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India secretly increasing its nuclear power: Foreign journal

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New Delhi: India could “deeply unsettle” its neighbours Pakistan and China as it is building a secret facility in its southern Karnataka state to augment its nuclear power for civilian use and up gradation of its weapons, a foreign policy journal has reported.

According to an exhaustive report published on December 16 in the international US magazine Foreign Policy, the work on the project in southern Karnataka began early in 2012.

The 14-page report said tribal pastureland was blocked off with a barbed-wire fence at Challakere for “a project that experts say will be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities when it’s completed, probably sometime in 2017”.

The project’s primary aim was to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for India’s nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of new submarines, says the Foreign Policy journal.

“But another, more controversial ambition, according to retired Indian government officials and independent experts in London and Washington, is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, substantially increasing the explosive force of those in its existing nuclear arsenal,” the report reads.

New Delhi has never made public details of its nuclear arsenal, which it first developed in 1974, the magazine said.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an independent agency, estimates that India already possesses between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons, as compared to neighbour Pakistan’s estimated stockpile of up to 120. China, which borders India to the north, has approximately 260 warheads.

The report says that China and Pakistan would see the secret project as a provocation. “Experts say they might respond by ratcheting up their own nuclear firepower. Pakistan, in particular, considers itself a military rival, having engaged in four major conflicts with India, as well as frequent border skirmishes.”

“I believe that India intends to build thermonuclear weapons as part of its strategic deterrent against China,” Gary Samore, who served from 2009 to 2013 as the White House coordinator for arms control, was quoted by ‘Foreign Policy’ as saying.

Other than the Challakere project, Western monitoring agencies were keeping an eye on a similar nuclear facility near Mysuru, also in Karnataka.

“However, Western knowledge about how India’s weapons are stored, transported, and protected, and how the radiological and fissile material that fuels them is guarded and warehoused — the chain of custody — remains rudimentary,” the report added.

According to the magazine, a retired official who served inside the nuclear cell at the Indian prime minister’s office, the apex organisation that supervises the military nuclear programme, conceded that other uses besides submarines had been anticipated “for many years”.

He pointed to a “thermonuclear bomb programme” as “a beneficiary” and suggested India had had no choice but to “develop a new generation of more powerful megaton weapons” if it was to maintain “credible minimum deterrence”.(IANS)

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World’s Anti-Corruption Day

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide."

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Anti-Corruption
Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

Journalist, Anti-Corruption
An activist places candles and flowers on the Great Siege monument, after rebuilding a makeshift memorial to assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta. VOA

Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

Anti-Corruption
Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption and went ahead with his hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Anti-Corruption
It is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

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Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said. (VOA)