The subject of the talk this morning is “Perspective of Peace and Security in Asia”. Were I to sum up the talk in just one sentence or even one word my comment would be “Awful”. In other words the prospects for peace not only do not appear to be good, they are decidedly bad. Why do I make this troubling comment at the very commencement of my talk? Here are a few of the more glaring signs.
Let us begin by examining the awesome armaments build up by some of the most important countries in East, Southeast and South Asia.
New Arms Race in the Region
China: China's buildup looms large. China's total defense spending was $78 billion in 2010, up from $17 billion in 2001, according to government reports. Western defense officials say those totals don't include arms imports. The U.S. Defense Department has estimated that China's total military-related spending in 2009 was $150 billion. China doesn't disclose details about arms purchases. Figures made public by the Russian government indicate that China spent more than $17 billion on Russian arms imports between 2001 and 2010. Adding that figure to Chinese spending on domestic arms procurement Western defense experts estimate that China has spent about $150 billion on new weapons over the past decade.
India: Six 217-foot Scorpène-class attack submarines to be built over the next few years in addition to stealth frigates and guided-missile destroyers. It is augmenting its military strength in several other areas. It purchased eight maritime reconnaissance and antisubmarine aircraft from Boeing Co. for $2.1 billion in 2009, and the government recently approved an order for another four, says an Indian navy spokesman. The goal is to upgrade India's snooping capabilities and replace outdated Russian planes. Boeing and several other aerospace firms are also in the running for an estimated $10.5 billion contract for 126 fighter jets India's largest-ever defense order.
Other ASEAN & East Asia Nations: In December 2010, Japan overhauled its defense guidelines, laying plans to purchase five submarines, three destroyers, 12 fighter jets, 10 patrol planes and 39 helicopters. South Korea and Vietnam are adding submarines. Arms imports are on the rise in Malaysia. The tiny city-state of Singapore, which plans to add two submarines, is now among the world's top 10 arms importers. Australia plans to spend as much as $279 billion over the next 20 years on new submarines, destroyers and fighter planes. Together, these efforts amount to a simultaneous buildup of advanced weaponry in the Asia-Pacific region on a scale and at a speed not seen since the Cold War arms race between America and the Soviet Union. South Korea and Vietnam are expected to get six more submarines apiece by 2020. Australia plans to add 12 over the next 20 years. Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are each adding two. Together, the moves constitute one of the largest buildups of submarines since the early years of the Cold War. Asian nations are expected to buy as many as 111 subs over the next 20 years, according to AMI International, which provides market research to governments and shipbuilders. Australia's planned $279 billion of military spending over the next 20 years will fund the biggest expansion of its military since World War II. In December 2010 Japan overhauled its defense guidelines, drawn up in the Cold War and directed principally at the Soviet Union, to focus more on China. The new guidelines call for spending as much as $284 billion between 2011 and 2015 to modernize Japan's Self-Defense Forces. Japan proposed deploying more U.S. Patriot missiles, prompting China to protest that such a move would trigger a regional arms race.
South Korea is worried about China's continued support for North Korea, and that growing Chinese military power will limit U.S. capacity to intervene if war breaks out on the Korean peninsula. In 2006, South Korea launched a 15-year military-modernization program projected to cost about $550 billion, with about one-third slated for arms purchases. The program has since been reviewed after two attacks on the South by the North last year. Military analysts expect South Korea to spend more on conventional weapons designed to defend it against the North, including submarines, destroyers, F-15 fighter jets and possibly F-35s.
Vietnam and China, once steadfast allies against the U.S, are now feuding over Chinese territorial claims in the oil-and-gas-rich South China Sea. Vietnam does not have an economy or budget big enough to go toe-to-toe with China procuring weapons. In lieu of a big arms buildup, it is opening up a prized military asset, its deep-water port in Cam Ranh Bay, in the hopes that foreign navies will steam into the South China Sea and help secure the region's shipping lanes. "Offering Cam Ranh Bay to foreign navies is a master stroke," says Carlyle Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy at the University of New South Wales. "It will attract precisely those navies that can be expected to keep China's naval ambitions in check."
(Contributions by Julian E. Barnes, Patrick Barta, Tom Wright and others)
As if the massive build up of military arsenals was not alarming enough reproduced below are some recent statements by major players with nuclear arsenals:
China: We must send a clear signal to our neighboring countries that we don’t fear war, and we are prepared at any time to go to war to safeguard our national interests. China's neighboring countries need China’s international trade more than China needs them, with the vast majority of China's trade deficit caused by these countries. Therefore, they, but not China, will suffer greater damage by antagonizing China. China should make good use of these economic advantages and strategic power. This is also the most effective means to avoid a war. (Qiushi, December 10, 2010 http://www.qstheory.cn/lg/zl/201012/t20101210_59023.htm).
Russia: Russia had declared that a devastating cyber attack could invite nuclear retaliation.
