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India's Nuclear Anniversary

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asians Against Nukes - Year 10 May 11, 2008 URL: groups.yahoo.com/group/SAAN_/message/1117 ... India s Nuclear Anniversary by J. Sri Raman (truthout.org,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 10, 2008
      South Asians Against Nukes - Year 10
      May 11, 2008
      URL: groups.yahoo.com/group/SAAN_/message/1117

      --------

      India's Nuclear Anniversary

      by J. Sri Raman
      (truthout.org, 10 May 2008)

      May 11 will mark the tenth anniversary of an event that
      represented a turning point in the history of modern India. On that
      date in 1998, the largest South Asian state turned away from a
      long-pursued path that had taken it to a place of pride in the region
      and in the international arena.

      Even after the three nuclear weapon tests on that scorching day
      in Pokharan, a desert site in India's scantily developed State of
      Rajasthan, and two more blasts at the same spot two days later,
      official India has continued to call for nuclear disarmament
      everywhere. The call, however, has little credibility, especially
      after New Delhi's strident declaration of India as a nuclear weapon
      state.

      Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government has discreetly made it
      known though a ministerial aside that no official celebration of the
      anniversary is in the offing. This, it has been made clear, does not
      mean that the government considers the tests any less glorious than
      anyone else. It does not, even if the tests were carried out under
      former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the far-right Bharatiya
      Janata Party (BJP) and invited trenchant criticism from at least a
      section of Singh's Congress Party.

      As Minister of State for Defense M. M. Pallam Raju told a
      television channel the other day: "I think when we are talking about
      India's nuclear program, we have every reason to be proud of what we
      have achieved. Being proud of Pokharan itself is a reason for
      celebration, but I don't see any further reason to celebrate the
      (1998) detonation."

      Raju argued that the tests "demonstrated India's capability," but
      had "detrimental effects" in terms of sanctions "which have affected
      our strategic ... programs...." He added: "So I do not see any reason
      why it (the anniversary) should be advertised loudly." The minister
      was manifestly wrong on the sanctions and the strategic program, as
      we shall see presently. But why are all sections of India's political
      spectrum, except the left, so proud of Pokharan?

      None of them, of course, would like to identify nuclear
      militarism as part of their ideology. Every one of them, therefore,
      answers the question with ironical claims. The first of these claims
      is that the Pokharan tests, along with the Pakistani ones conducted
      in the Chagai hills of Balochistan on May 28, 1998, have actually
      served the cause of India-Pakistan peace. Another claim is that May
      11 actually helped India stand up to the mighty US and other nuclear
      powers under Washington's influence.

      The absurdity of the first claim is obvious. Those who advanced
      it even asserted that, with India and Pakistan becoming nuclear-armed
      rivals, even a conventional war between them was ruled out. They were
      proven wrong within a year of the tests. Hostilities erupted in the
      Kargil sector over the Himalayan heights on May 8, 1999, with the two
      sides trading nuclear threats for the next two months. And the
      subcontinent was pushed to the brink of a nuclear war in the summer
      of 2002, with the neighbors massing a million troops on the border.
      The subsequent India-Pakistan peace process has been conducted in
      such a way as to ensure that no serious advance was made on the
      nuclear issue at all.

      Not far less obvious should be the absurdity of the second claim,
      to those following the post-Pokharan developments. The May 11
      detonations marked no defiance of Washington. On the same day, before
      explaining the rationale of the tests to India's parliament and
      public, Vajpayee hastened to send a communication to President Bill
      Clinton. The message defended the tests by citing threats from both
      China and Pakistan. It also promised India's cooperation as a nuclear
      weapon state to the US in the campaign against nuclear proliferation
      and nuclear disarmament! It was no assertion of national sovereignty,
      but a knock on the door of the nuclear club.

      Tributes to the tests in India were particularly appreciative of
      the supposed fact that they were conducted without the knowledge of
      US snoopers. On this subject, it should suffice to quote Ranjan
      Goswami, a security expert specializing in South Asia: "One aspect of
      the tests is striking: The US did not detect India's tests until
      after they occurred, whereas in 1994, when Indian Prime Minister
      (P.V.) Narasimha Rao ordered nuclear testing ..., US detection of the
      movement at the ... site was leaked to the press, forcing India to
      cancel the tests. Could this be the US tacit sign to New Delhi that
      the US desires rapprochement with India and that a nuclear-capable
      India will be condoned for a variety of reasons - one being to
      counter China?"

      Seen this way, the subsequent and swift development of a
      strategic India-US partnership was no surprise. The first major sign
      of the new relationship came on the third anniversary of May 11, in
      2001, with Vajpayee extending a warm welcome to the missile defense
      program of the George Bush administration. On September 23 of the
      same year, Bush announced a waiver of sanctions against India as well
      as Pakistan, introduced after the 1998 tests. A White House memo
      explained that the sanctions were "not in the national security
      interests of the United States." Washington followed up this step
      with "defense cooperation" deals with both India and Pakistan.

      The "strategic partnership," as we all know, culminated in a
      US-India nuclear deal being struck between President Bush and Prime
      Minister Singh. India's peace movement opposes the deal primarily for
      the boost it will give to a nuclear weapons program costing billions
      that the poverty-stricken country is burdened with. The political
      price India's establishment is prepared to pay for the deal makes it
      more than acceptable to Washington and its Western camp.

      The price tag is prominently displayed in the Henry J. Hyde
      United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006,
      which enables the bilateral deal. The Act calls upon the US
      government to secure India's "full participation in the Proliferation
      Security Initiative" (by which Bush seeks to empower the US Navy and
      other friendly fleets to intercept and search ships for
      anti-proliferation purposes).

      The Act also asks the administration to secure "India's full and
      active participation in United States efforts to dissuade, isolate
      and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to
      acquire weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons
      capability and the capability to enrich uranium or reprocess nuclear
      fuel, and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction."

      It remains to be seen whether the Singh government succeeds in
      operationalizing the deal in the face of stiff opposition from the
      left, on whose support it depends on survival. Neither New Delhi nor
      Islamabad, meanwhile, has made any secret of nuclear intent.

      The missile race between India and Pakistan has been carried a
      significant stride forward on the eve of the May 11 anniversary. On
      May 7, India test-fired the 3,500-km range surface-to-surface
      nuclear-capable Agni-III missile from the Wheelers' Island site on
      its eastern coast. The very next day, Pakistan hit back by
      test-firing a nuclear-capable Haft-VIII air-launched cruise missile
      of 350-km range, which the military said would enhance its capability
      to strike at targets on land and at sea.

      Official non-observance of May 11, obviously, does not mean that
      the nuclear threat to South Asia has been averted to any significant
      extent. The anniversary will be an occasion for peace-loving people
      to protest the warmongers of the region and their patrons in
      Washington.

      A freelance journalist and a peace activist in India, J. Sri
      Raman is the author of "Flashpoint" (Common Courage Press, USA).

      ____________

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