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RADHAKRISHNAN: We did not have nuclear weapons from 1990, May 1998, onwards. We’ve had them for years. And if it has not led to any situation, out-of-control situation, so far, I don’t think we have any real reason to fear of something like that happening in the future.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, the conflict in Kashmir and the future of nuclear weapons.
DAVID MALONE: If the US could be convinced that the other powers were disarming effectively, it would be very hard to argue that the United States actually needed any nuclear capacity whatsoever.
KEITH PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Keith Porter.
MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Tension between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir continues to mount. The two nuclear powers have fought three wars over the Himalayan region since 1947, and factions on both sides of the conflict continue to blame each other for the seemingly endless violence. India is now petitioning the United Nations to have Pakistan declared a rogue state. To get a better perspective on the conflict I talked with journalists from both countries. Aamir Ahmed Khan is editor of The Herald, a monthly current affairs magazine based in Karachi, Pakistan. And R. K. Radhakrishnan is a Senior Reporter for The Hindu, India’s national newspaper. Radhakrishnan begins today’s discussion with his perception of how the conflict in Kashmir is covered by the Western media.
RADHAKRISHNAN: War is news. Nuclear capability is news. The Valley, which is in trouble, is news. The right of expression, or whatever, of people of different origins is news. At least that’s what happened in-you take, you take the world. Say, you look at Indonesia, you look at Pakistan, you look at Sri Lanka-any place you look. Sri Lanka has done so tremendously well in its industries, but we don’t talk about that. We talk only LTD (long term defense) and related issues.
MCHUGH: Mr. Khan.
AAMIR AHMAD KHAN: Yeah, I would like to substantiate what R.K. Radhakrishnan said with two examples. And those are of areas where we personally-for example, I in Pakistan, feel that we’ve made tremendous improvement as far as I’m concerned. Those are really, really developments which ought to merit great attention, not just from India or Pakistan but from all over the world. One is the, is this change; a very, very visible and very, very tangible change, within Pakistan that we’ve had enough of the conflict. We have too many issues to focus on. We have problems with health, with education, with our basic infrastructure, without institutions. We need to focus on that. And this continuing conflict with India is not the major issue facing the country. And that perception now is fairly widespread throughout Pakistan. But unfortunately nobody has been able to focus on that.
Similarly, the conflict within the valley. I feel that the extent to which now the indigenous and the resident Kashmiris feel alienated from the conflict itself, from all the groups that are involved in the conflict. I don’t think the West has properly focused on that either. And that just goes to show that since talking about the conflict between two nuclear-armed states makes news.
MCHUGH: The fear, I think, in the West is probably because of the nuclear capability. Should we have that much of a fear?
KHAN: No, I don’t guess, that’s a very, very wrong perception. Pakistan had declared nuclear capability way back in the ’80s. India had exploded its first device way, way back in 1974. And since then I think both the countries have had some sort of nuclear capability even though they might not have possessed the delivery system. We always have had the fear that both countries have had the weapons and it is not going to make a difference to this region at all. Unless of course the West is going to keep on harping on this one issue.
RADHAKRISHNAN: I think our behavior where nuclear export control is concerned is a very good example of this. While we were here we were speaking to some state department officials and they all agreed that Pakistan’s and India’s behavior regarding nuclear export control has been exemplary. And we have shown, indeed, a very, very high level of responsibility where our nuclear weapons program is concerned. But despite that the spirit of conflict between the two nations spiraling out of control to the point where one of the two or both may be tempted to use their nuclear weapons, I feel that it’s really, really misplaced. And where we already have an example of the high level of responsibility we have shown. And that’s as Mr. Khan pointed out, that nuclear weapons, that we did not have nuclear weapons from 1990, May 1998 onwards. We’ve had them for years. And if it has not led to any situation, out-of-control situation, so far, I don’t think we have any real reason to fear of something like that happening in the future.