USA: During the presidency of George W. Bush the USA had planned to authorize field commanders to exercise the option of using mini nukes. President Obama has allocated large sums for updating of the nuclear arsenal.
France: During the presidency of Jacques Chirac a statement had been attributed to the President that a major terrorist attack on French territories could invite nuclear retaliation.
The bellicosity and attitude of the countries mentioned above leaves no room to doubt the hair-trigger trip-wire situation. Sadly, even for countries outside the region like the USA, Britain, France and Russia the battleground would be Asia and not any other continent in the world. What is more, all the countries mentioned have nuclear arsenals.
This audience would be aware of the mounting danger from the latest dimensions of warfare being added to the planet-destroying, humanity- and other life forms-erasing capacities that have already existed since the Cold War. The new dimensions relate to satellite destruction of opponents (as demonstrated by the Chinese) and lethal Cyber attacks (as demonstrated by the Stuxnet Virus unleashed in Iran to disrupt the nuclear plants in that country and other cyber attacks worldwide). USA and Russia already have the satellite kill capability; and if the weaponisation of space is not halted, India too would soon perfect its capability to knock out the satellites of its opponents.
(After this paper was written the Russian government announced a US $ 650 billion programme for further augmenting its formidable military capability).
Before ending the first part of the talk it has to be reiterated that unless the P5 start scaling back on their nuclear arsenals and the next set of countries that have nuclear weapons call a halt to increasing their nuclear stockpiles horizontal proliferation is bound to pick up momentum in the coming years.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
At the outset it needs to be mentioned that it is not the intention of the presenter to put the blame on any one country on the volatile situation that obtains in the region. That way leads to recrimination and trading of charges, making the whole exercise of coming together at this forum counterproductive. Nevertheless, in the interest of realism it has to be stated that the meteoric rise of China in both economic and military terms has been a major factor in the arms race that is taking place in this part of the world. Whatever China’s long-term policies a demonstrated capability invariably causes discomfort and re-assessment among neighbouring countries. In the present case China’s leap in just three short decades has been so formidable that it has willy-nilly shaken the global order that existed before the unprecedented rise. Two millennia ago Kautilya in his Arthasatra had said: “It is the nature of power to assert itself”. The world is witnessing the truth of that maxim.
The Spreading Volatility in Asia
Unrest has been spreading throughout Asia since the start of the new millennium. In just the first decade of the 21st century volatility is roiling the landscape in West Asia, South Asia, North and East Asia, not to mention looming volatility in Central Asia owing to the uncertain situation in Afghanistan. In the present dialogue it would be more productive to keep aside West Asia and limit discussions to the region that concerns this forum more directly. In this modest undertaking it would be prudent to keep out for the time being the larger rivalry developing between the older superpower USA and the emerging superpower China on the global plane, while not being unmindful of the fact that the spillover of that rivalry into Asia may not be resolved for a long time to come. By the same token US influence in the region is unlikely to diminish for the foreseeable future.
The most direct way of going into the examination of the perspective for peace would be to first highlight the most contentious issues in South Asia, ASEAN, the South China Sea, China-Vietnam, China-Japan, Taiwan, and the situation in the two Koreas and then discuss the prospects for peace. Besides taking up an enormous amount of space and time to outline just the main points of the largely intractable disputes, it would hardly be conducive to harmony in a conclave of this nature as each party to the dispute would lay out their own side of the case, leaving very little middle ground for resolution modes. With this in mind this paper in the ensuing paragraphs looks at areas that show promise of bringing countries together. Briefly the areas selected for the presentation are as follows:
- Doctors groupings like IPPNW as the lead elements for fostering greater harmony between the countries of the region;
- The Mayors for Peace initiatives;
- Expansion of cultural exchanges between countries;
- Youth movements and student exchanges;
- Global warming, climate change and ecological restoration as a survival imperative;
- The common endeavor of ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
Several other fields on these lines can be considered and given a fillip so that while the leaders of nations fail to reach consensus on pressing global concerns an irreversible momentum is built up form below to force world leaders to come together to find answers to planet-threatening issues that can no longer be pushed aside for agreement at a later date. A quick elaboration on the items just spelled out that could bring nations together follows.
Although IPPNW in the several decades since its inception and 25 years since the award of the Nobel Peace Prize has made a mark in the world in its quest for the elimination of nuclear weapons the fact remains that the prospects for elimination remain dim. Even the deep ocean and space are being militarized. While IPPNW worldwide continues to push for complete nuclear disarmament the country chapters of IPPNW gathered here have a golden opportunity of bonding together to promote regional peace as a prelude to a common approach to the rollback of the nuclear arsenals. The combined weight of the major countries represented here, China, India and Japan among others for example can become a formidable force to move the process forward in a meaningful manner.
