Random Thoughts

By Agni to Heaven, But Avoid Trishanku's Fate

Primitive human's first step in taming nature was the control of fire. The ability to ignite a controlled fire allowed them to survive in cold temperatures, ward off predators and to cook food to kill bacteria and parasites. Later on it allowed them to boil water to make it safely potable, harness the power of a steam engine, sterilize surgical instruments, develop guns, cannons and missiles and explore the solar system. The ancient Hindus believed it to be a go between from earth to heaven, the abode of gods and thus gave premium place to the sacrificial fire. It served as a witness to divine offerings and consecrated the institutions of marriage and death. Proto-Indo-European, the mother of many languages and the presumed predecessor of Sanskrit, thus has the word 'Agni' with the English words 'Igneous' and 'Ignite and the proper noun 'Ignatius' having the same origin. 

The first successful test of Agni 3 ballistic missile with a range of 3000 Km., which can be easily extended to 5000 Km., is a laudable achievement of DRDO. This puts China, a potentially hostile neighbor within India's nuclear missile range. The controversy is likely to ignite, even though India harbors no hostile intention, when India successfully tests an ICBM with a range of 12,000 Km. bringing Western Europe and particularly the US within its missile range. From the western point of view this is understandable.

China obviously and naturally wants to prevent India from being a great power and this is why it gave Pakistan nuclear technology. Russia is geographically far and less concerned, but it also doesn't want another major nuclear power. Israel looks on India as the other bookend to contain hostile Muslim powers but has no great love for it. The US is a declining economic power and thus uses its military might to exploit and control other nations. It is a wounded predator after Iraq and Afghanistan and that is why the Pew world opinion survey found that it is listed first as a danger to world peace.

Russia, the other wounded predator has re-oriented its lifestyle and now desires internal development with a desire for status just like other former great powers like Britain and France. That is why none of them really want any newcomers as permanent veto wielding members of the UN Security Council. Which nation among the great powers wishes to entertain even a future remotely potential hostile contender? The about face of Russia and China on whom Iran had pinned its hopes of a supportive UN Security Council veto is a lesson that India will ignore at its peril. This is why even Russia and France want India to sign the limiting civilian nuclear treaty before permitting unrestrained supply of nuclear technology, Russia and even reluctant China have joined the Missile Control Technology Regime, why the joint Indo-Russian Brahmos was limited to a range of 300 Km and the US tried to prevent Russia from giving India cryogenic rocket engines.

India is further hampered from signing on to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline because the US wants to isolate and dominate Iran and its energy reserves and Israel is afraid of another hostile nuclear power in the region. This is why it bombed Iraq's Osirak reactor over a decade ago. India receives sophisticated arms technology from Israel and as we say in our languages it is difficult to live in the water if the big alligator (America) is your mortal enemy. The hyper-power US wants India to be dependent on it for energy directly (HEU) or indirectly (oil reserves it controls in the Middle East or Central Asia). That is why India needed the green light from the US before testing Agni 3, which it had postponed before at the behest of the US. India is thus indirectly perfecting ICBM technology by sending orbiters to the moon and Mars, launching GSY satellites and retrieving launched space capsules.

The US has filed complaints for redress in the WTO against China for paper and other commodities. It is getting worried about the mounting trade deficit and China's accumulation of 1.2 trillion dollar reserves. China is also worried about putting all its eggs in one basket and has created an agency to diversify and invest its foreign reserves like Temasek of Singapore. It has also announced that it will buy twelve billion dollars worth of American products on a regular periodic basis.

To placate the US, India bought C-130J cargo planes and Sea King helicopters from the US. It also bought the USS Trenton from it. The delayed decision for MRCA purchase is in the hope of the US agreeing to India's terms in the 123 agreement being still negotiated, for reprocessing spent fuel and assuring guaranteed supply of HEU (unlike its reneging at Tarapur after 1974). The US agreed to train IAF pilots for carrier deck landings after Russia said it did not have the facilities to do so. This is why I predicted that India would buy some Super Hornets for its future carrier. Now there is another opportunity that India should explore. US carriers John F. Kennedy and Kitty Hawk are both being retired. They are not nuclear powered and forty years old. If they are still seaworthy and fulfill India's needs, one or both could be acquired like the USS Trenton, with a complement of FA-18 Super Hornets and its related technologies including the AESA radar and new missiles.

In many of my prior articles, I have warned about the trap of signing the civilian nuclear treaty with America and pointed out the foolish naivety of Manmohan Singh. The problem is that there are too many powers twisting India's arms and China continues to give Pakistan advanced military and nuclear technology. If Russia is offended, it may start giving more advanced weapons to Pakistan. At present it gives more advanced weapons technology to India than even to China. If Israel is offended, it will stop giving advanced technology to India. If America is offended, it may decrease its trade with India. Currently it is India's largest trading partner. Even China, which thumbs its nose at the US, does so only in reference to Taiwan and so as not to upset the US and its half a trillion dollar trade with America, abandons Iran, Sudan, the just Palestinian cause and acquiesces to America's wishes in other international matters. The net result of all this is that India cannot achieve adequate energy security or military security and independence. I compare its fate to that of Trishanku who was catapulted into space by the powers ofVishwamitra but got stuck in limbo, unable to reach Swarga by the blocking powers of Indra and sundry gods.

Let us consider what happens if the US refuses to budge (most likely) and India withdraws from the nuclear treaty. It will stop the two country co-operation cold and clean, in its tracks. The US which is afraid of Pakistani nukes falling into the hands of Islamist terrorists will continue to coddle Pakistan as it did before, when it knowingly turned a blind eye to its nuclear weapons in the Reagan era and as it did to the pardon of A. Q. Khan presently. It needs Pakistan for stabilizing Afghanistan, destabilizing Iran and accessing Central Asian oil and gas. India must go along as far as possible with the US, Israel and Russia without unduly irritating or antagonizing them or totally embracing one faction. This is why Manmohan Singh committed a major foreign policy blunder in the nuclear deal without understanding that the US Congress would write the fine print and would have to approve the treaty, and Bush would use that excuse to contain and render ineffective India's independent nuclear deterrence program.  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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