COMMENTARY
 
BJP-led India’s nuclear pursuits
The Nation
April 12, 1998
The Western media has a genuine reason to be concerned about India’s current nuclear obduracy: the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, in its National Agenda for Governance, released on March 18, has reiterated the nuclear pledge that the party had made before the elections in its election manifesto. The pledge was that once the BJP government was in place in Delhi, it would declare India a nuclear state. If not a BJP government, a BJP-led coalition government is surely in place. India might have already exercised its nuclear option had the case been the former. Still it’s only a matter of time now. The BJP leadership’s strategy in the days and months to come will be to consolidate the party’s hold in power and, once the aim is achieved, it will fulfil the said pledge.

The section of the BJP election manifesto dealing with India’s foreign policy matters had in categorical terms stated that, come what may, the party would bring India into the fold of declared nuclear powers if Indian voters gave it a chance to come to power. While releasing the national agenda at a press conference on March 18 in Delhi, prime minister Vajpaee minced no words in stating that “when the time comes and the need arises, India will declare its nuclear weapons potential.”

After the release of the National Agenda for Governance, the Indian media has tried to propagate that since the BJP is leading a coalition setup of several parties, it will be hard for it to carry out its pre-election nuclear pledge. In other worlds, the leadership of the party has to be moderate on controversial issues. This might be true for some other pledges that the BJP had made in its election manifesto, such as imposing a Uniform Civil Code. For this may cost the party a couple of coalition partners. But declaring India a nuclear state has hardly ever been a controversial matter in Indian politics. In fact, such a course enjoys widespread political approval in the country.

India has a history of disobeying and dishonouring the international community by refusing to cooperate with it on the nuclear question. It has not signed the NPT, nor has it concluded the CTBT. And now when the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty is being negotiated at Geneva’s UN Conference on Disarmament session, India happens to obstruct every positive move that the Commission’s majority members make on the subject. How can India behave so defiantly before the world community on a matter that concerns it the most? It does so only because there exists widespread Indian public backing for the purpose.

In fact, guided solely by a dream of making India a great power, successive Indian leaders have tried their best to contribute as much to their country’s nuclear weapons potential as possible. From Nehru to Vajpaee, India’s nuclear quest has been weapons-oriented. It is a different matter that all the leaders who occupied the seat of power in Delhi talked about the country’s peaceful nuclear quest. That was only to fool the world. So much so that Indira Gandhi termed India’s 1974 nuclear test as a ‘Peaceful Nuclear Experiment’. Back in the 1940s, Bhabha, the country’s nuclear father, started the nuclear programme pretending that his energy-starved country required such a programme. With half century of the so-called peaceful nuclear programme, how much electricity are the Indians generating from their nuclear reactors? An amount that meets only two per cent of their total requirement.

This factor alone proves what the Indians have been up to all these years. Half century of hardwork in nuclear weapons pursuit has to find some expression. An Indian regime led by Hindu nationalists is best suited for this. And there arises the danger for the people of this region. For the people of Pakistan in particular. People who have just been on the receiving end, trying to cope with the nonsensical acts that Indian leaders perform every now and then.

BJP leaders will give a damn to the international community if it reacts in case India declares itself a nuclear state. That’s what they say. So, when, at the press conference held to present the National Agenda for Governance, a reporter asked Vajpaee about the possibility of a severe American response in case India exercises its nuclear option, his answer was: the Americans have nothing to do with what India deems necessary for its defence and security; and that India’s external interest was one area in which his government would not make any compromise.

That’s how a ‘moderate’ Indian leader argues. One really feels pity for the Indian population, over 30 per cent of which lives below the poverty line, leading a sub-human existence. How can a nuclear device meet the needs of a hungry man, of which there is no dearth in India? The problem is that it’s not just a common Indian citizen who is suffering due to the nuclear obsession and ambition of India’s ruling clique. It’s the population of this entire region, including Pakistanis, who are the eventual sufferers.