Sunday Observer 17 May 1998 - page 2
			Brigadier Vijai K Nair

A Former US official and Biological Warfare expert Francis Boyle's immediate 
reaction to India having conducted three nuclear tests on May 11, 1998 was, 
"Sadly, this story speaks for itself. A terrible development. But the five 
Permanent Members of the Security Council have only themselves to blame for 
their rank nuclear hypocrisy on the NPT and the CTBT." He is not the only 
non-Indian to voice similar sentiments.

On the other end of the spectrum India is coming under considerable 
condemnation and criticism being accused of starting a nuclear arms race." 
Those who arrived in the arena after the race started, or chose to 
concentrate on issues other than the race itself, or chose ostrich like to 
selectively ignore events on a portion of the 'track,' - are not in a 
position to conclude who started the arms race. An honest replay shows:

X India did not start the nuclear arms race, which commenced in the late 

X India has done everything within its power to persuade the world to abjure 
nuclear weapons. 

X India could have, if it was so inclined, joined the nuclear arms race 30 
years ago - and then where would we have been? 

X India has shown remarkable constraint even without becoming party to 
discriminatory treaties that form the non-proliferation regime. 

X Ever since India tested a nuclear device in 1974, it has been the target of 
stringent, restrictions by the US and a number of European powers. 

X India has silently watched China's continued vertical proliferation being 
rewarded by escalating technology assistance from the very same US that has 
called for sanctions against India. 

X India has seen limited sanctions being placed and hurriedly removed against 
China and Pakistan for their collusion in nuclear related enhancements. 

X India sees [even if the West refuses to do so] a clear cut and growing 
capacity of regional states to inflict horrendous destruction on her people 
by nuclear weapons.

X India has just been witness to the introduction of IRBMs into the region 
with ineffectual sanctions being placed on two entities that never did have 
access to US resources or technology.

The Indian Ambassador to the US, Naresh Chandra's recent observation at a 
dinner hosted for the Foreign Secretary, that diplomacy between India and the 
US,  is like golf - a game that unfolds over a vast landscape. "the only 
problem is that we have been playing on different courses." Is there then any 
wonder then, that the world is surprised by India having conducted a nuclear 

For forty years now, India has been talking to the deaf. It was not heard 
because what it said was unpalatable to the selective hearer. Over the past 
seven years India attempted to caution the NWS, and the recipients of their 
nuclear umbrella, that all things were not well, as perceived in our part of 
the world. To no avail. Regional developments that have been particularly 
aggravating made no difference to the NWS who looked at 'this ineffectual' 
state 'whinging' about its national security. This is particularly so when 
trying to carry on any discussion about India's role in non-proliferation 
affairs with people from within the establishment of NWS. They only wish to 
hear what they only wish to hear what they expect India should do! All that 
has happened is that India has intensified the decibel level of its arguments 
by conducting a test. SUDDENLY THE DEAF ARE HEARING.

The question is what are they hearing? Is it a distorted signal or has it 
been assimilated for what it is? There is a need to clear the air.
India has asserted its sovereign right to validate and operationalise the 
means necessary to DEFEND itself in a debilitating nuclear security 
environment. If anything, India has much more justification to field a 
nuclear deterrent for its security than the UK has.

The act cannot be undone - the fact of a series of five highly sophisticated 
nuclear tests, covering the entire spectrum of nuclear weaponology, has been 
conducted, cannot be erased. It needs to be noted that a "thermonuclear 
device", or "low yield device" or a "Sub-Kiloton device" cannot be developed 
and fired in a months time. This is the end product of a long-term plan with 
lots of technical and engineering effort behind it. Previous Governments had 
obviously activated the process many years ago. Therefore, to saddle it to 
the BJP and obfuscate the real issues under the guise of theocratic dust is 
not only unjustified, but counterproductive.

The Government has not actuated the tests to fulfil their party's election 
manifesto nor is it a knee jerk action. It is a result of a seriously 
considered long-term strategy - what in the West is called "nuclear 

The actuation of the strategy is a consequence of (a) A realisation that the 
elimination of nuclear weapons is a pipe dream. (b) Threat thresholds have 
attained proportions that demand action now. (c) Ambiguity has lost its 
efficacy in the global 'arms control' environment while manoeuvre space to 
create necessary infrastructure has reduced uncomfortably. 

Obviously India has sufficient warheads in place to risk the ire of the world 
before testing these devices. Any speculation on whether India will weaponise 
- is redundant. A clearer message could not have been sent. India has, by its 
actions declared itself a NWS. What is in its inventory is obviously 
classified and will not be divulged to the domestic or foreign public. India, 
like the other NWS will not amplify details of its nuclear strategy for the 

It has signalled - categorically - a limited nuclear deterrence strategy and, 
by virtue of the type of devices tested, has made it clear that its final 
objective is way beyond what the demonstrated capabilities suggest. 
Therefore, it is safe to assume that a well considered and mature nuclear 
strategy has been formulated and is now being put into place.

What the world has to understand, and more so the developed countries, is 
that India has turned an irreversible leaf and their immediate reactions 
notwithstanding, they will have to live with the change. The only way to 
correct that is to start honest negotiations for the universal elimination of 
nuclear weapons. As I K Gujral said after the tests, India will be second to 
none to eliminate its nuclear weapons capability if the NWS agree to 
eliminate their nuclear weapons.

Therefore, before jumping off the deep end, it would do the developed Western 
powers a world of good to assimilate where we have got to and the reasons for 
this sad happening. The need of the hour is to analyse the new status created 
by India's actions and act maturely to reach an amicable end preferably the 
global elimination of nuclear weapons.

There is - as all in India are painfully aware, no route other than 
"elimination of nuclear weapons" to global stability. Let's eliminate the 
nuclear arms race. Yes, provided the surgery commences at the core of the 
malignancy, i.e. the NWS. Cosmetic surgery on the periphery of the has no 
curative capabilities - if anything the infection spreads to other tissues. 
This is equally true of the malignancy of 'security by nuclear deterrence.' 
India would, I am sure, willingly join the curing process if it is addressed 
squarely at the roots. If not, no amount of coercion of any kind will work 
and we need not be apologetic for safeguarding our national well being.

Finally, India is the one country that has taken a long, long time to 
deliberate and then arrive at this conclusion. It has explored every possible 
avenue - even to the extent of appearing to be a weak and pliable state. A 
decision taken after so much deliberation cannot be wished away by any other 
state that expects India to place that states security concerns before Indian 
security concerns.


Brigadier Vijai K Nair
Executive Editor
Forum for Strategic & Security Studies
Safdarjung Airport
New Delhi 110 003
Tele: 091 118 572483 & 091 11 462 8336. Fax: 091 11572425
E-mail: [email protected]

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