Sub-continental arms build-up has Pakistani daily worried

Islamabad, Sep 18 (IANS) The arms build-up between Pakistan and India is “hardly necessary in a region that badly needs to sow the seeds of cooperation rather than increase rivalry”, a leading Pakistani daily said on Friday.

An editorial, “Regional arms build-up”, in Dawn said that the establishment of the India Rapid Reaction Cell at the Pentagon should be cause for much disappointment among peace-loving people in both India and Pakistan.

“The cell is designed to streamline the coordination required for India’s procurement of American arms; its creation shows the eagerness with which the US government wants to tap into India’s growing weapons procurement drive,” said the daily.

The idea for the cell, the only one of its kind, had its origins in President Barack Obama’s visit to Delhi in January. The cell is set to ramp up its work in the months to come.

The daily said that it is already working on the development of an aircraft carrier for India, and “its work goes far beyond simply streamlining coordination for procurement, as it also facilitates the design of weapons systems and other measures to enhance technological collaboration”.

The editorial noted that over the past few years, India has emerged as the world’s largest buyer of weapons systems as the arms build-up gathers momentum.

“Many of the weapons systems in which India is showing an interest make little sense for a country that faces no serious conventional threat from any of its neighbours,” it added.

The daily went on to say that “this procurement is fuelling an inevitable arms build-up in Pakistan too, which is in the midst of a weapons acquisition drive of its own. When India demonstrated its keenness to buy the French Rafale fighter jet in early summer, for instance, Pakistan announced its interest in buying the SU-35 from Russia”.

“And more worryingly, as India ramps up its conventional capability, Pakistan increases its reliance on non-conventional capabilities as a cheaper alternative.”

It rued that this arms build-up by the two countries “is hardly necessary in a region that badly needs to sow the seeds of cooperation rather than increase rivalry”.

The daily expressed its disappointment over the US “facilitating the arms race for its own commercial purposes, especially since its foreign policy objectives in the region call for greater harmony and integration”.

“It would be naïve to underestimate the power of greed and ego that is fuelling this regrettable enterprise. Rationality will need to shout to be heard in the midst of this turbo-charged arms build-up that is escalating in both countries, but the voice of reason and peace has rarely been needed more,” it said.

The daily added: “South Asia has the benefit of being relatively removed from the growing conflicts to its east, and the rising tensions to its west. It would be fit and proper to build our future away from the clamour of conflict and nationalistic bombast. That is the rare gift of geography to us. Let us not squander it.”

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