MCHUGH: But despite the progress that both of you have talked about, both of you also indicated at a talk earlier today that you were not very optimistic about resolving Kashmir.
RADHAKRISHNAN: Yeah, that’s very right. See, you’ll have to look at the problem as a whole. You can look at the people of Kashmir, you can look at the people of India, you can look at the people of Pakistan. Their perceptions are totally, totally different from what the politicians are. And I guess that is the basic issue. You talk to a South Indian about Kashmir and he probably will not give two hoots about whether Kashmir was in India, or was in Pakistan, or was an independent country. It affects those people who are in the Indian states of Punjab and Raghastan, to a small extent in Himmatta??, Pradesh, and in Kashmir itself. But again, coming back to the issue of Kashmir, nobody really has the will to solve it. I can always say that the Indian government didn’t make a great effort. That again is necessitated by domestic complications. You cannot be seen as being nice to Pakistan all the while. And same there, his, the Pakistan, see, he has its own problems. He, he’s the one who’s primarily responsible for Kashmir in the first place, so how do you think he is going to be part of a solution to this.
MCHUGH: Mr. Khan, do you agree?
KHAN: Largely, yes. You see the problem is that while most of the people in Pakistan, they don’t, this is not really a major issue in their minds whether Kashmir is a part of India, part of Pakistan, or it’s an independent state, it’s not really an issue. But then the people of Pakistan don’t really decide policy. The policy is decided by the government. And why Kashmir becomes so important for governments, I can say this for my country, at least, is because when a government becomes unstable, and when a government cannot control the economy, when a government cannot, is not, seen as being capable of leading to some sort of a substantial improvement in people’s day-to-day life, then what does it do? It falls back. It falls back to issues that are emotional in nature. It falls back to issues which draw heavily on patriotism and nationalism. And in that it has, it finds some very vociferous, although small, but very vociferous allies in religious groups for examples, or in small groups which cater to those kinds of, that kind of emotionalism and that kind of nationalism. So it’s basically to cover up its own shortcomings. And cover up its failures in its responsibility towards the people, that the government tends to resort to these highly emotive issues.
MCHUGH: But do you agree with India’s assertion that Pakistan is to blame for most of what’s happening in Kashmir right now?
KHAN: I would find it a bit difficult to agree with that in the sense that after all, Kashmir is an issue which has continued over the last 40 to 50 years. But to the extent that, yes, in the this, in the heightened, in the heightening of militancy and the heightening of violence in the valley, well, after all, those, the people who create that situation inside Kashmir, people who are responsible for the escalation of violence in the valley, they don’t drop out of the sky. I mean, they don’t materialize out of thin air. And if they’re not coming from India then the only other place where they can come from is Pakistan. So I think to that extent Pakistan cannot absolve itself of the blame or the responsibility.
MCHUGH: And is US involvement the solution to ending this conflict?
RADHAKRISHNAN: I don’t think so because there is no real issue that a third party can sit and mediate for the simple reason that the Indian and Pakistani mindset at this point of time is such that it is not favorable for a solution.
MCHUGH: Mr. Khan?
KHAN: I think the only hope lies with the coming generations. The generations that do not carry the baggage of partition.
MCHUGH: I’m curious, what are your working conditions like? Do you have the same freedoms of the press that we enjoy here in the United States?
RADHAKRISHNAN: Oh, it’s very hot in Madras and I’d love to be here at this point of time and that’s the only problem that we have at this point. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same. We now have a Right To Information Act in place in my state. It’s as simple or as difficult as working anywhere. I mean, we do have our technologies and we do have our power failures as well. So, I mean, those are the issues I guess we have to tackle.
MCHUGH: Mr. Khan?
