ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Setting the Pace

The governments efforts to beef up the country's defence forces have passed a number of milestones in recent months. The nuclear-powered submarine supplied by the Soviet Union, ostensibly on lease, is expected to be received in Visakhapatnam early next month. Its arrival, we are being reminded, will mark India's entry into the exclusive club of countries possessing nuclear-propelled submarines, so far consisting of the US, Soviet Union, UK, France and China. Just over a month ago the minister for defence had formally inducted the MiG 29 fighter plane, also supplied by the Soviet Union, into the air force. It was then claimed that India was the only country in the world, Soviet Union's Warsaw Pact allies not excluded, which had managed to secure this very advanced aircraft. Earlier last year, the navy had added a second aircraft carrier to its fleet, in this case acquired from the UK, and more recently it has been disclosed that negotiations are under way with Britain for the building of a third aircraft carrier at the Cochin Shipyard. It is unnecessary to lengthen this inventory of the government's latest armament acquisitions to make the point that no longer can this massive military build-up be regarded as merely, or even chiefly, a response to the corresponding activities of Pakistan. Let us face it, in the arms race between the two countries it is India which is increasingly setting the pace. Every one of the major arms acquisitions in recent months has been accompanied by well-orchestrated exclamations of admiration at the country's growing military prowess. It has been pointed out, for instance, that with the Indian navy in possession of a nuclear- powered submarine even the US would not think in terms of sending one of its aircraft carriers into our waters as it had done in 1971 at the height of the Bangladesh operation; or that with three aircraft carriers the Indian navy would have advanced far beyond defence of the country's coastline and emerged as a true 'blue water force' capable of taking on if not the US at least a middle-sized power like France. Against the background of these boastful claims what is significant is that neither the US nor France nor any of the other western powers seems unduly perturbed over the Indian military build-up. On the contrary, the US as well as the other western countries are vying with one another in offering us ever more sophisticated armaments to further bolster the very build-up which, if Indian strategy planners are to be believed, is aimed at constraining these powers' role in this part of the world. The US administration's response to India's acquisition of the Soviet nuclear-powered submarine has been typical in this context. A state department spokesman has said that the submarine "clearly introduces a new weapons technology into the South Asian region" and that it radically alters the balance of power in the sub-continent. This is followed by the hopeful prediction that the arming of India with a nuclear- powered submarine by the Soviet Union will now result in "Pakistan requesting some very sophisticated naval systems", This indeed is the one absolutely inevitable consequence of the Indian military build-up. It has vastly accelerated the arms race between India and Pakistan, much to the glee of the US and the other purveyors of sophisticated armaments.

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