The US has clarified that President Barack Obama’s remarks expressing concerns about a nuclear South Asia were “in particular” about the presence of “tactical nuclear weapons” for use in the battlefield.
That would clearly be Pakistan, which has made no secret of its tactical nuclear bombs that it has said are meant to offset India’s massive superiority in conventional weapons.
Obama’s remarks were “motivated by concerns” over nuclear and missile developments in South Asia, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing on Monday, “In particular, we’re concerned by the increased security challenges that accompany growing stockpiles, particularly tactical nuclear weapons that are designed for use on the battlefield.”
He did not name Pakistan, but the reference was abundantly clear, as Islamabad has long been known to have tactical nuclear weapons, and one of its senior officials boasted about them during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington to meet Obama last October.
India was angered by Obama’s remarks at a news conference at the conclusion of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit last week, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Speaking about the need for a reduction in nuclear arsenals around the world, led by the US and Russia, he had said, “The other area where I think we need to see progress is Pakistan and India, that subcontinent, making sure that as they develop military doctrines, that they are not continually moving in the wrong direction.”
India said on Monday Obama’s remarks reflected a “lack of understanding” about India’s defence posture. “Conventionally, India has never initiated military action against any neighbour,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said. “We also have a no-first use nuclear weapons policy.”
Asked specifically about India’s posture that China was its main defence challenge, White house spokesman Earnest said that “we’re certainly aware of the unique region of the world in which India is located. And we certainly appreciate the need India has to take the necessary steps to defend themselves.”