Wednesday, December 24, 2008

India seeking cluster bombs from US

* Indian Defence Ministry seeks fast-track purchase of 500 bombs

* If approved by the US, purchase to cost India $375 million

By Iftikhar Gilani
| Daily Times, Dec 24, 2008

NEW DELHI: India is seeking the purchase of 500 advanced-technology cluster bombs from the US. Although the order was placed in September, reports here suggest that the Indian Defence Ministry has called on the Americans to fast track the purchase amid rising tensions with Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

A private news channel reported here that New Delhi had specifically asked the US to provide 510 units of the American CBU-105 cluster bomb along with full logistics support services. If Washington approves the sale, the bombs will cost New Delhi $375 million. Pentagon’s Foreign Arms Sales Division has already notified the US Congress about India’s request and the proposed sale.

According to the notification, “This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US by helping strengthen the US-India strategic relationship and improve the security of an important partner which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace and economic progress in South Asia.” Cluster bombs are actually a conglomeration of weapons. When released from an aircraft, they splinter into hundreds, even thousands, of ‘bomblets’ that land over a large area.

All bomblets do not explode when they hit the ground, but they can go off later – creating an indefinite minefield, which poses a severe threat to civilians and children long after the conflict is over. Former Indian Air Force western commander VK Bhatia says that although the effectiveness of cluster bombs against terrorist camps is debatable, they are lethal in all circumstances. Control Arms Foundation of India Vice President Anuradha Chenoy, however, has opposed the purchase, saying the government should base its anti-terror policies on intelligence instead of cluster bombs. On December 3, the United Nations launched the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) to ban the use of cluster bombs across the world. So far, 94 countries have signed the CCM. The prominent countries which have either opposed the convention or refused to sign or ratify it include India, Pakistan, the US, Israel, Russia and China.

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