U.S. Hypocrisy on
the Nuclear Danger in India/Pakistan

Revolutionary Worker #963, June 28, 1998

In May, India and Pakistan joined the "nuclear club" when the governments of the two countries carried out a series of underground test explosions of atomic weapons. It has been open knowledge for years that both countries have nuclear weapons. But with the tests this May, India and Pakistan joined the United States, Russia, England, France and China as states that openly possess nuclear weapons. Israel also has a stockpile of nuclear arms but does not officially admit it.

The nuclear tests have cranked up the contradictions between Pakistan and India to a new level of danger. Both countries are dominated by imperialism and ruled by reactionary classes that keep the masses of people brutally exploited and oppressed. The rulers of India--which is much larger than Pakistan in terms of territory and population--have ambitions of expanding their position as a regional power. Pakistan and India have waged three wars against each other over the past 50 years. In recent years, the conflict over the disputed province of Kashmir has threatened to erupt into another war. The introduction of nuclear weapons into this equation makes the prospect of such a war even more horrifying. If one side uses nuclear weapons, there is no doubt that the other would retaliate with its own nukes. Such a nuclear exchange would cause deaths and suffering on a huge scale on both sides of the border. And poisonous radioactive clouds might drift over large areas of South Asia and beyond.

U.S.--The Nuclear Godfather

The recent tests sent shockwaves around the world, bringing back the nightmare of nuclear war for many people. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the rival imperialist blocs headed up by the U.S. and the Soviet Union carried out an arms race that led to production of enough nuclear weapons to threaten human extinction. The immediate threat of all-out nuclear exchange between imperialist powers ebbed with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But now people fear--with good reason--that the world became a more dangerous place after the nuclear blasts in South Asia.

However, for the major powers--especially the U.S.--to declare that they are "outraged" by the tests and lecture the governments of India and Pakistan about their "irresponsible behavior" is nothing but gangster logic and extreme hypocrisy. Clinton said that "it is just wrong" for any country to project power by detonating atomic bombs "when everybody else is trying to leave the nuclear age behind." This comes from the head of a government that brandishes 3,500 long-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and many other nuclear bombs of different types! Clinton and the U.S. imperialist ruling class have no right to preach about atomic bombs--they are international criminals who use their huge war machine, with nuclear arms as its "backbone," to rob and bully their way around the world.

Who was the first to develop the atom bomb? What is the only power so far to actually use nuclear bombs in war? Which country deploys its nuclear-armed forces to intervene and "project power" around the world? Anyone with any knowledge of world history knows that the answer is the United States.

Not so well known is the fact that the U.S. conducted its own nuclear test in the Nevada desert on March 25--just a few weeks before the tests by India and Pakistan. The "subcritical" test involved a detonation of plutonium and explosives in a "controlled nuclear reaction"--in order to check the reliability of the U.S. military's nuclear weapons. This is the first of four such tests that the U.S. will carry out in the current fiscal year alone.

After the tests by India and Pakistan, Clinton announced that the U.S. government was imposing economic sanctions on both countries as punishment. He suspended direct U.S. aid to Pakistan and India and pushed the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to postpone loans to the two countries. The Russian government--hoping to extend influence in the region through relations with India--declared its opposition to the economic sanctions.

Clinton denounced the Indian and Pakistani governments for violating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The U.S. had pushed many other governments to sign this treaty in 1996, claiming that it would lead to the lessening of nuclear dangers. (The Indian government was one of several countries that refused to sign it.)

But the CTBT said nothing about the established nuclear powers getting rid of their nuclear weapons. In reality, the CTBT is a cynical maneuver by the U.S. to manipulate people's opposition to nuclear weapons--in order to preserve their own "nuclear superiority" and prevent other countries from developing and deploying nuclear arms. The CTBT did not stem from any genuine concern about the dangers that nuclear weapons pose for the masses of people worldwide. The real worry of the U.S. ruling class is that their imperialist interests are threatened when countries like India and Pakistan "go nuclear." The amount of nuclear arms that India and Pakistan have are very small compared to the U.S. nuclear stockpile; just a few of the U.S. military's "city buster" nuclear missiles pack much more explosive power than all of the bombs that India and Pakistan now have. But the U.S. rulers fear that it makes it harder for them to control, bully and terrorize smaller states if they have even minor nuclear capabilities. (The U.S. sees Israel's nukes as a different matter, since the Zionist state serves as a heavily armed fortress for U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.)

There is another layer of hypocrisy around CTBT--the U.S. itself continues to test nuclear weapons in various ways (such as the "subcritical" tests mentioned earlier). The U.S. government operates what it calls the Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP)--involving different kinds of tests, technical facilities, giant lasers and supercomputers. The projected budget for the SSP is $45 billion over the next ten years--more than the annual spending on nuclear weapons during the "cold war." The purpose of the SSP is not only to maintain the current arsenal but to develop new weapons--so that the U.S. can keep a step ahead of the other nuclear powers.

The SSP is a blatant violation of the "test ban" treaty that the U.S. itself pushed. This shows again that the real aim of the CTBT is protecting the U.S. position as the number one nuclear superpower.

Behind the India-Pakistan Conflict

The U.S. and other imperialist powers pretend that they have nothing to do with how the India-Pakistan conflict started and how it developed to the point today where the two states are threatening each other with nuclear weapons. But the truth is that this conflict has everything to do with imperialism.

Until the end of World War 2, the Indian subcontinent was under the colonial rule of British imperialism. Britain carried out a divide-and-conquer policy by deliberately exacerbating the divisions and differences between various nationalities and between the Hindu, Moslem and Sikh religious groups.

With the end of direct colonial rule, Pakistan was partitioned as a separate Moslem state. The province of Kashmir, whose population is mainly Moslem, was partially occupied by India. The contested status of Kashmir has been a focus of fighting between India and Pakistan since then. In 1971, India's ruling class and military played a key role in breaking Pakistan in half--creating a new state, Bangladesh, out of former East Pakistan.

During the 1980s, India and Pakistan became part of the imperialist contention between the U.S. and Soviet Union. Pakistan served as the rear base and supply route for the CIA-led war in neighboring Afghanistan against Soviet occupying forces. The Pakistani regime received huge amounts of U.S. aid and military assistance. In India, the Soviets had major influence in the government and in the state-owned sectors of the capitalist economy. But the U.S. and other Western powers also had their hands in India, especially through the privately owned sectors of the economy.

Earlier this year, a coalition led by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took control of the Indian government. The BJP is known for its rabid Hindu chauvinism directed at Moslems and others. Even before the election, the BJP made it known that it would carry out nuclear tests. After the May tests, some BJP officials openly said that India was now ready for a new war with Pakistan over Kashmir. The Pakistani government said that its tests were a defensive response to the new threat posed by India. The Indian government replied that Pakistan had "upped the ante" first by carrying out a test flight of a ballistic missile that could reach many Indian cities.

The U.S. rulers are shamelessly trying to pose as "peacemakers" between India and Pakistan and opponents of "weapons of mass destruction." But the India-Pakistan conflict has its roots in imperialist domination and manipulation. And the U.S. imperialists are the biggest and most criminal users of "weapons of mass destruction" in the world.

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