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Pakistan's call to ban nuclear weapons – An Analysis

August 13, 2009 6 comments

One would need to take a very cautiously optimistic approach while welcoming Pakistan’s call to ban nuclear weapons! Cautiously optimistic approach because, it remains to be discerned whether its nuclear arsenal is well within the control of the elected government! Besides, the statement that it “subscribes to the goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and has always played an active and constructive role in the conference” should be seen as one among the many last ditch face saving attempts by a desperate nation embroiled in a state of terror which was created, financed and proliferated by its own agencies, who now are, in part, working to control the menace.

Probably intended to convey to the world of a reviewed intention in the arena of nuclear politics, Pakistan has, with this statement too, been ineffective to assure the international community in convincing them of its intentions which largely remain unclear and uncharacteristic to the extent that they are unbelievable! British envoy to the Conference on Disarmament, John Duncan said, “Pakistan’s stand was disappointing as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council; the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain as well as Iran, North Korea and Israel, back the consensus.” Sweden, which is another member nation, currently in position of holding the European Union’s revolving presidency has termed Pakistan’s stand as a procedural maneuver, aimed at stalling any significant agreement on reducing weaponry, which in essence is a treaty to halt production of fissile material. One wonders if Pakistan is merely responding to a veiled comment by the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi asking the forum to expedite talks on a treaty to halt production of fissile material used to make nuclear weapons, which has been seen as partly aimed at it?

Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions began largely as a measure to counter a perceived Indian threat and it continues to remain a non signatory of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It is easy to see why Pakistan is playing ball in a forum, whose significance, rather insignificance so far has been non-achievement of consensus to chart a treaty to reduce production of fissile material. Pakistan is neither a nuclear power nor is it a signatory of the NPT, as mentioned before. However, given the current situation and flux that is has come to witness, it is important for it to take a stand on terrorism and associated concerns, nuclear weapons in particular. By calling for a ban on nuclear weapons, Pakistan has schemed a two fold objective, the first being a sound byte to the International Community on how its policies are focused on committing to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons and secondly a pressure on the Conference of Disarmament to further play footsie on the fissile treaty, opinions on which could now be divided, even though realistically speaking, the envisioning of a world free of nuclear weapons is largely Utopian, and cannot attain practical application! By echoing such a stand, Pakistan is doing nothing to change its current posture or policy, which unlike India’s does not hinge on a no-first strike! To make matters worse, the nuclear arsenal is controlled and commanded by the Pakistan army and not by the civilian government, which is unlike India, where such a system is overseen by the Nuclear Command Authority which comprises the Prime Minister and other key functionaries of the government, apart from echelons of the Armed Forces.

It is interesting to note Pakistan’s demands, at the Conference of Disarmament, which include general nuclear disarmament, guarantees from nuclear powers that they would not attack non-nuclear states, banning nuclear weapons from outer space, and the fissile cut-off pact. Given the stance that Pakistan has almost suddenly taken, one wonders, pondering over several questions that have arisen as a result. Is Pakistan firstly capable of weapons grade nuclear delivery? If so, is the nuclear arsenal in safe hands? Is there any threat to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in the coming future?

As for the Geneva based Conference on Disarmament, which is a UN body, I would not attribute much to its actions until a concrete agreement has been hammered out, speaking of which I’d like to remind the readers of a series of timeless haggling over the past 12 years that have largely stalled its activities and agenda! Now, as I write this post, word is that ‘the way forward has been finally achieved,’ a path to begin negotiations that have been frozen for a long time now!

So much for hard bargained progress!

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China producing fake drugs under the label "Made in India"

The Chinese have long been a menace that has been left unattended! This time around, I’m not talking about their complicity with terrorist organizations operating in North-Eastern India, or their repeated attempts to violate the International border, which has been on the rise for some time now.

I’m talking about their new weapon in the Anti-India arsenal which involves manufacturing and marketing fake pharmaceutical drugs under the “Made in India” label. This is truly appalling and comes as a rude shock to the Indian nation in general and Indian pharmaceutical companies in particular who strive very hard to manufacture medication drugs after painstakingly slow and expensive research processes that eat into a major share of their profit margins.

Although Indian agencies have long known that this the Chinese were involved in such practice, valuable evidence to prove this was not easily forthcoming, until early last week, when the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) of Nigeria issued a press release stating that a large consignment of fake anti-malarial generic pharmaceuticals labeled ‘Made in India’ were, in fact, found to have been produced in China. It is extremely unlikely that Nigeria alone is a recipient of such fake pharmaceutical material or that this incident is isolated. This incident throws light upon a well planned scheme of operations orchestrated by China to undermine India in every possible angle, economic front included.

It is very interesting to note that this is not China’s first brush with counterfeit pharmaceutical material. Early this year, Guardian reported on growing health fears on account of fake Chinese drugs extensively being available in Britain. According to the report, an estimated 8 million pieces of such fake drugs found their way into the National Health Service (NHS). British border officials seized more than half a million counterfeit pills destined for the NHS and high-street chemists last year, an amount equal to the quantity of counterfeit drugs found in the whole of Europe in 2005.  Fake life-saving medicines for ailments such as heart disease and cancer, worth more than £3 million were intercepted by customs officials and the Home Office border agency in the first 10 months of 2008. Of these, three consignments alone were each larger than 100,000 pills.

The size of the problem facing the NHS is now so alarming that Interpol’s secretary-general, Ronald Noble, opened an anti-counterfeiting conference in Africa recently by admitting to being “shocked” at discovering that fake drugs were more deadly than terrorism. Forty years of terrorism, he said, had killed 65,000 people, compared with 200,000 in one year alone in China from counterfeit medicines.

It is apparent that China does not worry about its own reputation being tarnished beyond repair in such acts, as was seen in 2007 when it came to light that the former head of China’s Food and Drug Administration was found guilty of taking bribes to license fake drugs. The fact is that the counterfeit drug market in China is very strong and well organized apart from being safeguarded and aided by the state machinery itself, whose devious agenda was clearly seen in Nigeria last week following the haul of fake drugs.

India needs to reflect seriously on what lessons can be drawn from such cases and should urgently step up efforts in food and drug supervision and monitoring, aimed at uncovering more Chinese-sponsored malaise. Chinese officials will continue to live in denial and contest every claim made by the international media, while shamelessly aiding to such unscrupulous practices with the singular objective of maligning India’s reputation and standing in the international community.

Fake foreign-made generics carrying ‘Made in India’ label can do tremendous harm to our interests. It not only dents our image and takes our legitimate market share, it also erodes the distinction between generic and fake medicines that we have been campaigning for at WHO and WTO, as stated in a letter by India’s High Commissioner in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Mahesh Sachdev, written to then commerce secretary GSK Pillai.

New Delhi’s protests to China on this issue will most certainly fall on deaf ears and will be dismissed as a cunningly crafted ploy to blemish the latter’s reputation. Therefore, India needs to build a very strong case against China while coordinating with intellgence sources of Ghana, South Africa, Ivory Coast and West Africa, they being large markets of Indian pharmaceutical products. Information so gathered needs to be presented to international bodies of commerce, crime and pharmacology to invite stringent sanctions on China so as to deter this hideously red nation from engaging in such sordid anti-India schemes.