Lt. Gen.G. Mansingh
Convention against Nuclear Weapons
New Delhi, 9th June, 1998
A REPORT ON THE CONVENTION
In a rare expression of unanimity, eminent speakers from diverse walks of life unequivocally condemned the BJP-led Governmentís decision to conduct nuclear tests, at a Convention organised in New Delhi on 9th June. The Convention was organised by a Committee comprising of a large number of eminent persons including Prof.Rajni Kothari, Shri Kuldip Nayar, Lt.Gen.G.Mansingh, Prof.A.K.N.Reddy, Prof.D.P.Sengupta, Prof.Prabhat Patnaik, Prof.Aijaz Ahmed, Prof.Alok Rai, Shri Hardev Singh, Shri Bhisam Sahni, Prof.Sumit Sarkar and Shri Prabir Purkayastha. The Convention was attended by over 400 people from all sections, representing academicians, scientists, defence experts, journalists, lawyers, artists and leaders of political parties.
The Convention began with participants observing a minuteís silence in memory of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was followed by projection of images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki after they were devastated by atom bombs, interspersed with newspaper headlines reflecting the jingoistic and revanchist posturings by prominent members of the BJP on the issue of nuclear weapons. The draft resolution for the Convention was introduced by Prof.Kamal Mitra Chenoy. Almost to one man, speakers at the Convention described the BJP Governmentís action as a monumental blunder that was designed to plunge the countries in the sub-continent into a period of mutual hatred and strife.
Prof.Rajni Kothari, in his opening remarks as Chairperson of the Convention, said that the Government had resurrected the prospect of Armageddon. He said that the whole concept of viewing nuclear weapons as instruments of deterrence was morally abhorrent and dangerous. He said that the Indian Govt.ís action may well accelerate the global arms race. He expressed his apprehension that it was actually the RSS which is running the present Govt. and the explosions at Pokhran should be viewed in the context of the RSSís quest for dominance. This, he felt, made the tests doubly dangerous, as nuclear weapons in the hands of a RSS run Government is fraught with far greater dangerous consequences. Sri N.Ram, Editor of Frontline, termed the tests as ìRight Wing adventurism of the most dangerous kindî which would ìprofoundly affect the terms of the nationís engagement with the region and the worldî. He said that the tests and subsequent ìsabre-rattling statementsî by ministers including L.K.Advani, which tried to link the tests to the Kashmir issue had led to the internationalisation of the Kashmir issue. He felt that there are clear signals that the Governmentís position would rapidly move from one of adventurism to appeasement and even surrender towards the interests of Imperialist powers. He cited in this context the pressures on India now to sign the CTBT ant to participate in the FMCT - the latter involving the laying open of all Indian nuclear facilities to external inspection. Contrary to the view being propagated regarding a national consensus on the tests, he pointed out that leading defence experts like Admiral Ramdas (present at the Convention), Lt.Gen.Raghavan and M.R.Srinivasan (former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission) have expressed grave doubts about the Govtís plans to follow the nuclear explosions with a weaponisation programme.
In an evocative and emotional address Admiral Ramdas (former chief of Navy) said that the aftermath of the Pokhran blasts, in some ways, marked a ìturning point in his lifeî. He described himself as a person who had spent 45 years of his life in uniform and one who had been an integral part of policy formulation in defence related matters. He was deeply disturbed at the turn of events and said that the tests have ìcast an evil shadow over the sub-continentî. He categorically stated that no matter what the compulsions were, there was no justification for India deciding to go nuclear. He said that as a career defence person he could visualise how, ìso many things can go wrong with nuclear weaponsî, leading to a disastrous nuclear conflagration. Instead of enhancing national security, Admiral Ramdas felt that the Governmentís action had only enhanced the threshold for the possibility of things going wrong. Nobody really had a clue, he said, about the implications of a nuclear weaponisation programme, for Command and Control systems. Who, he queried will have his fingers on the nuclear button ó the Prime Minister, the Army Chief, the BJP Chief or the RSS? He dubbed the pronouncements by ministers as those of ìbabes in the wood who had found a new toyî and apprehended that a nuclear holocaust was a real possibility. As a result of an accelerated arms race, the people would have to pay the penalty in the form of cuts in expenditure on Health, Education and other Social Sectors. He said that it was imperative for India and Pakistan to get together immediately and put a cap on their respective nuclear programmes. He said that ìwe are all fighters here, and we need to fight for peaceî, and get the public in both India and Pakistan to understand about the disastrous consequences of a nuclear conflict so that they can pressurise their respective Governments.
