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Indian Nuclear Explosions

Through its serial nuclear explosions of May 11 and 13, 1998, India has proved its capability to produce an array of nuclear weapons, ranging from hydrogen bomb to tactical nuclear arms. A belligerent act which India has taken to fulfill its long-cherished agenda of subjugating smaller neighbours to establish its regional hegemony. Such belligerency has already started translating itself into India’s regional military ambitions, as apparent from Indian Home Minister and BJP leader L K Advani’s repeated aggressive statements on Kashmir.

Indian nuclear explosions have destroyed the global arms control and non-proliferation regime. The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (being negotiated)—all international arms control and non-proliferation treaties have been blown into pieces.  All global attempts towards achieving a nuclear-free world have suffered a severe blow. All efforts towards achieving a nuclear-free zone in South Asia, and, as a first step towards this end, to have a stable nuclear relations between India and Pakistan, have been made irrelevant.

Consistent betrayal

India’s half-century old nuclear programme is based on deceit and deception. As India’s latest nuclear explosions leave no doubt, New Delhi has always aimed at producing nuclear weapons. Exploiting the dual-use character of nuclear technology and material, India has consistently flouted the international will. The Western powers, in their Cold War frenzy of containing the Soviet Union and China, in fact, helped India acquire sophisticated nuclear technology. As back as 1955, India took advantage of the US Atoms for Peace Programme to acquire nuclear technology and material.

In May 1974, India carried out its first nuclear test, while claiming it to be a Peaceful Nuclear Experiment—which, as proved later, was not actually the case. The plutonium used for the test was produced at Trombay Reprocessing Plant, which was set up with US assistance. Pakistan did raise the issue with the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, but neither the IAEA nor did any Western power then condemn the Indian nuclear test. This encouraged India to work on deadlier nuclear devices, which it has now exploded. With Western assistance, it has been able to develop a stockpile of fissionable material which, according to Western intelligence estimates, is sufficient to produce up to 200 nuclear weapons of various categories. According to a report of Jane’s Intelligence Review of January 1998, the Indian plant to produce tritium from heavy water was set up in 1992 at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, Bombay. One thermo-nuclear device, such as the one that India tested on May 11, needs only four grams of tritium.
 
Hindu nationalist agenda

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the political wing of racist, Hindu militant organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose declared aim is the extermination of Muslims from India. BJP intends to achieve this end by implementing its Hindutva ideology of ‘one people, one nation, one culture’.  A pledge towards this end was made by the party in its February-March election manifesto.

By claiming archeological evidence that the Hindu god Ram was born in the north Indian city of Ayodhya at a site where stood the sixteenth century Babri mosque, BJP academics played a crucial role in catapulting the party to the forefront of Indian politics. Under BJP leadership, such “archeological evidence” became a theological rationale for demolishing the mosque and building a temple in its place. Touching a primordial chord in the Hindu psyche, such a demand spurred Hindu militancy across the country through the latter half of the 80s, culminating in a nationwide rally that destroyed the Babri mosque on 6 December 1992.

BJP leaders have also talked about annexing Pakistan. In fact, to dominate the region is an essential element of the external policy of the BJP-led government. It is amply clear from the demolition of Babri mosque and the carrying out of the nuclear tests that the BJP is committed to fulfil its promises. In fact, there appears to be a direct linkage between BJP’s fundamentalist Hindu ideology and the militarism it professes. Soon after Kusahbau Thakre replaced Mr Advani as  BJP President in April 1998, he talked of “liberating” Azad Jammu and Kashmir and “effectively tackling Pakistan.” On May 19, Mr Advani  also stated that “(following the Indian nuclear tests) Pakistan should realise the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region and the world and roll back its anti-India policy, especially with regard to Kashmir. This Indian threat to Pakistan was repeated by him on May 20.

Pakistan’s concerns

For years, Pakistan has urged the United Nations and Western powers to help establish a nuclear-free zone in South Asia. It has made a number of proposals for achieving a nuclear non-proliferation regime in South Asia. Unfortunately, all of its attempts towards this end were opposed by India and treated indifferently.

On March 18, the BJP-led government released its National Agenda for Governance, in which it reiterated the election pledge to declare India a nuclear state. Days after that, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpaee stated Indian intention for nuclear testing. In response to the emerging nuclear threat from BJP’s India, Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan appealed to the world community on March 26 that it should impose sanctions against India in order to contain its nuclear ambitions. His statement came a week after The New York Times quoted Western intelligence sources that “India has stockpiled about 100 nuclear warheads, and can rapidly assemble them.”

On April 2, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressed letters to world leaders, including President Clinton, drawing their intention to India’s pronouncements which “connote a giant leap towards fully operationalising Indian nuclear capability.” He also warned them that “Pakistan will be obliged to take cognizance of these alarming developments, and it cannot but exercise its sovereign right to adopt appropriate measures to safeguard its security.”

Western response

The US response to Indian pronouncements came on March 19, when State Department said it saw no new threat in a vow by India’s just elected Hindu nationalist government to “exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons.” The US indifference to Pakistan’s concerns about India’s nuclear designs is evident from the fact that US ambassador to UN Bill Richardson visiting Islamabad and New Delhi in April, did not bother to mention India’s nuclear plans in any of his public statements.

Later, State Department officials reporting on Indian Foreign Secretary Ragunath’s meeting early May in Washington, DC, with US Under-Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, did not say whether they discussed India’s intention to go nuclear. They merely said, “the two sides have discussed bilateral, regional and world issues” in some depth during these meetings. The US administration did not feel Pakistan’s concerns important enough to even alert its surveillance agencies to monitor suspicious activities in the Indian nuclear testing grounds. Of course, Pakistan’s legitimate right to exercise its options for safeguarding its security in response to Indian nuclear threat has moved the US administration to launch Snifer aircraft around the region! On May 19, Mr Richardson and former US ambassador to India Senator Patrick Moynihan have said that the Indian nuclear tests were in response to the Ghauri missile test-fired by Pakistan.

The lukewarm response by the G-8 summit against the Indian nuclear blats is in effect a tacit encouragement of India’s nuclear ambitions: no collective sanctions were envisaged against India at the summit.
 
Making China an alibi

India is attempting to justify its nuclear blasts by invoking security considerations vis-à-vis China. That there is no justification for this is born out by the recent improvement in India’s relations with China. Neither China nor Pakistan has adopted more belligerent posture towards India in recent years. This blows the myth of China as a factor in India’s nuclear blasts.

The fallacy of the ‘Chinese threat’ is borne out by factual data: while there are only 80,000 Indian troops on the Sino-Indian border, the number of Indian troops on India’s borders with Pakistan is 450,000. This explicitly bares out that the entire thrust of India’s nuclear programme is Pakistan-specific.