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HVK Archives: The NPT game is up; India should set the agenda now

The NPT game is up; India should set the agenda now - The Times of India

Minhaz Merchant ()
June 16, 1998

Title: The NPT game is up; India should set the agenda now
Author: Minhaz Merchant
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 16, 1998

India's and Pakistan's nuclear tests have shaken the edifice of
nuclear hegemony carefully constructed by the five "original"
nuclear weapon powers (the P-5). Their duplicity in denying the
same right to other countries - a responsible nuclear weapons
programme - that they arrogate to themselves stands exposed in
the glare of international debate that will now increasingly
focus on the P-5's double standards.

There are three aspects to the nuclear debate: legal, strategic
and moral. Consider, first the legal aspect. By testing its
nuclear devices, India broke no laws, domestic or international.
It is the P-5 nations who have been in consistent breach of the
law by reneging on two of their legal obligations under the
Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). First, that they would
not abet the transfer of nuclear technology to a third country
(China did so clandestinely to Pakistan, Iran and North Korea).
And second that they would work towards eliminating their own
nuclear arsenals.

Strategically, India was absolutely justified in pursuing its
1974 nuclear option to a logical end - testing and eventual
weaponisation. The five original nuclear weapon states tested and
weaponised in response to their own individual security
environments at various times. India has done exactly the same.
Of the seven declared nuclear weapon states, India is the only
one which shares borders with two overtly hostile nuclear weapon
powers (China and Pakistan). It is therefore nonsense to argue
that India should have practised nuclear abstinence.

Turning to the moral aspect: India has the most pacifist record
of any major country including the other six nuclear weapon
states. The United States has a disgraceful 250 year record of
slavery. Segregation of coloured people was legal in several
American states as recently as the 1960s. The US has waged brutal
wars on Vietnam and Korea, invaded Grenada and supported with
money and weapons venal dictatorships across Africa and Latin
America. The US was also founded amidst the genocide of its
indigenous Indian population by European settlers. In more recent
years, America's Cold War doctrine with the former Soviet Union
exacerbated global tension for over four decades, taking the
world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban crisis in

America's closest ally, Britain, also has a historical record of
brutality in its dealings with coloured people: it was the
world's largest slave trading nation in the 1700s and 1800s.
Britain invaded and occupied other countries, often crippling
their economies to fuel its own industrial revolution.

The British occupiers also perpetrated serious human rights
abuses on their colonised subjects - the Jallianwala Bagh
massacre was only one of several less publicised episodes that
remain a disgrace on Britain's historical record.

France too committed serious infarctions in Algeria and Indo-
China; Russia's record during the Stalin era and the crushing of
the Hungarian and Czech revolutions is well known; communist
China's treatment of its own citizens - Tiananmen Square being
only one example - is equally well-documented as is its conduct
in Tibet; Pakistan has a long history of clandestinely supporting
proxy terrorism.

So, if a moral report card of the seven nuclear weapon states is
drawn up, America and Britain would be at the bottom of the
class, with France, Russia, China and Pakistan just slightly
above them. India, a victim of invasion and aggression over the
centuries emerges far more honourably. India has simply never
invaded another country or exported violence as the five original
nuclear weapon powers have. Lectures delivered by those countries
and especially America and Britain to India on the morality of
nuclear weaponisation should be treated with the contempt they
deserve. These five countries have conducted 1032 nuclear tests
since 1945, most of them atmospheric and several (like France's
in the Pacific in 1996) on other people's land. India's tests, in
contrast, were underground, on Indian territory and released no

India should now start behaving proactively in the face of
sanctions. It should:

Announce that it will punish companies from countries that have
imposed economic, trade or military sanctions against India by
blacklisting them from lucrative Indian contracts. It should make
an example of Boeing by giving the pending Rs 4000-crore Air-
India contract to French-based Airbus Industries. Countries like
Britain that threaten to cut military ties should be punished by
blacklisting British firms from Indian defence contracts. Money
invariably determines Western conduct - however well-camouflaged
it might be - and Indian policymakers must leverage that to
penalise its detractors to the fullest extent. The moment India
acts with decisiveness, strength and conviction, and shows that
others rather than itself will suffer more economically from
sanctions, countries imposing or threatening such action will
back off since self-interest always lurks close to the surface of
the external bluster.

Use the moral and economic weight of the Non-Aligned Movement
(NAM) - which has tacitly defended India's nuclear position and
criticised the hegemony of the P-5 - to defeat the specious US-
led charge that India is an international pariah.

Insist that the Security Council immediately pass a resolution
asking the original nuclear weapons states to fulfil all their
legal obligations, under the NPT - especially the clause on a
timebound elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

Make it clear that India has no desire to join the five member
"nuclear club" but to make it redundant since it represents - and
propagates - an unethical world order.

India has the economic means - and the moral authority - to
expose the West's nuclear duplicity and defeat its illegal
sanctions. The real reason why the P-5 countries are so upset
with India and Pakistan is that their nuclear tests have directed
the harsh spotlight of international public attention on the
single most dishonourable cabal in the post 1945 world - the five
member nuclear club. The P-5 will now do everything in their
power to use a carrot-and-stick approach with India and Pakistan
- offering inducements if the two countries sign the CTBT and
don't weaponise their nuclear capabilities and threatening deeper
economic sanctions if they resist the P-5's diktat.

India's strategy now must be to turn the tables and insist that
any Security Council-sponsored initiative on the subcontinent
must include on the agenda a strict time-frame for eliminating
the 10,000-plus operational nuclear warheads in the P-5's

It is time India set the agenda, rather than follow a spurious
one set by a five member cabal whose time, and game, is finally

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