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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Missile defence: How will it affect South Asia?
Until recently Pakistan was the favoured US ally in South Asia. US relations with India were more strained because of the country's alliance with Moscow.
But President Bush's missile defence shield proposals are likely to overturn old Cold War ties. India has welcomed them but Pakistan fears that they could trigger a nuclear arms race.
Does this mean an end to Pakistan's alliance with the US? Why is India so ready to support Bush's NMD plans?
How will this affect the Indo-Pakistan relations over the situation in Kashmir? Tell us what you think?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Sreeram R, USA
With the US and India being the two largest democracies in the world, it would only follow that a closer relationship is in order. The continuing degradation in the relationship between the US and Europe is prompting closer alliances in Asia and South America. Even if you don't support NMD, firmly but politely say "no thank you" and leave it at that; this cannot be allowed to eclipse a future growth in our relationship. You have given us many skilled workers and this has benefited us, now let the relationship flourish in a way to benefit India.
Tridiv Borah, India/ Germany
Bush's NMD plans are not only against a treaty signed earlier between the USA and other countries but it will also spark an arms race in the world. India is going to compete with China (who'll be in the race) and Pakistan will compete with India. Instead of moving towards a plan to reduce nuclear arsenals in the world, the USA is making plans to enhance it. India favoured the plan to send a goodwill gesture to Washington, Pakistan opposed not only for its interests but also to send a signal to China, that it's aligned with it.
What's shocking about all this is that the USA is the only nation in the world that has ever used a nuclear weapon on another state. I just don't understand who the rogue states are?
India made a mistake by aligning with the Russians in the Cold War while being an advocate of the non-aligned nations. Also the political parties at that time used the anti-American sentiments prevailing in some sections to create a vote bank. Now it appears the right wing parties now want to come out from this. That is a good sign. Being the world's two largest democracies, the two countries faces similar threats and have similar perceptions. Even though in some cases they differ, the two countries can earn much from it.
I don't see why India, China and Russia do not forge an economic and military alliance. The strategic military strength and economic implications of this scenario guarantee that one nation does not rule over the world as the US thinks it does. It would be also good for Pakistan to be a part of this alliance.
NMD is a good plan because it destroys stray missiles targeting any country. The only caveat is that this should be in the hands of a global body like the UN. Having this in the hands of ONE country gives it a leg-up over other countries.
India needs a strong defence mechanism, if it wants to be strong economically. So it seems a wise move for India to agree on certain aspects of the NMD - it will help bring closer ties between the two democratic countries. But India must always take into consideration the concerns of its closest friends the Russians, a balancing scenario is what the BJP need to present.
Ahmad R Shahid, Pakistan/USA
Instead of building bombs, working at this plan is certainly for peace purpose. India will benefit from it tremendously. It will provide some protection from Chinese-made missiles whether they come from Pakistan or China's direction. It will start many co-operations between India and the USA, but whether it will work is doubtful.
I think it's about time that we started doing something to get India taken more seriously in the world arena. India has set the ball in motion by supporting the NMD. In turn, the US needs to form allies; if the US doesn't act now, India might change its mind and favour nations which are against the NMD. It is now time that the US needs to engage India strategically for it to form an alliance of stability that promotes peace as well as democracy.
I believe that Bush's NMD plan has the potential of sparking a new arms race in the entire world. With the new proposed "Star Wars" programme, it is for sure that U.S. arch rival China will follow suit, which will spark off India to follow China's footsteps, hence forcing Pakistan to follow India. In my opinion, Bush's infant administration should put the NMD programme back into the box where it has been for past several decades.
The NMD plan is ideally suited for India, as it works against an opponent that can only launch a small number of missiles. If such a system works it will nullify Pakistan's nuclear deterrent, although not China's. It makes good sense for India, as long as it can ensure no further proliferation of technology from China to Pakistan.
Vivek Manchanda, USA/ India
It seems that the world is not yet safe from nuclear threat. Instead of progressing towards peace and the betterment of the human race we are going back to the Cold War days which most of our children do not even remember. Are the nations that produce these defence plans any better than the so-called "rogue nations"?
Whether the US gets support or not, it will go ahead regardless with its plan to build NMD. What India has to gain, at least, is the political mileage and goodwill generated in the US by supporting their plans in a largely anti-NMD and friendless world!
The notion that India enthusiastically supports NMD is a misconception. India's carefully worded statement does not include the phrase, "We support NMD" or anything to that effect. In actuality, India denounces NMD, but in this case, chose not to use the harsh rhetoric employed by the other nations of the world. It was India's attempt at cosy relations with a fellow democracy while maintaining a consistent policy.
Thus, Indo-Pak relations will not sour (any further) due to India's supposed support for NMD.
India now appears to be thinking more in terms of national interest and taking stand accordingly, rather than taking a confused view on world issues as in previous eras. It is indeed in India's benefit to take a supportive stand on the USA's missile defence proposal.
Shiva Iyer, USA/India
USA has realised the fact that Pakistan is not a country which can establish peace in the region while it continues with unstable military government and supporting terrorism. USA has even noticed Pakistan having closer military ties with China (which is eventually a big threat to India's and USA's security). This makes it very natural for both the largest democratic countries in the world to have closer ties and benefit mutually in every field.
Today, the US is ready to understand a fellow democracy's point of view and attach importance to the economic-military potential of India as a nation. This represents a paradigm shift in US policy. India may actually join the NMD as an active participant paving way for better relations between US and Russia because India has close links with both. Indians look up to Americans and most would prefer a strong US any day.
India as a country should understand that not the military power but the economic power can make a country stronger than ever. The breakdown of USSR is one of many examples. Defending a country from missile attack is important. But a country will be more secured when each person of the country is economically stable and morally in a high spirit. That is the kind of defence India should try to achieve first. Mr. Bush can have the luxury of dreaming about missile defence system now.
India and US face similar threats, usage of missile by rogue nations and terrorists. Hence they are for the missile defence shield. Why should it in any way result in nuclear arms race? I can accept the fact that it could result in missile race. Even if it does, there will be a cut-off point, which will be larger than it is now. But it could avert nuclear arms race.
Dr. Prahalad, Bangalore, India
Of course India has welcomed the "Star Wars" plan! This is mainly due to the fact that China always has been and always will be India's biggest threat. Both in numbers and firepower the Chinese are superior. As always in this anti-American world, India like many others prefers a strong America to a strong China!
India will do or say anything to get the Americans on their side. How can they claim that China was a bigger threat when the country was trying to normalise relations?
Bush's NMD plans affect the India-Pakistan-China relationship. Without Chinese and North Korean support Pakistan's military might will be reduced drastically.
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