India, Pakistan and the Nuclear Bomb
The nuclear tests conducted by the BJP in India has generated
unpreceden ted euphoria here. Nulcear capability, so far a term not
many had even bothered with, is suddenly a cause of celebration all
over. Ordinary me n and women were thrilled by the muscle flexing and
everybody, it seemed was stronger because of it in some kind of
personal sense. I am sure th e scenario was not too different in
Pakistan. The jingoism that followed and preceded the nuclear tests in
both Pakistan and India was inevitable, for it was needed to justify
the expenditure both governments incurre d on the tests: in terms of
human, social, environmental and financial c osts.
What concerns us as women's rights activists in India are the
ideologica l underpinnings behind such exercises. In the 8th National
Conference o f the Indian Association of Women's Studies, we discussed some of the
issues that were before us. (It must also be noted at this point that some Pakistani
women who were scheduled to come for
the Conference as plenar y speakers were denied visas to India:
Pakistan had just conducted tests at the time of the Conference).
Some of us, activists and academicians , felt that these tests
signified the beginning of an arms race in the region wherein two
countries which can barely feed its teeming millions, provide shelter,
health care or education to its people, will be vying w ith each other
to possess weapons more destructive and deadly than each other. That
apart, this supposed 'security threat' will justify increased defence
budgets at a cost because:
a. this will mean a reduction in budget allocation in other sectors
like health and so on and,
b. the weapons and technology that will be acquired will be used to
stif le democratic dissent within the country instead of finding
political so lutions for political issues.
They will be used against the 'enemies' wi thin the country. Needless
to say, in an already grim situation, all this (and more), will
have serious repurcussions for democratic rights of the people in the c
ountry especially the more vulnerable sections like the poor, the indige
nous people, the Dalits ('lower castes') and the like.
The nuclear tests also signify a certain kind of mind set. It is a
mind set that endorses the 'machismo', the masculinisation of the public sphere.
Violence is an inherent part of this ideology; it argues for the ju
stification of the use of violence against specific sections. In a soci
ety that sanctions violence against those economically and politically vulnerable
and where the state is increasingly blind towards violations of democratic rights
this does not bode well. In addition, some of us also felt that it represents a worldview
where 'the bigger is the better' (the bigger the dam, the better it is; the bigger
the bomb, the better it is). Power is represented by the capacity to destroy rather
than the capacity to preserve, to create.
We are concerned about the recent developments in India and Pakistan
bec ause the tests have come at a time when relations between the two
countr ies had begun to improve. We are also concerned about the
spread of an ideology of violence because as women we have experienced the most horri
fying acts of violence against our bodies, our minds.
India and Pakistan will have to find more lasting solutions to issues
of contention. We believe that the governments in both the countries
have their own axes to grind and will continue to play up the
'security threat' to conceal th eir inability/unwillingness to resolve
pressing issues within their own countries. It is really up to
us--ordinary citizens-- to pressurise our governments collectively and individually
to move away from a course of action that will spell doom for peace in the region.