India Must Pay the Price  

IN UNABASHED defiance of world opinion and blatantly reasserting that it stands committed to the ideal of nuclear disarmament, India tested a thermonuclear device and two nuclear fission devices in the Rajasthan desert on Monday. There could have been nothing more hypocritical than New Delhi's simultaneous claim that the nuclear tests would not harm its "peaceful cooperation" and "friendly ties" with its neighbours. It is not only in respect of Pakistan that New Delhi has succeeded in vitiating the security environment, it has done so for the entire region. At a time when the thrust of the world community is towards non-proliferation, India has chosen to flaunt its nuclear weapon technology with no regard for its fallout in terms not only of deadly radiation but also of its devastating impact on prospects of peace and stability of South Asia.

Though the development of nuclear weapons was always on India's ruling BJP's agenda, it was hoped that it would exercise restraint in deference to the anti-nuclear stance of some of its coalition partners. However, the Hindu fundamentalist Kushabhau Thakre, who makes no secret of his association with the militant RSS, immediately upon his election as BJP's president last month, reiterated his party's determination to build India into a nuclear power. The BJP-led government also lost no time in
appointing M.M.Joshi, who is described as a super-hawk even by a section of the Indian intelligentsia, to head its atomic energy department.

Although India carried out its nuclear tests in strict secrecy, it was known for some time that it was taking escalatory steps towards overt nuclearization. In fact, it is now clear that the diplomatic hassle raised by New Delhi over the test-firing of Ghauri missile was nothing but a diversionary subterfuge to camouflage its own multi-purpose nuclear programme. India's nuclear tests have been understandably condemned by the United Nations and Washington. There are also indications that the US may
impose economic and military sanctions against India under its Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act.

Pakistan's initial reaction to India's latest nuclear tests has been noticeably restrained even though foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan has described them as "a deathblow to the international efforts to achieve non-proliferation". The tests are nonetheless seen as a renewed threat to this country's security and Islamabad has made it known that it reserves the right to take all appropriate measures in the interest of its own security. The Pakistan army chief, Gen Jehangir Karamat, while regretting that
India's overt nuclear activity has seldom drawn the world community's attention to the extent that it should, has affirmed that though Pakistan is not in any kind of race with India, it has taken the steps absolutely necessary for its defence and security.

The US state department's spokesman by urging Pakistan not to respond to India's nuclear tests with  nuclear tests of its own is virtually urging this country not to exercise whatever options are available to it in the interest of its security. He has also been unfair in equating Pakistan with India in the matter.Pakistan has all along offered to accept all reasonable restraints on its nuclear programme provided they are not discriminatory in nature and equally apply to India. Pakistan cannot, however, be
expected to yield to outside pressures and give up its legitimate right to develop sophisticated defence technology as determined by its genuine security concerns. It is certainly reassuring that the country's top nuclear scientist, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, feels confident that Pakistan is "very well placed" vis-a-vis India to meet any threats to its security.

It can be of little consolation for Pakistan to be told that the implications of India's nuclear tests will be at the centre of the discussions of the leaders of the highly industrialised nations (Group 8) meeting in Birmingham this weekend. If the Group really believes that the emergence of new nuclear powers is highly destabilising for the whole world, as the Canadian foreign minister asserts, it should make India pay the price for its errant conduct. Meanwhile Pakistan must carefully calculate where the balance of advantage lies - in coming out with a precipitate or very early response to New Delhi's menacing move or in waiting for a while to see whether world powers can combine to offer an adequate response to the grave new challenge that has been posed to the smaller South Asian nations' security.