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HVK Archives: Navel-missile story leak seen as 'perverted twist

Navel-missile story leak seen as 'perverted twist - India Abroad

Aziz Haniffa ()
May 8, 1998

Title: Navel-missile story leak seen as 'perverted twist'
Author: Aziz Haniffa
Publication: India Abroad
Date: May 8, 1998

The well-placed leak of India's alleged attempts to build a sea-
launch missile with Russian assistance was in no way timed to
coincide with President K.R. Narayanan's visit to the United
States, but was deliberately intended to shift the "single focus"
away from China, according to informed sources.

The sources dismissed the reported contention by some Indian
diplomats traveling with Narayanan that the leak was timed to
cloud the visit of the Indian President.

Instead, they said that the story in The New York Times on April
27, that Russia as helping India develop the Sagarika, a sea-
launch missile with a 200-kilometer range, was to take the
pressure off Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during her
visit to Beijing.

One source said the leak was designed to essentially move the
focus away from China "as the single villain" of missile
proliferation, particularly vis-a-vis its clandestine transfers
of technology to Pakistan and Iran, and to include Russia as
involved in complicity in such illegal assistance to India with
regard to the development of the Sagarika.

One source said that it was a "kind of perverted twist" to the,
Administration's perennial refrain that where US. policy in South
Asia is concerned, it's not a zero-sum game.

Both Pakistan and India have continued to perceive any particular
relationship that the United States tries to build with one as at
the expense of the other, despite Washington's protestations..

The source explained that now in some convoluted form the
argument could be made that as much as China was helping
Pakistan, it sort of canceled out since Russia was helping India
and thus it was a zero-sum game.

But essentially, according to sources, the leak was not so much
targeted against India as it was to get Congress off the
Administration's back with regard to China as the "only culprit"
and try to make the case that Russia was playing the same game,
too. In fact, during Albright's press conference in Beijing, she
acknowledged that she was concerned over reports that Russia was
assisting India in building a sea-launched ballistic missile that
could reach Pakistan.

"Obviously, that is of concern to us," she said, while also
expressing concern over Russia's plan to push ahead with delivery
of advanced air-defence missiles to Cyprus.

Both Russia and India have denied that they are collaborating in
the development of a sea-launch missile to enhance New Delhi's
missile arsenal.

The U.S., however, has challenged these denials and State
Department officials said, "India has been receiving some
assistance from Russia in pursuing the Sagarika missile project."

"We've raised this issue with Russia in the past," they said,
"and the Russian government has stated that it was acting in a
manner consistent with the MTCR (Missile Technology Control
Regime) guidelines."

"Russia also provided us with certain assurances about its
assistance to the Sagarika program' the officials said, and
added: "We've made no determination that Russian assistance to
the Sagarika program is inconsistent with its assurances to us."

The New York Times, however, reported that U.S. Vice President Al
Gore and other top Administration officials have appealed to
Russia to stop assisting the Indian program, but have had little

The Administration has said it believes the Sagarika program by
India is a long-term project in its early stages of development

It also said, "We understand that the missile is being developed
in conjunction with a project to design and build in India a
nuclear submarine, which is itself in the very early stage."

When asked why India would deny not only that it was receiving
Russian assistance, but the existence of such a program when the
U.S. has known of it for quite some time, one official said,
"Beats me."

"You'll have to ask the Indians about it" (the denial), the
official added.

Meanwhile, the sources described as "utterly ridiculous" claims
by some Indian officials that the leak was designed to embarrass
Narayanan on his trip to the U.S.

These Indian officials had been quoted as saying that it reminded
them of "Soviet-style" maneuverings in the media, with one
official accompanying Narayanan complaining, "What are our
friends in Washington up to?"

One source said that the President's trip to the U.S. was "a
private trip and not high profile at all," and that "the usual
paranoia of the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs officials) is
totally misplaced this time."

Another source noted that the President's trip did not receive
any coverage, "not even a single line in any of the New York
newspapers, let alone any other mainstream paper."

"So how could this so-called leak have been timed to embarrass
the Indian President, when hardly anyone knew he was even
visiting the United States?" the source asked.

Meanwhile, the sources acknowledged that many more leaks about
nuclear and missile proliferation in South Asia by both India and
Pakistan could be expected in the months ahead in advance of
President Clinton's trip to the region in late fall, "so that the
President can put the pressure on these countries to sign the
CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty."

But they conceded that apart of not having any likelihood that
either India or Pakistan would budge on their opposition to sign
the treaty, it was highly unlikely that the U.S. Senate will even
schedule hearings on the CTBT, let alone consider ratifying it
any time soon.

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