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HVK Archives: Evolution of India's Nuclear Policy (Statement in Lok Sabha) Part 1 of 2

Evolution of India's Nuclear Policy (Statement in Lok Sabha) Part 1 of 2 - Organiser

Govt of India ()
June 14, 1998

Title: Evolution of India's Nuclear Policy - Part 1 of 2
Author: Govt of India
Publication: Organiser
Date: June 14, 1998

Govt reassures to safeguard India's security interests

After Shakti-98 tests a paper was laid on the table of Lok Sabha
on "Evolution of India's Nuclear Policy". We reproduce here
text of the same. - Ed.

On May 11, a statement was issued by the Government
announcing that India had successfully carried out three
underground nuclear tests at the Pokharan range. Two days
later, after carrying out two more underground sub-kiloton tests,
the Government announced the completion of the planned
series of tests. The three underground nuclear tests carried out
at 1545 hours on May 11 were with three different devices- a
fission device, a low-yield sub-kiloton device and a
thermonuclear device. The two tests carried out at 1221 hours
on May 13 were also low-yield devices in the sub-kiloton range.
The results from these tests have been in accordance with the
expectations of our scientists.

In 1947, when- India emerged as a free country to take its rightful
place in the comity of nations, the nuclear age had already
dawned. Our leaders then took the crucial decision to opt for
self-reliance, and freedom of thought and action. We rejected
the Cold War paradigm whose shadows were already
appearing on the horizon and instead of aligning ourselves with
either block, chose the more difficult path of non-alignment. This
has required the building up of national strength through our own
resources, our skills and creativity and the dedication of the
people. Among the earliest initiatives taken by our first Prime
Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, was the development of science
and inculcation of the scientific spirit. It is this initiative that laid
the foundation for the achievement of May 11 and 13, made
possible by exemplary cooperation among the scientists from
Department of Atomic Energy and Defence Research &
Development Organisation. Disarmament was then and
continues to be a major plank in our foreign policy now. It was, in
essence, and remains still, the natural course for a country that
had waged a unique struggle for independence on the basis of
ahimsa and satyagraha.

Development of. nuclear technology transformed the nature of
global security. Our leaders reasoned that nuclear weapons
were not weapons of war, these were weapons of mass
destruction. A nuclear-weapon-free-world would, therefore,
enhance not only India's security but also the security of all
nations. This is the principle plank of our nuclear policy. In the
absence of universal and non-discriminatory disarmament, we
cannot accept a regime that creates an arbitrary division
between nuclear haves and have nots. India believes that it is
the sovereign right of every nation to make a judgement
regarding its supreme national interests and exercise its
sovereign choice. We subscribe to the principle of equal and
legitimate security interests of nations and consider, it a
sovereign right. At the same time, our leaders recognised early
that nuclear technology ,offers tremendous potential for
economic development, especially for developing countries
who are endeavouring to leap across the technology gaps
created by long years of colonial exploitation. This thinking was
reflected in the enactment of the Atomic Energy Act of 1948,
within a year of our Independence. All the numerous initiatives
taken by us since, in the field of nuclear disarmament have
been in harmony and in continuation of those early

In the 50's, nuclear weapons testing took place above ground
and the characteristic mushroom cloud became the visible
symbol of the nuclear age. India then took the lead in calling for
an end to all nuclear weapon testing as the first step for ending
the nuclear arms race. Addressing the Lok Sabha on April 2,
1954, shortly after a major hydrogen bomb test had been
conducted, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru stated that "nuclear, chemical
and biological energy and power should not be used to forge
weapons of mass destruction". He called for negotiations for
prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and in the
interim, a standstill agreement to halt nuclear testing. The world
had by then witnessed less than 65 tests. Our call was not
heeded. In 1963, an agreement was concluded to ban
atmospheric testing but by this time, countries had developed
the technologies for conducting underground nuclear tests and
the nuclear arms race continued unabated. More than three
decades passed and after over 2000 tests had been
conducted, a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was
opened for signature in 1996, following two and a half years of
negotiations in, which India had participated actively. In its final
shape, this Treaty left much to be desired. It was neither
comprehensive nor was it related to disarmament..

In 1965, along with a small group of non-aligned countries, India
had put forward the idea of an international non-proliferation
agreement under Which the nuclear weapon states would
agree to give up their arsenals provided other countries
refrained from developing or acquiring such weapons. This
balance of rights and obligations was absent when the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) emerged in 1968, almost 30
years ago. In the 60's our security concerns deepened. But
such was our abhorrence of nuclear weapons and such our
desire to avoid acquiring them that we sought instead security
guarantees from major nuclear powers of the world. The
countries we turned to for support and understanding felt unable
to extend to us the assurances that we then sought. That is when
and why India made clear its inability to sign the NPT.

