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After summer, the fall - India Today

Swapan Dasgupta ()
June 8, 1998

Title: After summer, the fall
Author: Swapan Dasgupta
Publication: India Today
Date: June 8, 1998

At the best of times, failure is difficult to digest; at the
worst of times, it is abhorrent. For the US, May's 10 N-tests are
not only a failure of the counter-proliferation regime so
carefully nurtured since 1993, they are a monumental foreign
policy disaster. It will take time for the ramifications of
Pokhran II and Chagai to sink in, but the two neighbouring curry
powers have conclusively smashed the universalist pretensions of
the West's nuclear apartheid. They have made N-might, as Samuel
P. Huntington foresaw (in The Clash of Civilisations), "the
central phenomenon of the slow but ineluctable diffusion of power
in a multi-civilisational world".

President Bill Clinton may have mocked India's achievement as "a
nutty way to go", but his concerns run deeper. First, a
recalcitrant Senate may well defer ratification of the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) since the ban on N-tests
have been shown to be completely unenforceable. Senate Foreign
Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms has already advocated
such a course. Secondly, the presence of two new N-weapons states
is certain to prompt demands for a review of the present Sino-US
honeymoon since China has been shown to be the common villain.
The Heritage Foundation, for example, has demanded a
Congressional inquiry into Clinton's reported approval of missile
technology transfers to China. "If true," says a recent Heritage
report, "these allegations represent a betrayal of US security."

It is because the reverberations from India and Pakistan extend
well beyond their immediate neighbourhood that Washington is
concerned over the US espionage establishment's "greatest failure
in more than a decade". The CIA, in particular, has egg on its
face because it established a Non-Proliferation Centre as early
as 1991 to both identify and pre-empt the world's N-rogues.
"Look, we are wrong. We were all wrong," the state department's
top intelligence officer told a Senate committee in exasperation
after India's N-tests. The CIA has also admitted its failure to
recruit any Indian spies with access to the N-programme. A
"botched attempt" even led to the expulsion of its Delhi deputy
station chief last year. There is also concern that neither
carrot nor stick could stop Pakistan going ahead with its well-
publicised tests.

It is silly to believe the US will now admit the futility of
persevering with an iniquitous CTBT and press for universal N-
disarmament. The menacing noises about signing the CTBT "without
conditions" reflect the profound nervousness of the N-haves at
the global system being redefined. The stakes are far too high.
A combination of sanctions and diplomacy may meet Indian
aspirations half-way, but they are certain to destabilise
Pakistan and make it turn to the Islamic world for succour.
Counter-proliferation having failed, the West has to consider a
policy shift. This, however, will take time and a new US
administration. For Clinton, N-accommodation signals defeat. To
be remembered for anything more tangible than Monica Lewinsky, he
has to bludgeon the interlopers into unconditional surrender.

Clinton and a vengeful CIA know that Pakistan is fragile. Arm-
twisting will push it to unbridled fanaticism. A liberal India is
a different ball game. Senator Dianne Fienstein said the N-tests
wouldn't have happened in a Congress regime, and Newsweek has
stressed Clinton's anxiety "for a more predictable party to take
power in India". No wonder there is an unseemly rush in
"predictable" circles to take lessons in competitive cringing.

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