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HVK Archives: Both Sides Now

Both Sides Now - The Indian Express

Posted By Ashok Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
Wed, 24 Jun 1998 22:41:06 +0530

I had earlier sent you an article by the author of this
artilce, with comments of mine, giving quotes from an
article by Kissinger and an earlier one by Sundar-Rajan.
The present article, written earlier, is in complete contrast.
One would get an impression that the two articles are
written by two different authors. One wonders if there is
a deliberate attempt to create obfuscation.

===========================================Thomas L. Friedman: Both Sides Now
The New York Times, June 20, 1998

NEW DELHI -- I came here expecting to hear all about
how the Indian nuclear test was meant to cope with the
Pakistani threat. What I heard instead was Indians from
across the political spectrum insisting that their nuclear
sound and light show on May 11 was actually meant to
signal America and China that India views their emerging
"alliance" with great concern and will not let these two
powers carve up Asia without regard to India.

Even those Indian politicians who denounce their nuclear
tests as a cheap, jingoistic maneuver by India's new Hindu
nationalist Government, when you scratch them, will tell
you these tests were the only way for India to get what it
wants most from the U.S. and China: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I finally realized the depth of this sentiment when I went
to see a saffron- robed Indian human rights campaigner,
Swami Agnivesh. Surely, I thought, he will disavow this
test. But no sooner did we sit down on the floor of his
simple Delhi house than he declared: "We are India, the
second-largest country in the world. You can't just take us
for granted. India doesn't feel threatened by Pakistan, but in
the whole international game India is being marginalized
by the China-U.S. axis."

As long as the cold war was on, and the Soviets were in
effect protecting India against China, India did not feel an
urgency to develop its own nuclear weapon, notes Raja
Mohan, strategic editor of The Hindu newspaper. But the
Soviet collapse, coupled with U.S. pressure on India to sign
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and not go nuclear,
coupled with the rise of China as an economic and military
powerhouse, left the Indians feeling they were on their own.
Said Mr. Mohan: "It was clear that China had run ahead of
us and they were being incorporated as the world's No. 2
power and that we were being told to stay in a small box,
while the U.S. gave South Asia to China."

When I asked India's Defense Minister, George
Fernandes, what he would say to President Clinton about
the Indian tests, he answered: "I would ask Bill Clinton
why is it that you feel yourself so close to China and you
can trust China with nuclear weapons and you can trust
yourself with nuclear weapons and you can trust Russia,
France and Britain with nuclear weapons, but you cannot
trust India?"

Mr. Fernandes added: "And now we have news that the
U.S. and China, during President Clinton's visit, will work
out arrangements so that their respective nuclear weapons
will not be targeted on each other. So the U.S. and China
are settling their nuclear problems, while we are obviously
a nation that must not care for our own security concerns."

India's former Foreign Secretary J. N. Dixit said to me:
"Your Government tolerates China no matter what it does.
Whether it is nuclear weapons tests or abuse of human
rights, your Government says, 'No, we cannot spoil
relations with China.' "

India's former Prime Minister I. K. Gujral -- a critic of
India's nuclear test -- elaborated: "[Former U.S. Defense
Secretary William] Perry went to Beijing and said China
should take more interest in South Asia. I asked myself:
What is the purpose of making this statement? Is it a
division of areas of influence? If you have decided that this
side of Suez is an area of influence of China, what should
an Indian policy maker do?"

No American President has visited China in 20 years,
added Mr. Gujral, "but Mr. Clinton doesn't mind going to
China. [What China does in] Tiananmen is all right, in
Tibet is all right, in Taiwan is all right. Everything [China
does] is all right, but you ignore our security concerns
because we are poor and a non-nuclear power. In your eyes
either having a bomb or making money is what matters.
Well, money is very difficult to make. A bomb is not."

China, explained an Indian defense analyst, K.
Subrahmanyam, is the major rising power in the world, and
when a major power like China emerges it needs to be
counterbalanced. Russia balances China from the north,
Japan and Korea from the east, and now India is doing it
>from the west and south. "It is like embedding Germany in
NATO," he concluded. "One day you will give us thanks
for our nuclear test."

Whether any of this makes sense, frankly, I don't know.
But I do know this: These views are widely shared here.
And any U.S. policy that ignores them, and just orders
India to turn the clock back and put its nuclear genie back
in the bottle, is not going to work.

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