Saturday, 11 April 2015

Hellfire missiles in a hellish region, Lal Khan

Hellfire missiles in a hellish region, Lal Khan
April 12, 2015

 The one billion dollar arms sale to Pakistan recently approved and announced by US officials failed to stir the Pakistani masses from their deep indifference and inertia. The media also failed to whip up much jingoistic fervour. However, in a country with mounting debt, a crumbling economy and an impoverished populace, plunging ever deeper into the abyss of deprivation and exploitation, very few have wondered whether this arms sale could resolve any of their agonies. The war on terror is going nowhere, with periodic and irregularly regular vicious suicide bombings and explosions. How far this exorbitantly expensive procurement of armaments will help tilt the balance in this war of attrition is doubtful to say the least.

The proposed sale will include 15 AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters, 1,000 AGM-114R Hellfire II Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $ 952 million. The package also includes 32 T-700 GE 401C engines (30 installed and 2 spares), 36 H-1 technical refresh mission computers, 32 helmet mounted display/optimised top owls, 17 AN/AAR-47 missile warning systems and system integration and testing. The principal profiteers will be Bell Helicopter, Textron in Fort Worth, Texas, General Electric in Lynn, Massachusetts, the Boeing Company in Huntsville, Alabama and Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland.

This is a country whose military has not fought a major foreign war since 1971 and which is being pulverised by domestic terrorism, violent crime, extortion, corruption, terrorist acts and kidnappings/ransom but has allocated seven billion dollars to the military, whereas the police and internal security departments received a meagre $ 800 million. In the next few weeks, Pakistan will buy Chinese submarines costing anything between five and seven billion dollars. With a callous ruling elite, state expenditures on health and education are amongst the lowest in the world. However, the arms race for conventional weapons between the two neighbouring nuclear-armed adversaries goes on ferociously.

Across the Radcliffe Line, it is well known that India plans to spend approximately $ 100 billion over the next 10 years on defence modernisation. India has increased its defence spending by 10.95 percent; in other words, it has increased from Rs 222,370 billion to Rs 246,727 billion. According to the Indian Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), India cleared a bulk of weaponry projects worth $ 13 billion in a bid to boost the country’s national defence preparedness. The DAC decided that six submarines would be made indigenously at a cost of about Rs 500,000 billion. It also decided to purchase 8,356 Israeli anti-tank guided missiles at a cost of Rs 32,000 billion and finalised the purchase of 12 upgraded Dornier Surveillance Aircraft with improved sensors from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited at a cost of Rs 18,500 billion and 362 infantry fighting vehicles at a cost of Rs 6,620 billion. This outrageous spending is in a country where 863 million people live in poverty, cut out of the economic cycle. The expenditures on the nuclear arsenals in India and Pakistan are probably the most fiercely guarded secret by the state.

As hundreds of millions of people across the globe go hungry, nuclear-armed nations spend close to $ 300 million a day on their nuclear forces. The production, maintenance and modernisation of nuclear forces divert vast public resources away from healthcare, education, climate change mitigation, disaster relief, development assistance and other vital services. According to Global Zero, annual expenditure on nuclear weapons globally is conservatively estimated at $ 105 billion or $ 12 million an hour. In 2010, India spent $ 4.9 billion, Israel $ 1.9 billion and Pakistan $ 2.2 billion just on maintenance and further advances of these weapons of mass destruction. The World Bank forecast that even if half of the known amounts had been spent on poverty alleviation in the last five years, poverty could have been all but eliminated. The South Asian subcontinent has 22 percent of the world’s population while it hosts 46 percent of its poverty.

Nuclear weapons expenditure on a world scale in 2010 was more than twice the official development assistance provided to Africa and equal to the gross domestic product of Bangladesh, a nation of some 160 million people. The Office for Disarmament Affairs — the principal UN body responsible for advancing a nuclear weapon-free world — has an annual budget of $ 10 million, which is less than the amount spent on nuclear weapons every hour. A UN report said, “The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded. The end of the cold war led the world to expect a massive peace dividend yet there are over 20,000 nuclear weapons around the world. Many of them are still on hair-trigger alert, threatening our own survival.”

The ruling cliques in India and Pakistan cannot afford a full-fledged war, nor can they sustain a durable and genuine peace. This explains a treacherous cycle of state of war and peace talks over the last three decades. They are constantly talking about poverty alleviation, yet their cruel spending spree for mutual destruction exacerbates infinitely. It is not an accident that these poorest of countries are amongst the top 10 purchasers of arms. Their ruling classes are some of the richest in the world. The same is the case for Russia, China, the US and Europe as the main exporters of destructive weapons to India and Pakistan. On the one hand, they can ill afford a military confrontation as this would create a conflagration and put an end to their massive investments and profits. On the other hand, brokering a durable peace in the region would spell the death knell for their military industrial complexes. From the US Congress to the Politbureau of the Chinese Communist Party, the corporate bosses of the arms manufacturing industry are the ones who really call the shots. Hence, all policies, domestic and foreign, are devised in accordance with the vested interests of these capitalist barons of the war industry.

Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen will never be resolved under this parasitic system of profits and dehumanisation. To accentuate religious fundamentalism, both the Indian and Pakistani ruling elites ascribe bigoted religious titles to their missiles produced and tested frequently. Yet there is little possibility of nuclear weapons or even destructive conventional weapons ever being used. However, the imperialists and the local comprador bourgeoisie are grossing billons in this arms race. These exhibitions are designed to whip up national chauvinism and religious hatred to crush the class struggle and mass revolts against exploitation and misery imposed by this coercive system.

There cannot be any peace or stability when one and a half billion people are tormented with harrowing repression and excruciating poverty. The continuation of the capitalist system is akin to a living Armageddon for the beleaguered masses of this potential paradise on earth. Only the socialist revolution led by the workers and youth can put an end to this madness of capitalism and armaments that is leeching the blood of the toilers of this historic land.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and international secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at


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