US should outfit Indian Navy with nuclear weapons to send devastating message to China: Former US senator

malabar naval exercise

Larry Pressler says the US should do so to force China to back down from its “antagonistic stance” in the Asia-Pacific region.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Larry Pressler made the recommendation in his new book
  • Pressler represented South Dakota in the Senate from 1979-96
  • He was the first Vietnam veteran elected to the Senate

A former Republican senator has suggested that the US strengthen the Indian Navy by outfitting it with nuclear weapons to send a “devastating” message to China and force it to back down from its “antagonistic stance” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Larry Pressler, who represented South Dakota in the Senate from 1979-96, recommended building the Indian Navy’s nuclear capability in his new book: ‘Neighbours in Arms: An American Senator’s Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent’.

Pressler served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam and was the first Vietnam veteran elected to the Senate. In the book, he writes the Chinese navy are posturing aggressively against the US navy in the Philippines and the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea near Vietnam.

The archipelago lies in the middle of important air and sea navigation routes. And China’s been locked in territorial disputes in the region with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Pressler says free access to the strategic South China Sea lanes is critical for international trade and travel.

“In addition, there are oil and gas reserves there. We really do not want a naval war with China. It would be costly to defend a place like the Spratly Islands,” he writes. “But we can send China a devastating message by strengthening the Indian Navy. An Indian Navy that has the capability of delivering nuclear weapons would cause China great concern. In fact, if we actually outfitted the Indian Navy with nuclear weapons, China might back down from its antagonistic stance in the region,” Pressler says in the book.

‘INTENSE SOFT POWER RELATIONSHIP’

Of late the US has been helping India build its navy, but in addition to that, Pressler advocates, America should also develop an “intense soft power” relationship with India.

“That is to say, we should work on promoting more non-military relationships like those fostered by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent and somewhat entrepreneurial US government agency, that invests in developing countries around the world fighting poverty.”

The book runs into more than 250 pages. It hit the stores this week. According to Pressler, he learnt in recent discussions with senior US Navy officials that the US was on the verge of a massive effort to help build the Indian Navy’s capability.

“The Indian Navy’s ship inventory is being significantly modernised. Most notable was the secret commissioning in August 2016 of its first nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the INS Arihant, and the January 2017 test of a long-range nuclear capable submarine-launched ballistic missile from an underwater pontoon,” he writes.

Pressler says US defence officials view China as their biggest potential threat in the world today.

“At least one of the historical motivations for continuing aid to Pakistan was to prevent it from becoming a client state of China.”

“The Obama administration quietly started executing its ‘Pacific Pivot’ strategy, which has been turning our diplomats’ and our navy’s focus to Asia, and more specifically, to China,” Pressler writes in the book.

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