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HVK Archives: Indian politics and vulnerability

Indian politics and vulnerability - The Economic Times

K Subrahmanyam ()
June 25, 1998

Title: Indian politics and vulnerability
Author: K Subrahmanyam
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: June 25, 1998

These are very trying times for our country. Our disunity has
been exposed to the whole world and India will be lucky if
efforts are not made to exploit our disunity and dissensions.

The tragedy is this was wholly avoidable. This is not merely a
reference to the way in which the nuclear tests were handled by
the government but also to our political culture of the last
three decades. More than our present disunity, what got exposed
was the lack of inner party democracy and broad lack of
understanding of international and national security issues
across the entire political spectrum.

Long ago Jawaharlal Nehru explained: "What does independence
consist of? It consists fundamentally and basically of foreign
relations. That is the test of independence. All else is local

His speeches in Parliament were an education to the MPs and the
country on foreign policy, international affairs and
international security. Compare that with the developments in the
last three decades. It is now a matter of record that Mrs Gandhi
made preparations to conduct a nuclear test in 1983 and called it
off under US pressure. Pakistan acquired its nuclear weapon in
1987 with active Chinese help and tacit US connivance. The US
administration went on issuing misleading certificates to the US
Congress for three years that Pakistan had not reached nuclear
explosive capability. Rajiv Gandhi sanctioned a programme of
Indian nuclear weaponisation in 1988 and that was nurtured by
successive Prime Ministers Messrs V P Singh, Chandrasekhar,
Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral. Mrs Gandhi
sanctioned the integrated guided missile programme in 1984 and
the centrepiece of it was the Agni missile which would be
purposeless and a waste of money without a nuclear warhead.

The nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty was extended unconditionally
and indefinitely in 1995, legitimising the nuclear weapons in the
hands of five nuclear weapon powers. The entire industrialised
world including the former republics of ex-Soviet Union all
became integrated into a security framework - Organisation of
European Security and Cooperation (OSCE) under the aegis of four
nuclear weapon powers - US, Russia, UK and France. The US nuclear
deterrence covered South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The entire western hemisphere was in the Organisation of American
States under US nuclear security cover. China had its own nuclear
security cover. The South Pacific nations, Africa and ASEAN
formed Nuclear Weapon free zones which accept the legitimacy of
nuclear weapons in the hands of nuclear weapon powers, their
overlordship and their nuclear guarantees as their protectorates.
The only areas left out of this nuclearised global order was the
Indian subcontinent and South West and West Asia.

The US had deployed its forces in this area. The Gulf Cooperation
Council has accepted implicit US protection. Israel as a nuclear
weapon power was dominating its neighbourhood. China was
attempting to counter US influence in this area by nuclear and
missile proliferation. So it sold CSS-2 missiles to Saudi Arabia.
Those missiles are useless junk without nuclear warheads. China
concentrated on Pakistan for its nuclear and missile
proliferation, while also trying to entice Iran.

China shipped M-11 missiles to Pakistan in 1993. Their arrival
was announced in Pakistan's Senate and yet the US decided to look
away as it did in respect of China's nuclear proliferation to
Pakistan in the eighties. The nuclear weapon powers decided to
impose the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on the rest of the
world. CTBT was largely redundant because all nations other than
India, Pakistan, Israel and Cuba had already signed the NPT. The
US, Russia and UK had stopped testing. India had agreed not to
oppose the adoption of CTBT provided it was not compelled to sign
it. Then, under China's insistence, a clause was added at the
last moment making India's accession necessary to bring the
treaty into force. At the end of this year, India ran the risk of
facing the wrath of the nuclear powers since its non-accession to
CTBT would hold up its coming into force.

Reports in the US brought out continuing Chinese proliferation of
nuclear and missile technologies to Pakistan and US connivance in
this Proliferation activity because of its commercial interests
and its inability to penalise China. In 1994 China transferred
50,000 ring magnets to Pakistan in violation of the article Ill
(2) of the NPT. There were more reports of such Chinese
proliferation. In October 1997, during President Jiang Zemin's US
visit, the two countries signed a much-publicised agreement that
there would be no more Chinese proliferation, especially in
respect of Iran and Pakistan. Signing of such an agreement
highlighted that the NPT by itself was not considered adequate to
compel nuclear weapon powers to abide by their obligations under
Article 1 of the NPT not to proliferate to non-weapon nations. In
spite of this, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for non-
proliferation Robert Einhorn told the House of Representatives on
February 4, 1998, that though China was not supplying full MTCR
missiles to Pakistan, it was continuing to supply technology and
components. Yet the US Administration certified China as not
proliferating in order to sell nuclear reactors. China is
building a Plutonium production reactor in Pakistan.

Then came the Ghauri missile test though India had not tested
Agni for four years. Pakistan had acquired the North Korean
'Nodong' missiles in 1994. All these are in the public domain.
Still our MPs and leaders ask what was the deterioration in our
security environment and what the threat. Why did Mr Narasimha
Rao order preparations for a test in 1995, why did Rajiv Gandhi
sanction a nuclear weapons programme in 1988 and why did
successive prime ministers nurture it?

Do the MPs realise that this country was living under the shadow
of deployed Pakistani nuclear weapons for the last 11 years? None
of these issues was debated in Parliament. No prime minister or
foreign minister explained to Parliament and the people the
significance of the unconditional and indefinite extension of the
NPT, the creeping nuclearisation of the entire globe. There were
no references to Pakistan-China nuclear and missile relationship.
When there was a demand from the parliamentary standing committee
on defence to productionise the Agni missile the defence minister
said that the project was wound up as a technology demonstrator
and it would be considered if there was a threat perception.
This reply was given in October, 1996. At that stage, Pakistan
had received M-11s and the Ghauris.

The leaderships of the parties - the Congress, the Janata Dal and
the United Front - though they nurtured the Indian nuclear
programme, did not think it worthwhile to take their own partymen
into confidence on the national and international security
situations which compelled them to pursue the weapons programme.
It never occured to our MPs and the leading cadres of the parties
to demand policy statements from the governments. There was no
sense of democratic accountability in any of the parties, either
on the part of the leaders or on the part of the members. The
Bharatiya Janata Party appears to be part of the same culture.
They have not bothered to explain the totality of the
international situation which made the Indian nuclear tests
inevitable. In this country it is easier to get our scientists
to make the H-Bomb than to get a comprehensive assessment and
policy response from our politicians and bureaucracy.

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