In spite of the differences between these countries in the geo-political and geo-strategic spectrum the abundant and amazing goodwill that prevails between the doctors from all the countries participating in this conference is indicative of the pathway to be taken for making them heard in a more forceful manner. If one were to take the measure of the combined strength of the doctors in the IPPNW chapters in each of these countries as well as their affiliates like the IDPD the total number would represent a force that can compel the governments in the region to modify their rigid country-specific approaches to nuclear disarmament and cut back military spending for bringing in peace and prosperity for the left behind masses in the region.
In like manner the Mayors for Peace initiative that has spread across much of the world have to recognize their combined strength in order to compel governments across the world to change course. Mere pleas for nuclear disarmament seem to be falling on deaf ears. The combined might of IPPNW and Mayors for Peace could be a much bigger force, one which the governments of the world would not be able to ignore. There is hence a need for IPPNW-Mayors for Peace consultative body to formulate joint plans for time bound action. This action plan would then be forwarded to the UN Secretary General, European Union Parliament, the P5 nations and the 3 other nations with nuclear capabilities. To date both these peace promoting bodies have been very gentlemanly in their approach to the UN and the governments possessing nuclear weapons. With their formidable combined strength they have to enter the arena as major players who can no longer be ignored.
Concomitantly, the IPPNW and Mayors for Peace can independently form committees to set out common, non-partisan proposals on behalf of humanity for mitigating the looming disasters relating to global warming, climate change, unregulated genetic modifications and ecological degradation of the planet, to include the Oceans and Space. As a very venerable personage+ recently mentioned that the time has come for human beings to create communities of greatness that could take up the global challenges that seem to be eluding the grasp of the world leaders of today. IPPNW, Mayors for Peace, IDPD and associated bodies represent the new ‘communities of greatness’ that are being thrown up from below to lead the world out of the current impasse on these important global issues in a more purposeful and confident manner. We take this opportunity to salute these communities.
The Overarching Prospect for Peace
The most tantalizing prospect for peace in the region, however, remains the coming together of China and India. These two ancient civilizations that represent between them over 30 percent of the human mass on the planet and very sizeable geographic space had enjoyed peace and harmony for several millennia up to the year 1950 when the People’s Republic of China decided on the military annexation of Tibet. With the military occupation the Indo-Tibet border was overnight converted into the India-China border with far-reaching consequences for the region. Hardly any purpose would be served by going into the historical justification - or lack thereof - in the Chinese occupation of Tibet. For all practical purposes it was a fait accompli. India for its part not only recognized Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, it even went so far as to recognize China’s sovereignty over it during the visit of Prime Minister Vajpayee to China almost a decade earlier. Therefore, to all intents and purposes there should have been no grounds for further hostilities between the two great Asian powers.
Going beyond the troubled history between China and India over the last sixty years should one look to the future as a ‘period of accord’ the prospect for peace between these two nations and the entire region becomes dazzling enough to overshadow all lesser tensions that plague the region. The impact of a China-India entente would be so great that it could become the touchstone for lasting harmony in Asia and the world. Together China and India would have the demographic and economic might added to the combined weight of two great civilizations to enlarge the zone of peace and prosperity to embrace the Pacific and Indian Oceans, leaving little scope for large-scale disharmony on the globe for the rest of the century or even the millennium. It is a prospect to be cherished and a dream to be nourished for the peoples of these two countries as well as humanity at large.
A short while ago this speaker exchanged books with another author. The inscription on the book presented by Ken O’Donnell read: “May the Future Embrace Your Highest Purpose”. This presentation is ended with the same invocation: “May the Future embrace in the fullest measure the Highest Purpose of IPPNW, IDPD, Mayors for Peace and affiliates”.
General Vinod Saighal retired from the Indian Army in 1995 from the post of Director General Military Training. Before that he had several active command assignments, including the command of an independent armoured formation and mountain and desert divisions. He has held an assignment with the UN Peacekeeping forces as well as tenure in Iran. He had served as the country's Military Attache in France and BENELUX. He speaks several languages including French and Persian. Currently he is the Executive Director of Eco Monitors Society a non-governmental organization concerned with demography and ecology. After retirement, he founded the Movement for Restoration of Good Government. He has lectured extensively in India and abroad on several burning issues of the day. Vinod Saighal was invited to join the 'Institutional Advisory Board' of USFSS (US Federation of Scientists and Scholars) in 2000. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed book 'Third Millennium Equipoise'. Additionally, he has authored Restructuring South Asian Security, Restructuring Pakistan, Dealing with Global Terrorism: The Way Forward and Global Security Paradoxes: 2000-2020. His first book was selected at the Caracas International Book Fair in November 2008 for a Spanish edition (title: Equilibrio en el Tercer Milenio).
+ Dadi Janki, the 95 year old head of the Brahma Kumaris whose headquarters are located at Mt. Abu in India.
IPPNW –International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
IDPD - Indian Doctors for Peace & Development