KHAN: I think one thing which would surprise many people in the West especially is the, is how free and vibrant the Pakistani press is. Otherwise, it’s not something which you can say for most of the Pakistani civil society. But somehow things have developed in a manner which has left the press absolutely free from all kinds of pressures. Of course there is not such thing as absolute freedom, but I’ll give you an example. My paper did not agree about the government’s Cargill policy during the Cargill conflict. We never agreed with what was happening in the valley. And we were very, very critical of Pakistan’s position in that conflict. And I do not remember a single instance where I was approached by anybody from the government or anybody from the Pakistani civil or military establishment telling us not to write what we were writing.
At the same time I would say that, yes, there are certain inferences which are, which at times may make, do make life a bit difficult for us. And these are the small militant groups operating within Pakistan. At times when we try and criticize these groups it is not uncommon for us to be called up by these groups and to be told that, ‘Look, you better behave and this is not the way that you should be doing.’ And that ‘You’d better start behaving like Muslims’ and blah, blah, blah. But other than that, as regards the government, there’s no restriction. We have been fighting for a Right To Information Act, a Freedom Of Information Act for a long, long time. The struggle has been going on for the last 15 to 20 years. It’s not yet in place although several drafts have been prepared, but we intend to continue fighting and once that act comes into place the de facto freedom that we have at this point in time, we’ll also get some sort of a legal cover and legal sanction.
MCHUGH: Both of your countries obviously are not good friends. But as you sit here at this table do you consider yourselves enemies or colleagues?
RADHAKRISHNAN: Oh, it doesn’t really matter. I mean, I speak the same language that he speaks. And we get along famously well, I should tell you. There’s a lot of people-to-people exchanges are going on in within both our countries and they’re very well received by people in both the countries, though politicians tend to ignore them or do not look at them the way they have to be looked at. But it’s great. I mean, people-to-people interaction is really good.
MCHUGH: Mr. Khan?
KHAN: Well, I guess at a one-to-one level what basically makes a difference is the sense of humor. If you get along with each other and we enjoy each other’s sense of humor, then it really doesn’t matter whether somebody is from India or from Pakistan. We just get together and have a good laugh.
MCHUGH: That is Aamir Ahmed Khan, the editor of The Herald, a monthly current affairs magazine based in Karachi, Pakistan; and R. K. Radhakrishnan, a Senior Reporter for The Hindu, India’s national newspaper.
PORTER: Coming up, a critique of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
DAVID MALONE: The NPT Conference was a helpful opportunity for the rest of the world to remind these five classic nuclear powers that first of all they set a very bad example for the Indias and Pakistans of this world. And secondly, that the rest of us aren’t convinced that they need these arsenals at all.
KEITH PORTER: This past May the world’s five main nuclear powers made a historic pledge to eliminate atomic weapons. The pledge was issued at the closing of the five-year review conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation, a global treaty on weapons originally signed by 187 countries. The five countries-the US, Russia, France, Great Britain, and China-have all pledged at various times to reduce their nuclear arsenals, but have never called for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Reaction to the pledge has been mixed and many experts agree only time will tell if all five live up to their word. David Malone is President of the International Peace Academy in New York. Kristin recently asked Malone his views on the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
DAVID MALONE: The important issues in front of the NPT Review Conference were really whether we are making progress towards the goal of eventual nuclear disarmament, so to speak, internationally, or whether following the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan and at a time when the five classic nuclear powers don’t seem to be progressing towards nuclear disarmament themselves, we are in fact regressing. And all of this against the backdrop of what most countries consider a very worrying US initiative to develop a so-called National Missile Defense system.
MCHUGH: What were some of the major conclusions or recommendations that came out of this last review conference?