The Lok Sabha debated the NPT on April 5, 1968. The then
Prime Minister Smt Indira Gandhi assured the House that "we
shall be guided entirely by our self-enlightenment and the
considerations of national security". She highlighted the
shortcomings of the NPT whilst re-emphasising the country's
commitment to nuclear disarmament. She warned the House
and the country "that not signing the Treaty may bring the nation
many difficulties. It may mean the stoppage of aid and help.
Since we are taking this decision together, we must all be
together in. facing its consequences". That was a turning point.
This House then strengthened the decision of the Government
by reflecting a national consensus.

Our decision not to sign the NPT was in keeping with the basic
objective of maintaining freedom of thought and action. In 1974,
we demonstrated our nuclear capability. Successive
Governments thereafter have Continued to take all necessary
.steps in keeping with that resolve. and national will, to
safeguard India's nuclear option. This was also the primary
reason underlying the 1996 decision in the country not
subscribing to the CTBT- a decision that met the unanimous
approval of the House yet again. Our perception then was that
subscribing to the CTBT would severely limit India's nuclear
potential at an unacceptably low level. Our reservations
deepened as the CTBT did not also carry forward the nuclear
disarmament process. On both counts, therefore, yet again our
security concerns remained unaddressed. The then Minister for
External Affairs, Shri I.K. Gujral had made clear the
Government's reasoning to this House during the discussions
on this subjects in 1996.

The decades of the 80's and 90's meanwhile witnessed the
gradual deterioration of our security environment as a result of
nuclear and missile proliferation. In our neighbourhood, nuclear
weapons increased and more sophisticated delivery systems
were inducted. Further, in our region there has come into
existence a pattern about clandestine acquisition of nuclear
materials, missiles and related technologies. India, in this
period, became the victim of externally aided and abetted
terrorism, militancy and clandestine war through hired

The end of the Cold War mark a watershed in the history of the
20th century. While it has transformed the political landscape of
Europe, it has done little to address India's security concerns.
The relative order that was arrived at in Europe was not
replicated in other parts of the globe.

At the global level, there is no evidence yet on the part of the
nuclear weapon states to take decisive and irreversible steps
in moving towards a nuclear-weapon-free-world. Instead, the
NPT has been extended indefinitely and unconditionally,
perpetuating the existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of
the five countries who are also permanent members of the UN
Security Council. Some of these countries have doctrines that
permit the first use of nuclear weapons; these countries are also
engaged in programmes for modernisation of their nuclear

Under such circumstances, India was left with little choice. It had
to take necessary steps to ensure that the country's nuclear
option, developed and safeguarded over decades not be
permitted to erode by a voluntary self-imposed restraint.
Indeed, such an erosion would have had an irremediably
adverse impact on our security. The Government was thus
faced with a difficult decision. The only touchstone that guided it
was national security. Tests conducted on May 11 and 13 are a
continuation of the policies set into motion that put this country
on the path of self-reliance and independence of thought and
action. Nevertheless, there are certain moments when the
chosen path reaches a fork and a decision has to be made.
1968 was one such moment in our nuclear chapter as were 1974
and 1996. At each of these moments, we took the right decision
guided by national interest and supported by national
consensus. 1998 was borne in the crucible of earlier decisions
and made possible only because those decisions had been
taken correctly in the past and in time.

At a time when developments in the area. of. advanced
technologies are taking place at a breathtaking pace, new
parameters need to be identified, tested and validated in order
to ensure that skills remain contemporary and succeeding
generations of scientists and engineers are able to build on the
work done by their predecessors. The limited series of five
tests undertaken by India was precisely such an exercise. It has
achieved its stated objective. The data provided by these tests
is critical to validate our capabilities in the design of nuclear
weapons of different yields for different applications and
different delivery systems. Further, these tests have significantly
enhanced the capabilities of our scientists and engineers in
computer simulation of new designs and enabled them to
undertake sub-critical experiments in future, if considered
necessary. In terms of technical capability, our scientists and
engineers have the requisite resources to ensure a credible

Our policies towards our neighbours and other countries too
have not changed; India remains fully committed to the
promotion of peace with stability, and resolution of all
outstanding issues through bilateral dialogue and negotiations.
These tests were not directed against any country; these were
intended to reassure the people of India about their security
and convey determination that this Government, like previous
Governments, has the capability and resolve to safeguard their
national security interest. The Government will continue to
remain engaged in substantive dialogue with. our neighbours to
improve relations and to expand the scrope of our interactions
in a mutually advantageous manner. Confidence building is a
continuous process; we remain committed to it. Consequent
upon the tests and arising from an insufficient appreciation of
our security concerns, some countries have been persuaded to
take steps that sadden us. We value our bilateral relations. We
remain committed to dialogue and reaffirm that preservation of
India's security create no conflict of interest with these countries.

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