakistan shelters the ‘agents of chaos’ and be reminded that friends don’t put each other on notices.

Similarly, statements and avowals that India now is a strongest ally to the US, disturbs Pakistan, chiefly because of the irony at Trump administration’s part which only sees the glittering Indian market but pay no heed to the growing Indian cease fire violations across the LoC and the atrocities India commits against the unarmed civilians of the Indian held Kashmir.

The recent visits and statements however by the senior US officials and Trump’s aides reflect the US call for a new relationship between the US and Pakistan, which once used to be close allies in the US led ‘Global War on Terror’.

Pakistan’s foreign policy makers at this point in time must be mindful of the fact that the US is a major trading partner and should adhere to a relationship more than ‘transactional’. Moreover, the risks and fears at the US part of ‘rampant destabilization and civil war in Afghanistan’ increments further the region already devoid of trust. For, nobody actually knows whether the US will stay or eventually leave Afghanistan.

The Afghan war has now become a war of logistics, in words of Sun Tzu ‘the line between order and disorder lies in logistics’, Pakistani supply lines thus provide Islamabad with a leverage in absence of shorter, cheaper and acceptable alternative routes. Given these circumstances, Pakistan should make best use of the US call towards a more robust bilateral relationship.

The move for a ‘new relationship’ and improved ties began last week with senior Trump aide’s visit to Islamabad to hold talks with Pakistani leaders.  Earlier also the impressions that Pakistan and the US were on a collision course were dispelled by a top US general. Likewise, US department’s acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells asserted that the US was not thinking of cutting its ties rather assured that the US still cogitate Pakistan indispensable to the resolve in Afghanistan.

The aforesaid developments clearly indicate that the strained US-Pakistan relations would improve soon and that the suspension in the military aid is also not permanent.

To conclude, achieving long term stability and defeating the insurgency in the region will be difficult without Pakistan’s support and assistance.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Special Economic Zones and CPEC



Economic Expansion, high prices and inflation are the issues on which one can talk for hours. The scarcity of resources, energy crises and lack of industrial modernization are the challenges which Pakistan has been facing for past many decades. Despite the advantages of geographical setting, the country could not sufficiently expand its economy until 20thcentury. However, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has brought with it various infrastructural, energy, and industrial projects that show smooth progress in these sectors. One of the most significant developments is the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the Long Term Plan (LTP) of CPEC.SEZ is a physically protected area with definite geographic boundaries under which the investors and the developers enjoy duty free benefits and streamlined procedures, set up by the government.  After the successful completion of the Early Harvest Program (EHP), the governments of China and Pakistan aspire to complete the Long Term Plan (LTP) of CPEC. As a key route to success, the LTP has been divided into three phases and the work on the first phase has already started. SEZs are on the first priority list of the first Phase of LTP. While utilizing the strategic location of Pakistan and the rich resources, the SEZ will contribute a framework for Pakistan’s domestic industries, and local economy.

The government has planned to establish nine Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in all the four provinces, federal areas and Gilgit-Baltistan under the framework of CPEC, which would be completed in a period of three years. Pakistan has conducted feasibilities of 5 SEZs which focuses only on the infrastructure. The three prioritized SEZs to be completed in the first phase of LTP are M3 Industrial City in Faisalabad, Punjab, Chinese SEZ Dhabeji, Sindh and Hattar SEZ in KP province. While the remaining six sites include Rashakai Economic Zone, M-1 Noshera, Bostan Industrial Zone District Pishin, AllamaIqbal Industrial City, Moqpondass SEZ in Gilgit-Baltistan, ICT Model Industrial Zone Islamabad, Development of Industrial Park on Pakistan Steel Mills Land at port Qasim near Karachi, Special Economic Zone at Mirpur AJK, Mohmand Marble city.

Although, there are general misunderstandings regarding the industrial ramifications of the SEZ’s under CPEC due to large number of Chinese firms and the exemption in the tax rates offered to them. However, the LTP of CPEC shows that these SEZ’s will offer the country with a great opportunity to accelerate industrialization because they are beneficial for all the international and domestic investors. So far in the history, SEZs have been the reason of economic boost in countries around the globe. Now this is a matter of concern that either these SEZs will make Pakistan a center of economic modernization and trade ventures or not. The economist and financial experts are optimistic about Pakistan’s emergence as one of the fast growing and promising global economy.

While stepping towards the era of industrialization, Pakistan faces a number of issues that have so far refrain the industries to understand their growth potential. Some of the chief hindrances to investment in Pakistan include poor security; non-availability of infrastructure and power crises, rent-seeking regulators, and cumbersome tax administration, etc. among many others.

Likewise the entrepreneurs in Pakistan have certain reservation with the incentives proposed by the government and SEZs for the investors and enterprises including ten-year exemption from all taxes on imported capital goods and exemption from tax on income accruable from development and operations in SEZs for a period of ten years. Although these incentives will be beneficial for the foreign investors at large but at the same time it will provide Pakistani enterprises with the opportunity to collaborate with the Chinese firms and launch joint ventures of mutual interests and benefits. This will be further beneficial for the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of Pakistan. Moreover it will bring Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country thus generating the foreign revenue.

Subsequently it is significant to keep in mind that in Pakistan there are certain security and political factors due to which the SEZ’s may face challenges. Hence forth to conquer these challenges provincial harmony among all the provinces and mutual consensus between the public sector and private sector is needed. SEZs under CPEC will be a life-time opportunity for Pakistani companies to work together with Chinese companies for the development of export-oriented manufacturing industries. Therefore, Pakistan should increase its products in the Chinese market and raise the ratio of its export while decreasing the trade deficit by lowering the imports.

Continue Reading


Economy5 mins ago

231,000 New Jobs Added in Western Balkans amid Ongoing Economic Challenges, Emigration

A 3.9 percent increase in employment over the last year has led to the creation of 231,000 new jobs throughout...

Green Planet6 hours ago

Access to safe water: Is the green revolution around the corner?

Nature-based solutions can play an important role in improving the supply and quality of water and reducing the impact of natural...

Intelligence8 hours ago

Assad’s Army and Intelligence Services: Feudalization or Structurization?

Authors: Anton Mardasov* & Kirill Semenov 2017 marked a turning point in the Syrian conflict. With the full support of...

Energy9 hours ago

Energy is at the heart of the sustainable development agenda to 2030

Three years ago, all countries of the world adopted 17 ambitious policy goals to end poverty, protect the planet, promote...

Economy10 hours ago

Economic Growth in Gulf Region Set to Improve following a Weak Performance in 2017

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region witnessed another year of disappointing economic performance in 2017 but growth should improve in...

East Asia11 hours ago

Shooting an Own Goal: China’s Belt and Road funding terms spark criticism

Steep commercial terms for China’s investment in infrastructure projects across Eurasia related to its Belt and Road initiative may give...

Economy12 hours ago

Poland: Build on current economic strength to innovate and invest in skills and infrastructure

Poland’s economic growth remains strong. Rising family benefits and a booming jobs market are lifting household income while poverty rates...



Copyright © 2018 Modern Diplomacy