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New Routes to Nuclear Disarmament: Going Beyond the NPT

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asians Against Nukes - Year 10 April 21, 2009 URL: groups.yahoo.com/group/SAAN_/message/1250 ... The Economic and Political Weekly, April 18, 2009
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 21, 2009
      South Asians Against Nukes - Year 10
      April 21, 2009
      URL: groups.yahoo.com/group/SAAN_/message/1250


      The Economic and Political Weekly, April 18, 2009

      Regional and Global Nuclear Disarmament: Going Beyond the NPT

      By Achin Vanaik

      The accession of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States
      is an opportune time to revisit the issue of global and regional
      nuclear disarmament. What are the options open to civil society? The
      two routes to global and regional disarmament are obviously connected
      but not in a manner whereby movement along the latter is made
      conditional on forward movement along the former where the us has
      always been the biggest obstacle, the pace-setter in creating and
      deepening the global nuclear mess. This article is about where we
      stand today and what future directions in the cause of nuclear
      disarmament may be worth pursuing.

      Achin Vanaik (achin@...) is with the Department of Political
      Science, Delhi University.

      The importance of the accession of US President Barack Obama for the
      prospects of nuclear disarmament should not be exaggerated. He is
      still pretending that the place- ment of missile interceptors in
      Poland and the Czech Republic is about Iran and on this fraudulent
      basis is trying to negotiate with the Russians. But even though he
      has said nothing so far about the wider Ballistic Missile Defence or
      BMD project, and of course remains hypocritically silent about
      Israel's nuclear weapons, he is nonetheless seeking to negotiate with
      Russia about possible arms reductions. This seems an opportune time
      then to revisit the issue of regional and global nuclear disarmament
      and this article is about where we stand today and what future
      directions in the cause of nuclear disarmament may be worth pursuing.
      It is structured as follows: (1) Explaining India's decision to go
      openly nuclear in 1998 and the meaning of the Indo-US nuclear deal;
      (2) evaluating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); (3)
      revisiting the much debated issue of the efficacy of nuclear
      deterrence; and (4) post-cold war dangers and what now?

      Indian acquisition and the Deal

      Much of the commentary on Indian acquisition of the bomb has seen a
      basic line of continuity between India's Pokhran-I test in 1974 and
      those of 1998 when it declared its open nuclear status. This is
      certainly the basic argument put forward by the pro-bomb Indian lobby
      that mostly emerged after Pokhran-II with one major qualification
      made more specifically by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the
      Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It was the BJP-led National
      Democratic Alliance that formed the coalition government in 1998 but
      all the other political parties in the ruling coalition were kept
      completely in the dark about the decision while the unelected RSS was
      privy to the decision to go nuclear.1 This combine claimed both
      continuity with the past and a distinctive break - the decision was
      necessary and desirable and largely prepared by past actions but only
      the Sangh had the "courage" to finally cross the nuclear Rubicon.
      Elsewhere the pro-bomb lobby has insisted that continuity not rupture
      is what ultimately explains Pokhran-II.

      In claiming as much, the structure of argument has to lean much more
      strongly towards emphasising the "logic" of "nuclear preparations"
      and the politics surrounding this, rather than towards the more
      complicated, wider and uncertain "politics of nuclearisation" as
      such. Such an approach largely elides the dif- ference between the
      two political courses. Among those who hold this view are fierce
      critics of the NPT as essentially a charade. Adherence by many non-
      nuclear weapons states (NNWSs) with obvious nuclear capabilities to
      the NPT is then to be explained by the fact that they are "threshold
      states" which lose nothing, indeed whose status gets legitimised, by
      joining the NPT. More conventional and more normal usage restricts
      this label to coun- tries that practised nuclear ambiguity and wished
      to maintain the option such as India, Pakistan and, once upon a time,
      Brazil and Argentina whose eventual renunciation of the option is
      significant. Threshold status should also be distinguished from a
      posture of nuclear opacity of Israel and apartheid South Africa (the
      African National Congress always opposed such possession when in
      opposition), where post-apartheid renunciation was indeed a
      meaningful step.

