The Indian nuclear test of May 11 was the subject of a talk at MIT on May
12 [1998] by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam
University in Islamabad and currently visiting professor at the University of
Maryland. He was introduced by Dr. Abha Sur of The Alliance For A Secular
And Democratic South Asia, and the event was sponsored by The Alliance,
Pakistan Students Society at MIT, and the MIT Program In Science,
Technology, and Society. The talk had been originally scheduled a
month earlier on the subject of the India-Pakistan nuclear and missile
race; the near coincidence with the Indian tests was purely accidental.
The following is a synopsis of Dr. Hoodbhoy's presentation. A petition
was subsequently presented towards the end of the meeting
and signed by an overwhelming majority of those present.

[The Talk by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy]

This is a unique gathering here today at MIT, organized jointly by
Indians and Pakistanis. I do not know of a similar event anywhere else but
can only hope that there will be many such others. Together we stand,
joined in sorrow, disbelief, shock, and anger at yesterday's event. We
stand here to challenge the merchants of hate and destruction, the makers
and promoters of weapons that kill by the millions, and the megalomaniacs
who think that greatness comes from the power to commit mass murder. We
stand in protest against the ideologies of hate created and promoted by
our governments, nurtured by the mass media and school textbooks, and
remorselessly hammered for decades into the minds of innocent children on
both sides of the border.

There cannot be any doubt that a grave new situation has arisen
with yesterday's nuclear tests. The tremors shall continue to shake the
subcontinent in the years and decades ahead, and the peoples of India and
Pakistan stand closer to the brink of disaster than ever before. Once the
euphoria passes, there will surely be much to regret. But now we are
witnessing grotesque and obscene celebrations of the power to destroy.
Today the corks are popping and the champagne is flowing in Delhi. "We
will soon bring Pakistan to its knees", crows the president of the BJP,
Khushabau Thakre. Barely a month ago it was Pakistan that had been joyous
after the launch of the Ghauri missile. Euphoric crowds had made their
pilgrimage to the Kahuta laboratory, and Pakistan's Foreign Minister,
Gauhar Ayub, bragged about having overtaken India in missile development.
It is hard to imagine greater stupidity.

In the remainder of this talk I shall address five key questions
which we must reflect upon in order to see what lies ahead.

FIRST, will Pakistan indeed be "brought to its knees" by Indian
nuclear tests?

The answer is probably "yes" if the Pakistani leadership reacts as Mr.
Thakre and his BJP gang would like it to, and "no" if Pakistan acts
cautiously and wisely. Should it fall into the trap and test an atomic
device, the Muslim-haters of the BJP will have the pleasure of seeing
Pakistan destroyed economically as the rest of the world turns the screws.
Certainly, international sanctions are bound to imposed upon India; these
may cause it considerable pain but will not cause it to collapse. But
Pakistan is different. Sanctions will deal its fragile, dependent, economy
a devastating, perhaps crippling, blow and plunge the country into a
horrific state worse than that in Indonesia today. If Pakistan tries to
match India bomb for bomb, missile for missile, and tank for tank, it will
shatter as certainly as a glass vase dropped upon a concrete floor.

At the risk of having to say "I told you so", I will nevertheless repeat
that peace activists in Pakistan have, for the last 15 years, been
ceaselessly urging their government not to get into a nuclear competition
with India. This is not a race that Pakistan can ever win. That this was
correct has now been proven beyond a shadow of doubt. We had consistently
argued that the real threat to Pakistan is internal -- low rates of
production coupled with an excessive appetite for consumption, religious
and ethnic tensions, and an education system which collapsed years ago. I
was therefore astonished -- and delighted -- when just a week ago General
Jehangir Karamat, the most powerful man in Pakistan, came out with an
amazing statement saying that Pakistan's greatest challenge was not India
but its economy and internal situation. Our "heresies" in years past were
now being repeated as an Establishment truth! Will the enlightenment
survive the Indian tests? If it does, then there is hope.

SECOND, is India now a super-power? More secure after testing
nuclear weapons and embarking on the path to inducting nuclear weapons in
its arsenal?

With 400 million famished and deprived people, and millions living on the
streets of Bombay and Calcutta, it is simply fantasy to think that India
is now a super-power. It cannot become so even if it explodes 300 instead
of 3 bombs. Of course, national security is the formal reason given for
the tests. But I think that India has become far more insecure after
having tested. For one, China has been unneccesarily provoked. And, for
another, Pakistan is in a state of deep alarm. Pakistan has long had a
nuclear programme and, quite probably, has nuclear weapons. In the
unlikely situation that it does not have operational weapons today, it
surely will in years to come after being so directly threatened by India.
A test in the next few days or weeks is possible but, whether that happens
or not, the fact will remain that Pakistan will now move every muscle to
have a substantial nuclear arsenal and delivery capability.

