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News Review Special Edition

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International Developments, February 1 - April 1, 2003

Further Escalation of Political, Nuclear Tensions in South Asia

The period under review saw a fresh round of missile tests by India and Pakistan, conducted to the backdrop of mounting political tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours and a grim resurgence of terrorist activity in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Relations between Islamabad and Washington also suffered a jolt with the imposition of US sanctions against a leading Pakistani nuclear research centre for alleged links with North Korea.

On March 26, India conducted a test flight of its short-range (90 miles) nuclear-capable Prithvi ('Earth') surface-to-surface missile from its Chandipur firing range in the eastern state of Orissa. According to Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aziz Ahmed Khan (March 26): "The missile test by India came as a surprise. We were not notified about the test in accordance with the memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries on February 21, 1991." Khan's claim was disputed by Indian officials.

The same day, a few hours after the Prithvi test, Pakistan conducted a test flight of its short-range (110 miles) nuclear-capable Abdali ­(Haft-II) surface-to-surface missile. Khan noted pointedly (March 26): "Pakistan has also test-fired a missile today, but we informed India about it".

In Washington, State Department spokesperson Amanda Batt (March 26) expressed disappointment at both tests: "We strongly urge both India and Pakistan to avoid any actions that could increase tensions in the region."

Earlier in March, Pakistan announced the entry into service of the medium-range (450 miles) nuclear-capable Shaheen I surface-to-surface missile. In a statement issued to mark the event, Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, noted (March 6) that the deployment of the new weapon reflects the country's determination to "seek qualitative refinements" to its nuclear arsenal while "consolidating minimum deterrence". Musharraf added: "Pakistan does not have global ambitions but was compelled to go nuclear due to belligerence in its neighbourhood. ... We are not into an arms race with anyone. Minimum credible deterrence remains the cornerstone of our security policy and toward that end we have defined and quantified for ourselves the notion of minimum deterrence. Beyond that quantified notion, Pakistan will not pursue an open-ended strategic weapons arms race. In my opinion, in the nuclear game, numbers beyond a point lose their significance."

On February, India's Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had presented a mirror image of nuclear developments in the region: "It was not our intention to conduct nuclear tests [in 1998]. ... But our neighbour creating security problems wasn't acceptable to us..."

The divided heart of the political dispute between the two states is the status and future of Kashmir. On March 23, in one of the worst terrorist atrocities of recent months, 23 civilians were massacred in the Hindu village of Nandimarg in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Noting that the date marked the 'National Day' in Pakistan, an Indian Foreign Ministry statement (March 26) openly accused the government in Islamabad of negligence, or worse, in relation to terrorist incursions from Pakistani territory: "The pattern, methodology and the nature of targets of these acts of terror are all too familiar, and therefore the culpability of Pakistan is all too clear." The statement continues: "The global war against terrorism can only be won when it is pursued without double standards and terrorism is eradicated wherever it exists, without being influenced by short-term political or other considerations. The combat against international terrorism is ill-served if threats in some cases are met with military means and in others with calls for restraint and dialogue. The clarity of the commitment of the international community to combat terrorism requires a coherent and principled approach. The epicentre of international terrorism that exists in our neighbourhood, and the infrastructure of support and sponsorship of cross-border terrorism, must be completely dismantled. We are determined to face this challenge with strength, determination and resolve."

The wounded tone of the Ministry's remarks was apparently a reaction to a statement on March 24 by US State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher. After condemning the "horrific" and "cowardly" attack on the village, Boucher insisted: "Violence will not solve Kashmir's problems. Such acts are intended to disrupt the program of the state government in Kashmir, which is attempting to reduce tensions and promote reconciliation. Dialogue remains a crucial element in the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan." On March 27, a joint statement from Secretary of State Colin Powell and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, repeating that "violence will not solve Kashmir's problems", went further: "Pending the resolution of these problems, the LoC [Line of Control between Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir] should be strictly respected and Pakistan should fulfil its commitments to stop infiltration across it. Pakistan should also do its utmost to discourage any acts of violence by militants in Kashmir. Both sides should consider immediately implementing a ceasefire and taking other active steps to reduce tension including by moves within the SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation]. The differences between India and Pakistan can only be resolved through peaceful means and engagement. The United States and the United Kingdom stand ready to help both countries start a process aimed at building confidence, normalizing bilateral relations and resolving outstanding differences, including Kashmir."

Pakistan, which welcomed the US-UK statement, angrily rejects any suggestion it is neglecting its responsibilities to halt incursions across the Line of Control. A March 26 Foreign Ministry statement, expressing horror at the Nandimarg massacre, argued that Pakistan "deplored the baseless accusations levelled" by Indian leaders, insisting that Islamabad "continued to stand for the peaceful resolution of Kashmir and all other issues bedevilling relations between India and Pakistan".

Speaking before the atrocity (March 13), General K. Davar, head of the Indian Defence Intelligence Agency, told the Associated Press that New Delhi had firm and detailed proof of the existence of 70 terrorist training camps on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control. General Davar added: "The Americans know about it. We have given exact locations of training camps, photographs, telephone numbers, everything. ... There is solid documentary proof offered to the Pakistanis and the Americans. ... We hope that after the end of the current preoccupation of the United States in the Middle East, it will return to its declared war against terrorism..." Reacting to the General's comments, Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the Associated Press (March 13): "This is another lie, and by making such baseless allegations the Indian authorities are trying to divert the attention of the world community from the problems of Kashmiris who are being subjected to the worst kind of atrocities by the Indian forces... There are no training camps on the soil of azad [free] Pakistan..."

On April 1, the depth of Indian frustration with the cross-border situation was made plain in remarks by Foreign Ministry Yashwant Sinha: "War is a serious issue which should be decided after serious consideration... As you know, what Pakistan is doing here is proxy war. To meet that, we have done whatever is required on the border and within the country - short of war."

