Friday, August 28, 2009

India Wants Attention!

What with the elections, violence, reviews, and strategic discussions in Afghanistan, drone and ground attacks in Pakistan, visits by senators to Burma, and even remembrances of how Ted Kennedy helped found Bangladesh, India is the odd South Asian country out in terms of news coverage lately.
What's a poor second-largest-country-on-Earth to do to get back in the headlines?
You could try having a well-respected former External Afairs minister, Jaswant Singh, get kicked out of his party for simply suggesting in a book that Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, wasn't the worst person ever. The BJP party, India's leading opposition, is now in turmoil as different factions support or oppose Singh.
If that's not enough, try scrambling a fighter jet to intercept a civilian airliner that had the wrong radio identifier.
Or you could make everyone nervous by re-hashing old battles about nuclear weapons tests, including having hard-liners suggest that more nuclear tests are necessary. Those always help with regional stability. Indian nuclear scientist K. Santhanam declared that India's 1998 nuclear tests were intended to have a much larger yield. The H-bomb test especially, was a "fizzle." He was, of course, refuted by former President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, of the BJP, as well as the current defense ministry. As Arms Control Wonk points out, it's pretty common knowledge among the nuclear nerd community that the H-bomb test fizzled, so why bring it up again now? Apparently Santhanam is worried that India might sign the Comprehensive nuclear Test Ban Treaty and didn't want that to happen.
Of course Pakistan didn't want to be outdone in the nuclear crazy department, so they responded by releasing nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, who ran a nuclear smuggling ring selling Pakistani knowledge and technology all over the world, from even his previous minimal house arrest.
South Asia has plenty of problems folks. Is a little restraint and common sense on nuclear issues really too much to ask?

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