Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Poongsan, the Pakistan Ordinance Factory, and Kashmir

I thought I would share some short articles some one sent to me regarding Poongsan and their recent business pact with the Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF), or more precisely, with the Pakistan Military. I'd also like to refer to an elaborate report written by the Pax Christi Netherlands, an international human rights organization that seemed to be thoroughly explanatory of the cluster munitions debate. Maybe you can get a picture of where the production of cluster munitions actually ends up. Because it seems to me not so hard to read between the lines...

Here are the articles:
The report in PDF file here:
Recommended for people with more time to read..I hope theres no censorship on these things... well, a just use for a right cause?:)

So to summarize, last November the Pakistan Ordinance Factory (state run under the Ministry of Defense, est. 1951 as the pioneer of Pakistan's ammunition production after the country's independence) signed a pact with Poongsan and another German corporation Diehl, for the co-production of 155mm based artillery ammunition(1) starting January this year. Both companies are international giants of ammunitions/artillery production, as stated in one of the articles. Lets see where recent trends in the production of cluster munitions and their developments have gone to.

According to a report on the controversial use of cluster munitions written by Pax Christi Netherlands, Poongsan as well as Diehl are two of the few companies that claim to have successfully produced cluster bombs that incorporate mechanisms to self-detect targets with sensors (deciphering 'non-combatants' from 'combatants', non-military facilities from military,etc) and self-destruct/deactivating mechanisms (to evade post conflict hazards; duds left as de facto land mines). Yet, there is unsubstantial evidence that this state and business funded production of 'smart' sub-munitions (thats what they are called) have effects on minimizing collateral damages or cut-downs in civilian deaths in real-time combat.

There seems to be numerous reasons for this:
  • The reliability tests conducted for newly developed ammunitions are not 'operational', meaning that their relevance in real-time war is uncertain. Also, the testing parameters differ from country to country, as well as through time. The UK Ministry of Defense reported changes in failure rates as a result of changes in testing parameters (2).
  • The reliability tests on the contrary result in excessive and less reluctant use of cluster munitions. As seen for example by the UK government during their bombing of Iraq(3); (The UK together with the US used nearly 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimate of 1.8 to 2 million sub-munitions in the three weeks of major combat in Iraq.)
  • The actual fatality rate from duds and leftover un-fused ammunitions is still high. As the report states, 'smart' sub-munitions are not 100 % smart. There are failures in self-destruct fuzes and self-deactivating mechanisms, and its certain there will be civilian causalities in consequence. In short, the development of 'smarter' bombs bring no solution to the urgent humanitarian crises induced by cluster munitions.
So what would happen with the cluster munitions being co-manufactured with Poongsan and the Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF)? A quick guess is that they would be implemented in the endemic, long-lasting, and devastating conflict in Kashmir, where so far even a specific estimate of causalities cannot be made except that it ranges from thousands to a million. The Indian government has repeatedly condemned the POF and the Pakistani government for abetting 'terrorism' and destruction. The Pakistani government claims they are only aiding the Kashmiris struggle for freedom (by training young men as soldiers and procuring extremist groups with munitions). While both parties are entangled in a political strife the people of Kashmir are alienated and torn from their own societies(4).

On a dull note, this report also refers to Pakistan: 'Countries with less advanced military industries and lower armaments spending in relation to their size, which have a military doctrine that envisages a direct military threat from large mechanized armed forces (China, Pakistan, Iran, Syria): These countries can be expected to seek to maintain the option to use cluster weapons, viewed as a force-multiplier. They are unlikely to be willing to invest in costly increased submunition reliability or accuracy." (pg. 48) Both Poongsan as well as the POF have shown 'no response' to the question of reliabilities and failure rates of sub-munition self-destruct fuzes (pg.38).

Of course, the more crucial question is where and for what purposes Pakistan will use their new top-notch cluster munitions. Unfortunately, as the report also holds as an initial setback, there is just few open sources and disclosed secrets to the public by these corporations and governments. Would these cluster munitions reach the hands of young soldiers and worsen the already bloodshed battle in Kashmir? Who knows. That is for the POF to decide. As for Poongsan, they've only just found themselves another business client.

Notes and References
1. For more detail about the numerous types of cluster ammunition produced throughout the world see: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/ theres a list of PDF files on the right under 'resources', all of them seemed fairly informative.

2. Source from the same report by Pax Christi Netherlands, pg. 38.

3. "Ironically the promise of a lower dud rate may have made the British less careful about where they used the L20A1. 'There was less of a reluctance to use them because of the increased reliability,' said Colonel Baldwin". (ibid, pg. 39)

4. There are numerous sources available on the net concerning the India-Pakistan conflict as well as the conflict in Kashmir. I read this article: http://www.countercurrents.org/indiapak.htm

Concerning my thoughts on the Kashmir conflict, I understand I was only able to pick up bits and pieces of a major international issue. If anyone has suggestions or comments please write!

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