On March 24, the United States imposed sanctions on a nuclear research and uranium enrichment facility in Pakistan and a missile-export company in North Korea. An official justification for the move was not provided until April 1, when the following statement was issued by State Department Deputy Spokesperson Philip T. Reeker:

"There has been some confusion regarding the penalties that were imposed March 24 on the Pakistani entity Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) under Executive Order 12938, as amended, and the penalties that were imposed March 24 on the North Korean entity, Changgwang Sinyong Corporation under the missile sanctions law. These sanctions were for a specific missile-related transfer. Changgwang Sinyong Corporation is a North Korean missile marketing entity and has been sanctioned repeatedly in the past for its missile-related exporting behaviour. Changgwang Sinyong Corporation transferred missile-related technology to KRL. The United States made a determination to impose penalties on both Changgwang Sinyong Corporation and KRL as a result of this specific missile-related transfer. These sanctions do not pertain to any other activity, including nuclear-related ones. We informed the Congress on March 12 that the administration had carefully reviewed the facts relating to the possible transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to North Korea, and decided that the facts do not warrant the imposition of sanctions under applicable US laws."

The 'confusion' referred to Reeker was created in part by an unspecific but ominous statement issued by the US Embassy in Islamabad on March 31 noting that KRL had been sanctioned to penalise its "material contribution to the efforts of a foreign country, person or entity of proliferation concern, to use, acquire, design, develop and or secure weapons of mass destruction." The implication seems to be that the facility provided technology and information instrumental in the preparation and/or operation of North Korea's clandestine uranium-enrichment programme, revealed by the US last October after an apparent admission by North Korean officials.

On April 1, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper in Japan reported that the transfer in question consisted of 10 Scud-B ballistic missiles, said to be shipped to Pakistan in March. The paper further suggested that the missiles constituted a payment for nuclear-related support and assistance from Pakistan. An earlier report (March 31) in the Washington Times contained the more dramatic claim that KRL had organised the transfer of long-range North Korean No Dong ballistic missiles. The Times quoted an unnamed 'senior US official' as complaining: "We are not talking about missile technology or components but full-fledged No Dong missiles that can deliver nuclear weapons, and they [Pakistan] used aircraft we gave them [C-130 transport planes] to bring the missiles home."

Numerous media reports on April 1 suggested that Secretary of State Powell had spoken by phone to President Musharraf to discuss persistent but unproven allegations of a close nuclear and missile relationship between Islamabad and Pyongyang. Speaking at the Non-Aligned Summit in Kuala Lumpur on February 24, Musharraf had given "a 400 percent guarantee that there has been no [nuclear/missile] cooperation with anyone, let alone North Korea... We have [missile] designs far superior to North Korea... We work on solid fuel and they operate on liquid fuel. We don't need to exchange anything with them."

On April 2, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri told parliamentarians "we are protesting against" the KRL sanctions, which entail a two-year ban on all commercial contact with US entities. Kasuri insisted: "We are a responsible country... We do not indulge in proliferation." On February 21, Kasuri had been forced to deny speculation that the US had approached the Pakistan government to explore the possibility of establishing joint command-and-control of the country's nuclear weapons programme. Speaking in Karachi, the Foreign Ministry maintained that "Pakistan's nuclear programme and its assets are in safe hands and no other country will be included in the atomic command... We are fully aware of the sensitivity of this programme, but there is no plan to set up a joint atomic command. That is nonsense."

Reports: India blames neighbor Pakistan for nuclear arms race in Asian subcontinent, Associated Press, February 14; Reports - no plan to set up joint Pakistan-US command for nuclear program, Associated Press, February 21; Pakistan says didn't give N. Korea nuclear know-how, Reuters, February 24; Pakistan's army given new nuclear-capable missile, Reuters, March 6; Pakistan inaugurates new Shaheen missile, Associated Press, March 6; Seventy militant camps in Pakistan's Kashmir, India's defense intelligence chief says, Associated Press, March 13; Nandimarg massacre in Indian occupied Kashmir, Press Release, Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 24, http://www.forisb.org; Text - US condemns latest terrorist attack in Kashmir, Washington File, March 24; India test fires nuclear-capable missile, Associated Press, March 26; India, Pakistan test fire nuclear-capable missiles, Associated Press, March 26; Nuclear enemies conduct rival missile tests, Agence France Presse, March 26; Statement by official spokesperson, Indian Ministry of External Affairs Press Release, March 26, http://www.meadev.nic.in; India hits out at Pakistan - missile tests held, Reuters, March 26; Pakistan, India trade nuclear-capable missile tests, angry accusations, Associated Press, March 27; Powell and Straw condemn massacre in Kashmir, Washington File, March 27; US, Britain urge immediate India-Pakistan ceasefire in Kashmir, Agence France Presse, March 27; Pakistan asks for peace talks with India, Associated Press, March 28; US sanctions Pakistani firm for missile tests, Reuters, March 31; US accuses Pakistan nuclear facility of helping 'foreign' proliferator, Agence France Presse, March 31; India has done all it can against Pakistan 'short of war' - FM, Agence France Presse, April 1; US accuses Pakistan's enrichment facility of sharing nuclear weapons technology, Associated Press, April 1; Pakistan wants proof of alleged nuke trade with North Korea, Agence France Presse, April 1; US accuses Pakistan's enrichment facility of sharing nuclear weapons technology, Associated Press, April 1; Report - N. Korea sent missiles to Pakistan in Feb., Reuters, April 1; Text - US imposes penalties on N. Korean, Pakistani entities, Washington File, April 1; Pakistan protests US nuke sanctions, Agence France Presse, April 2.

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