By PR Chari
Call it unintended irony. But India’s Foreign Minister and National Security Adviser using a forum to discuss the resurrected Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan and the Holy Grail of nuclear disarmament to emphasise India’s devotion to nuclear deterrence is surely an oddity.
What these officials said is worth quoting. SM Krishna, External Affairs Minister, said, “Nuclear weapons today are [an] integral part of our national security and will remain so, pending nondiscriminatory and global nuclear disarmament.” And, the National Security Adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon, observed that India would be safer pursuing global nuclear disarmament, “but until we arrive at that happy state, we have no choice and a responsibility towards our own people, to have nuclear weapons to protect them from nuclear threats.” These enunciations are in synch with India’s overall nuclear disarmament policy to make hortatory statements on eliminating nuclear weapons, but proceeding quietly to strengthen its own nuclear arsenal and further refine its own missile capabilities.
Nothing new, therefore, in these expressions of India’s nuclear disarmament policy. Except for the further confession by the National Security Adviser that “On at least three occasions before 1998 other powers used the explicit or implicit threat of nuclear weapons to try and change India’s behavior.” He gave no further details. One is not privy to the Government’s intelligence on these occasions. But information available in the public domain on the nuclear weapons-related crises involving India and Pakistan before their nuclear tests in 1998 can be reviewed.
None of these crises, therefore, contained any credible “explicit or implicit threat of nuclear weapons to try and change India’s behavior.” Much lies in the eyes and ears of the beholder. But, having made such large assertions in public the National Security Adviser must clarify himself. Or is he only tilting at windmills in seeking to justify India’s nuclear deterrent? And deride any effort by India to proceed unilaterally towards nuclear disarmament? These clever postures are a far cry from the Nehruvian era when India enjoyed a certain élan in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and the search for a safer world. India’s highly publicised contribution in recent years to revive this élan is the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan (1988), which has been resurrected to refurbish the besmirched image of the NDA Government. But India is not prepared to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and permanently eschew nuclear testing. Nor is it willing to cease manufacturing fissile materials for weapons purposes before the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) is negotiated, of which there is no sign.
The final irony surely is that India fervently wishes to gain entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (MSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group. All of them are multinational export control regimes designed to ensure the non-proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction. In other words, India would not like more countries to acquire nuclear weapons, while supporting nuclear disarmament as a desirable end, and keeping its powder dry. We are like that only!
Visiting Professor, IPCS
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