May 282008

Sultan M Hali

It is the tenth anniversary of the second set of Indian Nuclear Tests euphemistically termed Pokhran II. The date is ominous since not only did the xenophobic BJP regime cross the nuclear threshold under the false impression that Pakistan did not possess nuclear capability but also it exposed the entire South Asian region to the horrors of a nuclear holocaust. Extracts from an article by the renowned Indian journalist and Human Rights activist Praful Bidwai published in “The Times of India” on Sunday 17 May 1998, immediately after the Indian nuclear blasts are reproduced below: ‘India has shot itself in the head,’ “The BJP’s jingoism has diminished us. It has degraded security, left us defenseless against Big Power coercion and exposed our people to the heat of sanctions. 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 emphasized 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. 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 rationalize 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 Cirrus 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, and 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 worlds’-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.” The same Praful Bidwai, writing on the fifth anniversary of the tests writes in “The Hindustan Times” in his column ‘Nuclear False Dawn’: “Millions of Indians and Pakistanis who are in no way responsible for official policies have now become vulnerable to unspeakably devastating attacks from nuclear missiles, against which there is no defence, civil, medical or military. Destruction wrought by these weapons lasts for many future generations. Nuclearisation has not expanded India’s or Pakistan’s room for global diplomatic-political maneuver. Rather, their bargaining power has shrunk as they have wooed the US with unwarranted concessions to somehow legitimize and accept their nuclear weapons. Yet, they cannot possibly reverse Security Council Resolution 1172 condemning their nuclearisation, for which coercive measures can be taken under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Nuclearisation has proved no invitation to the world’s high table. The (still-unfolding) economic costs of nuclearisation will prove onerous. India has almost doubled its military spending over five years-at the expense of health, education and social welfare. To acquire a small nuclear arsenal, about one-fifth the size of China’s, India will have to spend anything from Rs 60,000 crore to 100,000 crore. This could bankrupt the government and cripple public services, spelling State failure.” The fact of the matter is that after testing its bombs in the closet in May 1998, the belligerence of the Indians knew no bounds. It threatened Pakistan with dire consequences. Pakistan’s statements in reaction to the tests indicate certain amount of reserve despite the saber rattling:

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said, “I wish to assure the nation that Pakistan has the capability to respond to any threat to its security…. We will take all necessary measures to safeguard our security, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests.” (AP, 12 May 98) Former Prime Minister and Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto then said, “India has now gone ahead conducting three nuclear tests and I expect Pakistan to follow the suit.” (AP, 13 May 98) That Pakistan was left with no option but to respond with a tit for action is beyond a shadow of doubt. It was the only way to silence the BJP war mongerers. However, the world should be reassured that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are in safe hands.

Pakistan owes it to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of our nuclear weapons, who enabled Pakistan to become nuclear capable, will have their names emblazoned in the annals of our history in golden script. Future generations owe it to them to have had the sagacity to develop our nuclear weapons so that we would not be brow beaten by Indian war mongerers in times to come.

Source: Pakistan Observer, 28/5/2008

 Posted by at 6:24 pm

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