[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
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,
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
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.
Return to South Asians against Nukes