YOUR TURN TO TALK
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This is in response to your story, “Puma plans new cricket apparel line; may sign up a young player”, Mint, 25 September. Why not? Cricket is no more a gentleman’s game. Watching the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, I have come to the following conclusion: The well-dressed Test cricket of 1971 changed as the 60 overs (later changed to 50 overs) version known as pyjama cricket came in. And now pyjama cricket is making way for Bermuda cricket. To me, Twenty20 is not cricket, call it by any fashionable name. But it seems it is here to stay, and will lead the resurgence of business interest in cricket. Twenty20 proves how money is (mis)spent in the name of entertainment. No wonder companies are flocking to be part of Bermuda cricket.
—Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee
Donald Greenlees has done well to focus on the growing proliferation of nuclear capable missiles in the South Asian region, “Asian arms race...”, Mint, 21 September.
Sadly, the Missile Technology Control Regime has failed to curb nation states bent on acquiring capabilities which are presumed to be in their national interests. However, the potency of missile power of states such as Pakistan and India appears highly exaggerated. India has essentially developed three series of missiles, the Prithvi, the BrahMos and the Agni. These have been deployed, but in small numbers and only the latter has a strategic reach. The Prithvi and the BrahMos are counter-force tactical missiles to be employed primarily against military targets. India has carried out only one test of Agni III, which has a range of 3,500km, and will need many more to develop a viable strategic capability. The missiles under development, given the Indian Defence Research Development Organization’s sloth, will take many more years to be operationalized.
Whereas Pakistan has been consistently carrying out a number of tests of its Hatf series of missiles, which has six variants with Shaheen II being the one with the most potent range, but it is still under development. It is only Hatf 4 or Shaheen I, which has been inducted in service with a maximum range of 700km, while the two cruise versions, Babur and Ra’ad, are still in testing nascency. Pakistan is presumably looking beyond the South Asian region, for, with growing nuclear and missile development by Iran, a potent arsenal will provide it much leverage in the West Asian strategic potboiler. Connect Saudi Arabian accommodation of President Pervez Musharraf’s bête noir, Nawaz Sharif, with Pakistani missile capability vis-à-vis Iran and the jigsaw may fit neatly. But on the whole, there is much more hype in South Asian missile development than reality.
China, of course, is in a different league, but currently, its short range ballistic missiles are directed at Taiwan while the deployment of long-range assets against India remains an unknown entity.
What, therefore, emerges is that though the missile control regime has failed, there is ample scope for controls which need to be exercised by the international community to prevent further proliferation.
In the field of missile development, technological regimes have proved effective in merely slowing down the process. There is a need for exercising greater political controls for which the US in particular has enough leverages both with India and Pakistan.
However, given extension of Chinese missile capability into the ICBM sphere, whether Washington is really interested in reining in India remains a moot question. And without restricting New Delhi, Islamabad will not accede to restraint. So, it is a catch-22 situation and the solution may be outside the South Asian region—reduction in Sino- US balance of competition, if not power, in the years ahead.