MALONE: Well, there was very little in terms of meaningful decisions. One of the helpful things that happened during the conference was caucusing amongst the permanent five countries, the sort of classic nuclear powers, to recommit themselves to the goal of progressive nuclear disarmament. This was actually quite important because the permanent five aren’t getting on with each other very well these days. In particular the Western countries seem to have lost their knack for engaging the Russian Federation and the Russian Federation also seems to have lost its rather sure footing in the early ’90s in cooperating with the Western powers. Meanwhile China, which on nuclear issues has not been perhaps so much of a player in recent years, could become one in a very worrying way as a result of NMD. One of the consequences many countries fear from US efforts to develop and eventually deploy a National Missile Defense system is they fear that it will galvanize China into a second round of development of nuclear weapons in China. For the moment, frankly, China’s nuclear weapons capacity is fairly limited compared to that of the United States and the Russian Federation. This need not always be the case. The Chinese have capacities if they choose to devote tremendous resources to the nuclear weapons area. They could doubtless develop arsenals that would rival at least those of Russia. This nobody wants, I think probably least of all China, which has better uses for its resources.
MCHUGH: Now the “Big Five” pledge was certainly rather historic but at the same time doesn’t give really a time frame. I’m wondering is it more a political reference for them to make this pledge or do they seem really committed at this point?
MALONE: Well, what was important was they’ve all felt the heat from the rest of the countries that are part of the NPT regime. These countries have voluntarily committed not to develop nuclear weapons themselves. They involve countries including my own, Canada, that would have had no trouble at all developing nuclear weapons in the 1950s. For a very long time the permanent five felt they could ignore the views of these countries and this is no longer the case. I think they’ve been shocked by the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan into realizing that their own behavior, their own complacency, is a large part of the problem. Now what they are prepared to do in the short term is a big question mark, particularly against the backdrop of NMD and American demands for amendments to the ABM treaty, which really has been the cornerstone for the past 30 years of an arms control regime binding the Soviet Union, today the Russian Federation, to the United States. A regime that the rest of the world has considered a very good thing.
MCHUGH: We talked a little bit about China, and China agreed to give up its first use option in the last review conference. But isn’t that really necessary for everyone in order for all of this to work?
MALONE: Yes, in theory it would be a good thing. In practice, of course, it’s very hard to make out how any of these countries think that their nuclear weapons arsenals are helpful today. These countries don’t have a need to be quite as defensive as they used to be. The likelihood of a nuclear engagement, except an accidental one, between the United States and the Russian Federation is a fairly remote one. By the way, the accidental possibilities should not be played down as the Russian arsenal rusts away and degrades and the capacity to service this arsenal diminishes in the Russian Federation. So I do think that in a way all these nuclear arsenals have lost their raison d’être and the NPT conference was a helpful opportunity for the rest of the world to remind these five classic nuclear powers that first of all they set a very bad example for the Indias and Pakistans of this world, and secondly, that the rest of us aren’t convinced that they need these arsenals at all. If the US could be convinced that the other powers were disarming effectively, it would be very hard to argue that the United States actually needed any nuclear capacity whatsoever.
MCHUGH: Would you then agree that the NPT review process is actually a worthwhile process?
MALONE: Yes. I think the NPT process is a very worthwhile process. I’m much more reserved about other, woolier, UN processes. For example, mammoth UN conferences to talk about disarmament in general, I think are not terribly useful. They tend to lead to posturing by a number of member states. And what progress has been achieved by and large has been achieved due to specific new treaty initiatives like the Chemical Weapons Treaty and some others. Which I think have been very helpful. But these general jamborees of the UN type I’m rather skeptical about myself.
MCHUGH: We’ve touched on National Missile Defense, and I think it’s a little ironic that we’re having discussions about NMD, but at the same time there is this pledge to eliminate nuclear weapons. It seems almost like we’re talking out of both sides of our mouth?
MALONE: Well, I think NMD derives from a perception in the United States that the greatest security threat of the future is terrorism. I’m not at all personally convinced of that. Indeed, I find the American obsession with terrorism fairly pathological. And it tends to apply nearly always to very foreign people in very distant lands, leading to distorted perceptions of terrorist threats within this country. Furthermore, neither the capacity to develop a convincing NMD shield, so to speak, to cover the US and some allied countries, nor the cost effectiveness of this approach, has been established in any convincing way by the advocates of NMD. Beyond this, the Allies nearly all have major reservations over NMD. They see how sensitive China and the Russian Federation are to this initiative and they do feel that it will provoke, unintentionally but indubitably, a new arms race. Is this what the world today wants and can afford at a time when development efforts are lagging and health crises are proliferating in Africa and elsewhere? I would argue not at all.
