Who to Blame for the Nuclear 'Orginial Sin?'
The Nation
May 30, 1998
In May 1974, India conducted a nuclear explosion, but Pakistan paid the price: Canada ended its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger threatened to make a “horrible example” of Pakistan if it went ahead with its nuclear programme. After 20 years, in May 1998 again, Pakistan might have to pay the price for India’s crime. It is India’s nuclear explosions which have destroyed the global arms control and non-proliferation regime.

The NPT, the CTBT, the FMCT—all international arms control and non-proliferation treaties have been blown into pieces. All global attempts towards achieving a nuclear-free world have suffered a severe blow. All efforts towards achieving a nuclear-free-zone in South Asia and, as a first step towards this end, to have a stable nuclear relationship, have been made irrelevant. In view of all this, is the Western community justified in imposing sanctions against Pakistan, a country whose nuclear stand has always been flexible and accommodative?

Through its serial nuclear explosions of May 11 and 13, 1998, India has proved its capability to produce an array of nuclear weapons, ranging from hydrogen bomb to tactical nuclear arms. A belligerent act which India has taken to fulfill its long-cherished agenda of subjugating smaller neighbours to establish its regional hegemony. Such belligerency, as apparent from home minister and BJP leader L K Advani’s repeated aggressive statements on Kashmir, started translating itself into India’s regional ambitions as soon as India tested five nuclear devices. Even though Pakistan has responded in kind to India’s nuclear tests, this does absolve India from the responsibility of committing the “original sin” by first testing the nuclear devices.

India’s half-century old nuclear programme is based on deceit and deception. As India’s latest nuclear explosions leave no doubt, New Delhi was always busy upgrading its nuclear weapons potential. Exploiting the dual-use character of nuclear technology and material, India has consistently flouted the international will.

The Western powers, in their Cold War frenzy of containing the Soviet Union and China, in fact, helped India acquire sophisticated nuclear technology. As back as 1955, India took advantage of the US Atoms for Peace Programme to acquire nuclear technology and material. In May 1974, India carried out its first nuclear test, while claiming it to be a Peaceful Nuclear Experiment—which, as proved later, was not actually the case. The plutonium used for the test was produced at Trombay Reprocessing Plant, which was set up with US assistance. Pakistan did raise the issue with the Board of Governors of the IAEA, but neither the IAEA nor did any Western power then condemn the Indian nuclear test.

This encouraged India to work on deadlier nuclear devices, which it has now exploded. With Western assistance, India has been able to develop a stockpile of fissionable material which, according to Western intelligence estimates, is sufficient to produce up to 200 nuclear weapons of various categories. According to a report of Jane’s Intelligence Review of January 1998, the Indian plant to produce tritium from heavy water was set up in 1992 at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bombay. One thermo-nuclear device, such as the one that India tested on May 11, needs only four grams of tritium.

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is the political wing of racist Hindu organization, RSS, whose declared aim is the extermination of Muslims from India. The BJP intends to achieve this end by implementing its Hindutva ideology of ‘one people, one nation, one culture’. A pledge towards this end was made by the party in its February-March election manifesto.

By claiming archeological evidence that the Hindu god Ram was born in the north Indian city of Ayodhya at a site where stood the sixteenth century Babri mosque, BJP academics played a crucial role in catapulting the party to the forefront of Indian politics. Under BJP leadership, such “archeological evidence” became a theological rationale for demolishing the mosque and building a temple in its place. Touching a primordial chord in the Hindu psyche, such a demand spurred Hindu militancy across the country through the latter half of the 1980s, culminating in a nationwide rally that destroyed the Babri mosque on 6 December 1992.

BJP leaders have also talked about annexing Pakistan. In fact, to dominate the region is an essential element of the external policy of the BJP-led government. It is amply clear from the demolition of Babri mosque and the carrying out of nuclear tests that the BJP is committed to fulfil its promises. In fact, there appears to be a direct linkage between BJP’s fundamentalist Hindu ideology and the militarism it professes.

Soon after Thakre replaced L K Advani as BJP president in April 1998, he talked of “liberating” Azad Jammu and Kashmir and “effectively tackling Pakistan.” On May 19, L K Advani also stated that “(following the Indian nuclear tests) Pakistan should realise the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region and the world and roll back its anti-India policy, especially with regard to Kashmir.”

For years, Pakistan has urged the United Nations and Western powers to help establish a nuclear-free zone in South Asia. It has made a number of proposals for achieving a nuclear non-proliferation regime in South Asia. Unfortunately, all of its attempts towards this end were opposed by India and treated indifferently by the Western community. On March 18, the BJP-led government released its National Agenda for Governance, in which it reiterated the election pledge to declare India a nuclear state. Days after that, prime minister Vajpaee stated Indian intention for nuclear testing.

The US response to Indian pronouncements came on March 19, when State Department said it saw no new threat in a vow by India’s just elected Hindu nationalist government to “exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons.” The US indifference to Pakistan’s concerns about India’s nuclear designs is evident from the fact that US ambassador to UN Bill Richardson, who visited Islamabad and New Delhi in April, did not bother to mention India’s nuclear plans in any of his public statements.

Later, State Department officials reporting on Indian foreign secretary Ragunath’s meeting early May in Washington, DC, with US Under-Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, did not say whether they discussed India’s intention to go nuclear. They merely said, “The two sides discussed bilateral, regional and world issues” in some depth during these meetings. The US administration did not consider Pakistan’s concerns important enough to even alert its surveillance agencies to monitor suspicious activities in the Indian nuclear testing grounds.

India is attempting to justify its nuclear blasts by invoking security considerations vis-a-vis China. That there is no justification for this is borne out by the recent improvement in India’s relations with China.

Neither China nor Pakistan has adopted more belligerent posture towards India in recent years. This blows the myth of China as a factor in India’s nuclear blasts. The fallacy of the ‘Chinese threat’ is borne out by factual data: while there are only 80,000 Indian troops on the Sino-Indian border, the number of Indian troops on India’s borders with Pakistan is 450,000. This explicitly bares out that the entire thrust of India’s nuclear programme is Pakistan-specific.

The cold fact is that India’s quest for nuclear weapons is not motivated by any security considerations, since there is no threat to India’s security from any outside power. India seeks nuclear weapons to promote its great power status so that its military might can be used to browbeat its neighbours and to put India in the league of the exclusive nuclear club from where it can more conveniently promote and project its long-cherished hegemonic goals.