Shri. H.K.S.Surjeet (Gen. Secy. CPI (M)) said that the tests conducted by the BJP Government were designed to whip up jingoistic feelings to serve the narrow interests of a Government that was struggling to survive. Shri Surjeet said that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues have been deliberately trying to instigate Pakistan through their provocative statements linking nuclear weapons to Kashmir and through overt invitation to Pakistan to engage in a war. He said that it should have been apparent even to the entirely naive, that these provocations would force Pakistan ó whose Govt. is also under pressure in its own country ó to conduct tests of its own. As a result the BJP Govt.ís action has only served to dangerously escalate tensions in the region. But, Shri.Surjeet said, the BJPís ploy had actually boomeranged as is evident from its complete isolation in Parliament when the nuclear issue was debated and its poor showing in the recent bye elections. This shows that the people of India do not want war what they want from a Government is peace and development.
Shri A.B.Bardhan said that as a result of the Govt.ís action we now live under the shadow of fear, under the shadow of a nuclear threat. It was foolish, he felt, to believe that the proxy war being waged by Pakistan in Kashmir can be countered with nuclear weapons. Pointing out the fallacy in the argument that nuclear weapons act as a deterrence against war, he said that after 1945 more wars have been fought on earth that ever before in human history. Amarjeet Kaur (All India Trade Union Congress), said that there exists a fertile ground to take the real issues arising out of the nuclear tests to the people. National Security, she said, cannot be safegaurded by ignoring the real needs of the people like food and employment. She said that it was but natural that the BJP and RSS should be engaged in war-mongering, given its past history where the founder of the RSS, Hegdewar, had openly stated that he drew inspiration from the likes of Hitler.
Dr.Ashok Mitra said that he felt ashamed as an Indian after the tests. Drawing a parallel with the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, he said that the tests were an attempt by the BJP to create a frenzy in order to divert the attention of the people from their real issues and to bury their increasing problems with their allies in the Central Government. He said that India and Pakistan, in an accelerated arms race, can exhaust their national incomes but would end up in merely maintaining the same levels of relative defence preparedness. He said that by exploding the ìswadeshi bombî the BJP Govt. had actually opened the floodgates for foreign domination over the economy. Foreign Banks and Companies are now to be allowed to remit their earnings unfettered to their parent companies. He was afraid that the South East Asian syndrome ó where foreign speculators played havoc with domestic currencies ó may now extend to South Asia.
Dr.T.Jayraman (Indian Instt. of Mathematical Sciences, Madras) and Dr.Satyajit Rath (National Institute of Immunology, Delhi) decried the attempts to use patent falsehoods and half truths as scientific arguments, in order to justify the ìinevitabilityî of the nuclear tests by India. They felt that much of the debate on the issue has been ill-informed and has failed to focus on the real effects of a nuclear war. Dr.Jayraman said that the DAE and DRDO were party to the overturning of the national consensus against exercising the nuclear option. He said that Indiaís scientific capabilities have little to do with its ability to conduct nuclear explosions. He said, for example, it takes a much higher degree of S&T capability to maintain a satellite in geostationary orbit to augment communication facilities, than to produce a missile with a nuclear warhead that can accurately reach its target.
Prof.Prabhat Patnaik, in an incisive attack on the tests, termed them as an ìastonishing act of stupidityî. He felt that the tests and their aftermath will be used by the Government to accelerate the neo-liberal thrust of the economy, where we shall see MNCs lording over the economy. He saw in the nuclear tests another move in the direction towards ìdisenfranchisement of the poor ó politically and economicallyî. A typical way, he felt, of a fascist political formation trying to establish its hold over the country. He said that there has been a major move by fascistic forces to manufacture a ìpopular moodî in favour of the Govt.ís policy. It is unfortunate that even some sections opposed to the Govt.ís nuclear policy have found it necessary to grant concessions to this manufactured public mood, and thereby temper their opposition. He said that the need of the hour was not to ìkowtowî to the so called popular mood but to stand in clear opposition to the diabolic designs of the BJP Government and its cohorts.
The Convention ended with participants unanimously approving a resolution against nuclear weapons. This was followed by the screening of two short films ó one on the horrors of a nuclear explosion and the other based on Bertold Brechtís poem on the rise of fascism in Germany.
For Further information on the Delhi 'Convention against Nuclear Weapons' Contact:
Prabir Purkayastha, B-1, 2nd Floor, LSC, J Block, Saket, N.Delhi.-17, India
Ph. 6534323, 6565036, 6862716 (telfax)