MCHUGH: I was going to ask you whether or not you feel that there is a new arms race taking place, especially in Southeast Asia, because certainly with India and Pakistan at odds with each other there are several people in the West that are rather concerned about that situation.
MALONE: I’m not sure that we’re yet in a global arms race that need worry us terribly. But my fear, and the fear I think of many others, is that loose talk of NMD, particularly before the capacities have been identified clearly, could provoke one, particularly in China. I don’t think the Russian Federation has the capacity for a new arms race and I think that’s why it’s trying to fend off NMD by brokering, if it can, a solution to the stalemate between North Korea and some of the neighboring states. That’s something positive the Russian Federation can do. It’s a subject of humiliation for the Russian Federation that it will be subjected to NMD if the Americans persevere with this line. Humiliating Russia is a very, very bad policy. It retains a huge nuclear arsenal which we need to be mindful of.
MCHUGH: How do you feel about Vladimir Putin?
MALONE: I think it’s too early to tell about Vladimir Putin. I think that on the one hand he’s a modern, a fairly modern figure when it comes to understanding economic imperatives. I’m not sure, by the way, that Russia needs to be governed exactly the way United States or Canada are. Each country does need to find its own system that works for it. The French system is very different from the British system, both of which are very different from the American system. Each works in a democratic way very well for each of these countries. Do we need the Russians to be exactly like us? No.
MCHUGH: In terms of disarmament issues Putin obviously has had some impact rather recently, in terms of getting through START II, through the Duma. But I’m curious as to whether or not you feel that he’s completely committed to the cause.
MALONE: Oh, very hard to tell at this point. I think it is impressive that he got START II through the Duma, something Yeltsin was never able to achieve. I think he achieved that tactically to wrong-foot the United States in the debate. And he has succeeded in doing that.
MCHUGH: And of course Russia now has their own plan? Just within the last few days?
MALONE: Yes. I’m not sure that the Russian plan is very convincing. It’s, I think, designed to create further differences between Washington and its own allies. I think that the debate between Washington and its allies will have to be pursued on one track while discussions with another, while discussions with Russia continue to be pursued on another. I think any Russian efforts to, so to speak, create problems within the NATO alliance, aren’t particularly helpful. At the same time I think many within NATO, and I would certainly agree with this, feel that we have to find better ways of involving the Russians in our broader security debates. And we have to find better ways of engaging Russia on a broad range of issues, not just the issues on which the Russians seem to threaten our interests.
MCHUGH: Finally, before the NPT review conference there were several folks that were starting to get that doomsaying feel in terms of disarmament issues. Now that NPT is over do you think that that attitude is different?
MALONE: I think the doomsayers are dead wrong. I think we’re in a much better place today than we were during the Cold War. I think that the prospect of the actual use of nuclear weapons between East and West has receded enormously. The prospect of their use between Pakistan and India is extremely troubling, but even if used in that context this is unlikely to lead to a third world war. And this is something the Indians and the Pakistanis have to worry about. They can achieve mutual destruction. They probably cannot draw the rest of the world in with them. So I think we’re in a much better place than we were a number of years ago. And I think that the threat from biological, chemical, and other nonconventional weapons systems is much better understood today, and the attractions of these weapons systems are less than they were, I think. So, far from being a doomsayer, I think we’re much better off than we were. Which doesn’t mean that we don’t have a great deal of further progress to achieve.
MCHUGH: That is David Malone. He is president of the International Peace Academy in New York City. For Common Ground, I’m Kristin McHugh.
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