FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trading Weapons While Kashmir Burns

by FAROOQ SULEHRIA

Patience fellow Kashmiris. Islamabad is buying six high-tech Saab 2000 jets to help you out. ‘Why the heck high-tech jets instead of helicopters if Islamabad has Kashmir in mind?’ fellow Kashmiris might wonder. Because, the Saab 2000 turbo-propelled aircraft will be fitted with a land surveillance system ‘that could have been useful in emergency operations arising from the earthquake in Kashmir’.

True, the system will also help Pakistan face ‘different threats’ but Islamabad’s prime concern was Kashmir since the deal was struck exactly a week after the earthquake hit Kashmir. Costs? What does costs matter when such noble intentions are drawn in. But to satisfy the curiosity of fellow Kashmiris and unpatriotic Pakistanis, one better lay bare the facts. The surveillance system, to be provided by Ericsson, will cost hardly three billion Swedish crowns (SEK 1= Rs. 8). Since the Ericsson surveillance system Erieye operates aboard a Saab 2000 turbo-propelled aircraft, Islamabad is therefore compelled to buy six Saab 2000 worth eight billion Swedish crowns. The figure appears big in Swedish currency. We better do a dollar count. In US dollars, it is merely one billion.

The deal was made public by a mainstream Swedish daily Aftonbladet. Saab/Ericsson would have hushed it up. Aftonbladet, exposing the deal, questioned its relevance since the deal not merely violates Swedish guidelines for arms export but also violates the promise made by ruling Social Democrats back in 1998. Following the nuclear blasts by India and Pakistan, Swedish trade minister Leif Pagrotsky made a public commitment not to sell weapons to India and Pakistan. But even more important is the violation of Swedish guidelines for weapon export, which forbids arms exports to countries running conflicts with other countries or having bad human rights record.

Ironically, the Saab press release issued on October 19 in the wake of Aftonbladet criticism, besides contradicting the prices quoted in Aftonbladet’s story, explains how useful the radar system is in situations like the earthquake: ‘In the aftermath of the severe earthquake, the system would have been able to play a significant part in the search and rescue operations’. Earlier Saab’s statement, issued on October 18, stressed the use of the radar system in fighting ‘terrorism’.

The deal was being negotiated for years. One wonders if Islamabad or Saab knew in advance that General Musharraf would be fighting ‘terrorism’ in Waziristan or that an earthquake would hit Kashmir and ‘the system would have been able to play a significant part in the search and rescue operations’.

The Saab statements were meant for domestic consumption. Because an article published on Pakistan government’s website infopak.gov.pk ‘clarified’ that the Kargil conflict long ago convinced Islamabad of Erieye’s need. A Reuters story (July 14, 2004) headlined, ‘Government seeks Swedish radar system to match India’, leaves no doubt regarding the ‘humantarian’ and ‘anti terrorist’ use of Erieye. Datelined Islamabad, Reuters report says: ‘Government, concerned over India’s plans to acquire a strategic radar system from Israel, is seeking a similar system from Sweden. Air Commodore Sarfraz Ahmed Khan, spokesman for the Pakistan Air Force, said talks were underway with Sweden over the purchase of an Airborne Early Warning System, but no final decision had been taken. A Swedish embassy spokesman confirmed that the matter came up for discussion when President Pervez Musharraf visited Stockholm. He said a Swedish parliamentary commission, which handles defence-related deals, had approved the sale of the radar system and it was now up to the Pakistani authorities to decide. “I can’t say what stage it’s at, but the negotiations have been going on for quite some time,” he told Reuters’.

To water down the domestic criticism, Saab/Ericsson and Swedish authorities are trying to propagate the ‘civil’ use of Erieye. But the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS) has another explanation regarding the sale of Saab 2000 and Erieye. The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society has been, for years, closely following the negotiations and opposing the deal. The September 2004 issue of Pax, SPAS newspaper, asserted: ‘Erieye is categorised as airradar and warning system and such systems have been used in many wars across the world’.

Suppose Pax is wrong. Suppose Saab-Islamabad deal is well intentioned. Still, one speculates if it is six Saab jets fitted with Ericsson radar system, worth one billion dollars, that Kashmir needs to recover from the earthquake.

 

 

May 05, 2016
David L. Glotzer
Welcome to Fortified Europe: the Militarization of Europe’s Borders
Adam Szetela
Beyoncé’s “Formation” and the Boutique Activism of the Left
Bruce Lerro
Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party
Paul Cochrane
Hot Air in the Saudi Desert: a Kingdom in Descent?
Brian Terrell
My Visit to a Las Vegas Jail
Judith Deutsch
The Military’s “Securitization” of Climate Change
Phyllis Bennis
Kunduz Bombing: Proof the Pentagon Should Not Be Allowed to Investigate Itself for War Crimes
Chad Nelson
When Compassion is Terrorism: Animal Rights in a Post-911 World
Dan Arel
Making Sanders’ Dream a Reality Through Political Activism
Kent Paterson
Ten Years Later: Reflections on the Legacies of Immigrant Spring
Serge Halimi
Why Firefighters are Against Free Trade
Andrew Stewart
Green Bernie or Green Party Machine?
Binoy Kampmark
Yuri Gagarin in Space: the Politics of Cosmic Discovery
Hayes Rowan
This Naming of Things
May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s China-Bashing
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail