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The question is not hy_now?=92 but hy not earlier?=92 - The Observer

Arun Shourie ()
July 17, 1998

Title: The question is not hy now? but hy not earlier?
Author: Arun Shourie
Publication: The Observer
Date: July 17, 1998

e have been told that we have (had) the capability for a long
time, we could have set off this blast much earlier, if we wanted
to," the speaker declaimed. "Well, if we could have set it off
much earlier, we could have set it off much later also. My
question is about the timing of it. There must be some reason
behind the timing of this, this particular timing of 18th May. I
am not clear about it."

Sounds like something add last week? In fact, this was the
refrain during the debate in the Lok Sabha on 8 August, 1974,
after Pokharan-I. The speaker? Indrajit Gupta.

That is always a favourite question: When you can't fault the
fellow on substance, ask, "But why now?"

And paste motives. In the wake of Pokharan-I, opposition parties
alleged that the blast had been engineered to break the railway
strike, because the government was wobbling and needed something
that would give it political mileage, that the blast had been
conducted at that moment because elections in UP were round the
corner and the government was fearing defeat.

And there was, as there always is for every allegation of
conspiracy, a circumstantial plausibility. The railway strike
had indeed crippled the country, the government had, in fact, had
to resort to draconian measures to break it. The government had
Indeed been in disarray since its attempt at nationalising
wholesale trade in wheat. Elections in UP were indeed looming
over the government.

And the trick here Is that no one can quite prove that the
decision you are challenging has not been taken with these
considerations in mind. Try proving that you are not a crook!

Speaking for the government, K C Pant remarked that In asserting
that the explosion had been engineered to break the railway
strike - it was just a few days old when the explosion was
conducted - the opposition was "unwittingly giving the Atomic
Energy Commission compliments and credit for far greater powers
than they can boast of.

"I say this because in a matter of a few days or a few weeks it
is very difficult to perfect this technique and to go underground
and find the right spot and to explode the bomb just for the
benefit of influencing the railway strike. Sir, I am surprised at
this kind of a political approach to this undoubtedly a national

"The explosions are immoral," one of the voluble spokesmen of the
Congress said the other day. BJP government has taken the
country to the brink of a nuclear arms race, The Economic Times
reports Natwar Singh and P A Sangma to have declared in the Lok

These explosions are a violation of the country's ethos, they
reflect the immature and naive thinking of the government, they
said. This government has not learned any lessons from the fate
that befell the USSR, they charged. It has Plunged the country
into a trap laid by the US, they proclaimed. They have isolated
India. Before May, 1998, we were an entity to be reckoned with.
By its reckless decision, this government has reduced us to the
level of Pakistan. A country like ours with millions of hungry
mouths to feed cannot afford a nuclear arms race.... What did the
Congress maintain on these points in 1974?

Its spokesman said, "Sir, the only thing of which I am rather
critical is that it (the explosion) should have been done earlier
than now. Even now I want to warn that there are certain forces
both within the government and outside...., and they say that if
you had more nuclear explosions and make atom bombs it will be a
very costly affair and we should not go about it. "Sir, when our
nuclear explosion took place many powers in the world were
shedding crocodile tears for our poor teeming millions. They were
saying that poverty was our first enemy and we must fight it

"I would like to know," he continued. "that after the War, after
the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing, is it not a fact that Britain
and the Soviet Union launched on a programme of nuclear weapons
development when they were still recovering from the ravages of
the War?

"In the same way China was recovering from the failures of the
Great Leap Forward when they decided to go In for nuclear weapons
development and nuclearisation of their country. France had its
own economic difficulties and was fighting the Vietnam war and
the Algerian colonial war when she went in for

"The position in the world today is this," he reminded the House.
"A nation Is not strong merely because of economic growth or
agricultural growth. A nation is considered strong on the basis
of its warheads, its military power, its defence expenditure.

As I have always fought for economic and socialist growth, m the
same way I would like to fight here for making India strong in
matters of defence also with nuclear weapons, nuclear bombs."

A country that does not have these is ignored, one that has them
just cannot be ignored, he told the House. "I would like to quote
Herbert Kline, Presidential aide of Nixon," he said, "who pointed
out, when they were trying to improve relations with China, that
800 million Chinese armed with nuclear weapons could not be
ignored. "Yea," the speaker said, "they could be ignored as they
were all these years, but not after 15 nuclear blasts at Lop Nor
and two earth satellites.

Japan provided the counter-example, he pointed out. For the very
reason that China could not be ignored, Nixon could ignore the
interests of Japan, though the latter was its ally.

Notice, that this was not an argument for developing nuclear
energy for peaceful uses - it was not an argument for 'Peaceful
implosions'. It was an argument for out and out nuclear weapons.

The speaker from the Congress? Krishna Kant!

"But the Government has botched it. The case for or against
nuclear weapons aside, the whole world is criticising India. We
have not won a single friend. On the other hand, we have
alienated China, Pakistan, the US, Japan, U K, everyone. The
exact opposite of 1974. That is the difference."

Newspapers and debates in Parliament of the period tell the
opposite tale. "Sir, why is the world angry with us?," Krishna
Kant asked. "The very powers, the very countries, our friendly
countries like Canada, did not criticise the super powers when
they had the explosions, but when India went in for the
explosion, they criticise us because the mentality of the world
powers is to divide the world......

But now that some other party has taken the next step, the hands
which am being 'thrown up in horror' are here In India - Natwar
Singh, P A Sangma and those for whom they speak - the ones who
are 'turning pale' are from the came Congress!

Nor does the comedy end there. Its spokesmen having declared
that the tests this time round are 'immoral', that they are a
violation of the country's ethos, that they have plunged us into
a nuclear arms race which we cannot afford, on the 23rd June the
Working Committee of the very same Congress passed a resolution.

The resolution, reported The Economic Times, declared that hile
Pokharan tests had established our weapons capability,
weaponisation of armed forces remains to be done. This has to be
done keeping in view the national security and economic

In a word, the government was at fault - not for departing from
our ethos - but for not forsaking it sufficiently, not for
plunging us into a nuclear arms race but for not running fast
enough In that race!

Time flies. The world turns insideout. But our habits, and our
obsession with scoring debating points endure!

What has been done this time round has been the logical
development of steps which the country has been taking for 50
years. It has been done in response to the frightful
deterioration in our security environment during the last 20

And it has been taken In the nick of time. The indefinite
extension of NPT in 1995 legitimised the nuclear weapons of the P-
5 into the indefinite future. And this is 1998: Within months, in
1999, whether we sign it or not CTBT will be sent to the UN
General Assembly it makes what is termed ntry into Force. The
door was fast closing.

The real question to ask is not, hy now?, but, hat forces
prevented the tests from being carried out earlier - in spite of
the fact that the decision to conduct them was taken in 1981,
that it was retaken in 1983, that it was taken yet again in 1995

That such forces have been at work is not in doubt at all. That
evidence about what they did to scuttle the decision that was
liable to emerge from a top-secret meeting which P V Narasimha
Rao had convened at Bangalore, that evidence in this regard has
been furnished to the government - I know from personal
knowledge. And we have confirmation of this from many sources.

The Down (Karachi) of 3 June, 1998, carries an article by Milton
A Bearden, former head of CIA in Pakistan, explaining why the US
failed to learn about the Indian tests this time.

He writes, "When India prepared to test In 1995, US intelligence
dutifully picked up the signs. United States diplomats then
bundled the data together and laid it on India's table with a
warning of the consequences of carrying out the atomic tests.
India blinked and cancelled the tests....

Isn't this fact about which these persons should be throwing up
their hands in horror? Isn't this what they should be demanding
that the government nail? But no, the question is, "Why now?"!
The cry is, "We have been isolated." The surprising thing in fact
is the swiftness with which everyone concerned is already
reconciling himself to the new development.

Within four weeks of the explosions, the Deputy Prime Minister of
Russia signed an agreement to deliver to India two nuclear
reactors - to be located in Tamil Nadu for producing 1,000
megawatts of power.

Within weeks of the explosions, 113 non-aligned nations met m
Columbia. Every effort was made by the P-5 and others to get them
to pass a resolution condemning India for starting an arms race
in the subcontinent.

In the event, they passed a resolution censuring the P-5 for not
living up to an Article of the NPT which required them to take
effective steps to reduce their stockpiles....


That the tests have "reduced us to the level of Pakistan"? The
government there has quashed all fundamental rights, it has
imposed an Emergency.

Their foreign exchange reserves have fallen by 40 per cent. They
have had to freeze all foreign exchange accounts.

The finance minister has announced that unless sanctions are
lifted within three months, Pakistan will default on its debt,
that Pakistan will be Plunged into chaos, that the situation will
go completely out of everyone's hand....

You mean the world does not see all this? Indeed, had we had a
clearer perception of our interests, it is precisely the contrast
between India and Pakistan that would have been the strongest
argument for persevering in a hardline so that sanctions continue
- at least for the three months the Pakistan finance minister
dreads! What could be a more non-violent method of persuading
them to abandon their continued killing of our people?

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