BOTH INDIAN AND PAKISTANI LEADERS after the tests talked about their limited needs for nuclear weapons capability. More recently General Musarraf of Pakistan said that all Pakistan needed were a few missiles that could reach anywhere in India and destroy a few cities; the Indian prime minister has disclaimed any desire to engage in an arms race and spoken only of needs for self- defense. It is true that during the fighting last year in Kargil, neither side started flaunting their nuclear capabilities. Some use was made in fact of the hotline communications facilities and each side gave notice to the other of planned missile firings. Still on the books too are agreements from the early nineties about notifications of troop maneuvers and procedures for overflights of military aircraft.
At the same time, both already have a limited missile capability and are developing missiles of ranges up to 3,000 and even 5,000 kilometers. There are in fact no signs of either country exercising the restraint in the direction of slowing down deployment for which the United States has been calling. India has published an ambitious draft nuclear doctrine statement which posits a triad of weapons, along the lines of the U.S. and Russian strategic forces, and the draft doctrine is now under review. It appears that neither country is looking at ways to slow things down, and neither has yet decided, at least publicly, what is enough for minimum deterrence. For example, Pakistan is probably still seeking, as it has for some time, Chinese help to upgrade its systems; and China, international agreements not withstanding, has in the past been willing to assist Pakistan in the missile area, as had North Korea.
There are psychological factors at play as well. The present government of India is probably the most stable the country has had for some years. Though the prime minister played a significant role in the late 1970s, when he was foreign minister, in trying to improve relations with Pakistan and though he took the risky step of going to Pakistan in February 1999, he will hesitate to take new initiatives because of what is seen in India as weakness in the face of blatant Pakistani aggression in Kargil. In fact, there are already signs that Indian forces may take a more aggressive posture over the next months in Kashmir, including mounting operations across the line of control. This is part of a feeling that India has to teach Pakistan a lesson. At the same time, India is not willing to engage in new talks with Pakistan until Pakistan stops its support of the Kashmir insurgency.
For his part Musarraf, who is generally credited with having directed the Kargil operations, feels that he and the army were sold out by Nawaz Sharif. In addition, like many Pakistanis, their nuclear capacity has now given them confidence that they can be more aggressive on Kashmir because of their nuclear cover. Some have described Pakistani policy as being one of bleeding India to the point where India has to make major concessions on Kashmir.
If these judgments are correct, Pakistan will be bleeding India and India will be teaching Pakistan lessons. It is easy to imagine new clashes, new incidents escalating. If there were mechanisms in place such as those already agreed upon by the two sides, including periodic talks at the senior official level then there would be some available means for containing incidents.
A second worry is that despite protestations to the contrary and despite the heavy economic costs, both countries will in fact become involved in an arms race. The experience to date of the recognized nuclear powers having much influence on either India or Pakistan in the direction of restraint is not encouraging. By insisting that nuclear weapons are vital to their security and by moving slowly and sometimes not at all toward the promised dismantling of their own nuclear arsenals, the message from the five is clear: nuclear weapons are OK. In such a situation one of the few hopes has to be that the five nuclear powers the NPT recognizes will see it in their interest to invest as much in denuclearizing the world as they have and still do in maintaining deployed and stored weapons and weapons grade material and missiles capable of delivering it on seconds notice.
Beyond that, at the moment, one can only wish the Lone Ranger well.
* Harry Barnes served as a career U.S. diplomat from 1951 to 1988, holding such senior positions as ambassador to India (1981-85), to Romania (1974-77), and to Chile (1985-88). He was director general of the Foreign Service from 1977-81. Since retirement, he has been active in the human rights field.
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Elizabeth Pond, on Europe's 20th Century transformation: "The cold war was not a freezer, but an incubator of European cooperation. . . . Europe is not and never will be a homogenized federation, but it is already far more than a confederation."
Prof. Erik Jensen, on the objectives of the Warburg 2000 Conference: "As the sole remaining superpower, the U.S. is faced with difficult decisions when crises arise: whether to act alone; or to tackle them in collaboration with like-minded allies, for example, through NATO; or to work for collective security principally in the United Nations Security Council. Hence the conference title: Collective Security, Posse or Global Cop."
Amb. Denis McLean, on sharing responsibility in wars of nationalism and separatism: "The U.S. has a fundamental role to play in helping to put together the capabilities to meet these types of emergency. But so too have other countries."
Amb. Frank Crigler, on U.S. interest in conflicts far from our shores: "We cannot disengage from Africa because Americas own roots run too deep there and because we as a people are too deeply touched by the fate of Africans."