It is interesting to note that there are quite a few people in the Indian
establishment who dismiss the possibility that Pakistan is capable of
nuclear weapons. In pleading for nuclear restraint by India with such
people, many people (including myself) have been astonished by the
certainty of their belief. Numerous examples exist that illustrate the
willingness of Indian policy makers to engage in such self-deception.
Until it was confirmed from multiple sources and could be denied no
further, many in India refused to believe that the Ghauri had been
launched -- successfully. It would be a tragic mistake for India to think
that Pakistan does not, or will not soon be able to, have operational
atomic weapons.

THIRD, does India have the "right" to have nuclear weapons given
that there are five declared nuclear weapons states in the world?

The answer is NO! Nuclear weapons are evil, mass destroyers of human life,
and morally indefensible. No country should possess them, and it is the
moral responsibility of the citizens of every country to try and prevent
their country from ever possessing these horrible weapons. The United
States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and now India, must all be made to
renounce their nuclear weapons. Israel and Pakistan should be forced to
give up their programmes as well.

But having said this, I think that India and Pakistan have even less
"right" than the 5 NW states to possess these weapons because the chances
of the weapons being used against each other is very very significant. It
is foolish to idly debate this when tens of millions stand in very real
danger of annihilation. Academic discussions of "right" and "wrong" can
go on endlessly, but this is a real, stark, danger. People of conscience
from India and Pakistan must speak out against nuclearization on the

FOURTH, is India-Pakistan nuclear war just for alarmists?

Until something happens, there will be no proof either way. Of course, if
it does happen then to debate this question will be rather pointless. But
in arguing this matter, I find that there are many people who think that
the chances of subcontinental nuclear war are incredibly remote. Such
people have chosen to live in a fools paradise.

It is, I shall admit, quite unlikely that nuclear war will begin as the
result of serious strategic deliberations by the Indian or Pakistani
leadership. Far more likely is nuclear war by miscalculation or accident,
and the self-generating dynamics of a crisis. Let's look at what history
has to teach us. In 1965, General Ayub Khan provoked a war with India
after he miscalculated India's response to Pakistani paratroopers dropped
in Kashmir with the aim of fomenting an uprising by Kashmiris against
unpopular Indian rule. India retaliated by attacking across the
international border and a full-fledged war erupted. In 1987, General
K.Sunderji initiated Operation Brasstacks as a training exercise for
Indian forces but nearly precipitated a war which neither side wanted,
and was only narrowly averted. In May 1990, the rise in temperature in
lead to furious Indian troop movements which caused the Pakistanis to
believe that an invasion was imminent. Many Pakistanis think that the
Indians backed off after Pakistan began loading nuclear weapons on to
F-16's waiting at Chaklala Air Force base near Rawalpindi. In fact such an
event probably never occured, but the myth lives on. There are probably
many other illustrations of faulty intelligence and miscalculations
leading to confrontations and near-confrontations. We should all be
exceedingly uncomfortable knowing this.

FIFTH, and finally, what will be immediate consequences of the
Indian bomb test?

Let us first think of what will NOT change. The militancy in Kashmir is
not likely to be materially affected by the nuclear tests; the horrific
brutalities will continue and wounds will continue to bleed. The BJP has
nothing but the brutal fist of iron to show, Pakistan will continue to let
militants use its territory to launch cross-border attacks, and Kashmiris
will continue to die at the hands of both the security forces and
militants. The miseries of Kashmiris caught in a proxy war will not
decrease, ordinary Indians and Pakistanis will bear the costs of
militarization and conflict, and life will go on as usual.

What will change is economic stability and growth in both countries.
India will suffer because of the sanctions imposed upon it, and Pakistan
because it will almost certainly increase its spending on defense. Above
and beyond else, we will creep closer towards war. There will be no
winners, just losers.

These are difficult times indeed. The makers of war loudly bellow
their victory over those who ask for peace. But reason favours us, not
them, and reason must ultimately triumph. Geography has inextricably
linked together our destinies; the destruction of one country cannot be
without great harm to the other. We recognize that pure accident -- not
some great grand design -- caused us to be born on opposite sides of the
borders, and that conflict is futile. Though our numbers be small at
present, the fact is that our mere presence today in this hall is
sufficient to tell the world -- and ourselves -- that ultimately peace
and cooperation shall triumph over war and confrontation.

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