[From: The Times of India, Sunday 17 May 1998]

India has shot itself in the head

The BJP's jingoism has diminished us. It has degraded security, left us defenceless against Big Power coercion and exposed our people to the heat of sanctions

by Praful Bidwai

HOW the mighty have fallen! When India rejected

the NPT in 1968, it cited principled, universal,

non-discriminatory grounds, sincerely urging

rapid global nuclear disarmament. When it blocked

the CTBT for questionable reasons, it at least

emphasised linking it to disarmament within a

fixed ``time-frame'', and said the treaty was not

genuinely comprehensive because it only bans

``nuclear test explosions'', not non-explosive

testing.


But now, India has conducted five such explosions

and blown a hole into the global disarmament

agenda. Its reason for doing so was explained by

Vajpayee himself -- not so much to the Indian

people as to US President Clinton in his May 11

letter. This only alludes to the threat posed by

-- guess who? -- our two ``neighbours'', China

and Pakistan, and their mutual collaboration.


Gone is the universal, principled rationale for

policy, even a reference to the asymmetrical

global nuclear order, ``nuclear apartheid'' etc.

Rather, there is an emphasis on ``friendship and

cooperation'' with the world's biggest nuclear

power (which shows no intention to disarm!) and

promise to ``promote the cause of nuclear

disarmament'' jointly with Washington.


So now we know that the elaborate fanciful

explanations the Bomb lobby trots out for the

tests are just so much hogwash. India's

nuclearisation has nothing to do with lofty

values of peace or with the NPT's indefinite

extension, the CTBT's ``discriminatory'' nature,

and the nuclear states' refusal to commit

themselves genuinely to disarmament. This is just

contrived sophistry that Mandarins and Brahmins

have always practised to rationalise whatever the

powerful do, however deplorable that might be.


However pedestrian and unlofty it is, the real

reason (Vajpayee's) is not a strategically

convincing one. Sino-Pakistani nuclear

collaboration is sporadic, largely non-strategic,

indeed far less close than the past US and

Canadian collaboration with India which gave us

the Cirus reactor -- the source of the Pokharan-I

plutonium. It is as absurd to cite a

``Sino-Pakistan axis'' (as reason for the Indian

Bomb) as it is to describe India as being

Russia's client because we are importing its

latest-model Sukhois or nuclear reactors.


China is no greater threat than the US. Indeed,

China has never nuclearly blackmailed India. But

we all believe America did, subtly, during the

Bangladesh war. Recently, external threats to us

have reduced, not grown. In any case, for half a

century New Delhi has rightly argued that nuclear

weapons don't answer such threats, nuclear

deterrence doesn't work, it's immoral, illegal,

unacceptable.


The BJP has made a violent break with this policy

in one fell swoop and deeply offended reason. But

we are being herded into believing all this is in

India's -- and the world's -- security interests,

perfectly normal, a belated resolution of our

35-year-old nuclear dilemma. This just won't do.

We are not sheep to be herded, nor animals

without memories. There is a razor-sharp break

with the earlier policy consensus, and with

rationality.


The BJP made this break regardless of security

considerations and out of prejudgment and dogma.

Indeed, RSS general secretary Sudarshan now

reveals that the BJP planned a test in its 13-day

1996 tenure -- although it was obviously going to

lose the confidence vote.


Jingoism's rule has diminished us, left us

defenceless against Big-Power coercion, degraded

security and exposed our people to the heat of

sanctions. Washington, with a dubious right to

preach virtue in the absence of a serious

disarmament commitment, can now talk down to us.

We can at best reach awkward, undignified,

accommodation with it which legitimises horror

weapons and promotes no worthy principle or

objective. By testing, India has mocked at

disarmament, and shot itself in the leg -- or is

it the head?


© Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. 1997.


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