      Broadly speaking there have been three general lines of argu- ment
      for explaining why countries, including India, have gone or go
      nuclear. Even when such arguments are combined, one line is
      predominant. There are changes in threat perceptions. There is the
      hypocrisy of nuclear weapons states (NWSs) (of which the NPT is
      emblematic) that presumably finally drives some NNWSs to go nuclear.
      There are changes in elite self-perceptions (much more open to
      internal pressures) that prove decisive. Contrary to the expectations
      of many an anti-nuclearist, hypocrisy alone does not produce any kind
      of comeuppance for pre-existing NWSs, nor does it drive potential
      NWSs to become new entrants. The reasons have to be far stronger,
      although the charge of hypocrisy is always a useful form of
      justification. The US, France and UK did not go nuclear for fear of
      the nuclear power of another country but because of post-war elite
      perceptions. The US was declaring its global dominance and sending a
      message of its anti-communist determination. UK and France as
      declining colonial powers wanted to remain at the high table of
      global powers and for France it was also a way of declaring its
      relative independence. The USSR and China were more obviously
      motivated by external threat perceptions, and for China, from both
      the US and USSR. India's decision was status-driven and not threat-
      driven - akin to the cases of UK, France and US while Pakistan's was
      reactive and akin the cases of USSR and China. The evidence against
      assuming any line of continuity from 1964 or from 1974 to 1998 is
      very strong. While the Chinese test was a key factor in India
      ultimately deciding not to join the NPT (although it played a role in
      preparing earlier drafts) 10 years separate it from Pokhran-I. This
      took place in a context of considerable internal pressures on the
      Indira Gandhi Congress government. It was called a peaceful nuclear
      explosion (PNE) and Indira Gandhi herself gave the best explanation
      for it. "The PNE was done when we were ready. We did it to show
      ourselves we could do it."2 In 1977, Prime Minister Morarji Desai of
      the post-Emergency government publicly an- nounced his displeasure at
      Pokhran-I and renounced further such experiments. Indira Gandhi as
      the prime minister of a Congress government in 1980 announced that
      resumption of tests was con- ceivable but not becoming an NWS.
      Consideration of testing be- tween then and 1998 by subsequent
      administrations had to do with concerns about technologically
      upgrading the option than with any determination to go openly nuclear.
      3 Nuclear ambiguity or keeping the option open yet not foreclosing or
      exercising it was the consensual posture accepted by all parties from
      the left to the right with the BJP seeing it as the lowest common
      denominator, although it and its forerunner (the Jan Sangh) had
      demanded the bomb from the 1950s before China, let alone Pakistan,
      had developed it. That is to say, the BJP's consistent advocacy had
      everything to do with its Hindutva ideology of "uniting Hindus and
      militarising Hinduism".

      In short, the story of why India went nuclear in 1998 has to be
      situated in the deeper, more encompassing story of India's overall
      and steady drift to the right from the 1980s onwards in foreign,
      economic and other domestic policies. A realist, and especially
      Waltzian approach, with its "levels of analysis" theorisation for
      separating the domestic and international is a particularly
      inadequate lens for explaining why India went nuclear in 1998. In my
      book India in a Changing World written in 1994 and published a year
      later, I made two predictions (Vanaik 1995). I had said that of the
      three NPT holdouts - India, Pakistan, Israel - if any one was to go
      openly nuclear, the first would be India. Israel's and Paki- stan's
      retention of capability or "bombs in the basement" was always much
      more strongly linked to externally perceived threats and thus the two
      countries could more easily spell out the condi- tions under which
      they would be willing to give up nuclear weap- ons. The Pakistan
      government since the mid-1980s has repeat- edly made proposals for
      denuclearising South Asia even after its Chagai tests. Israel has
      supported a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ) in west
      Asia but only in the context of an overall peace settlement - a
      shameful and unacceptable form of international filibustering. But
      even if in part or whole this is d iplomatic one-upmanship by the two
      countries it allows them a diplomatic coherence that India has never
      had (ibid: 83-84). My second prediction was that on the accession of
      the BJP to power "Finally, India would go openly nuclear. The BJP is
      the only major party to officially say so and there is no good reason
      to doubt its determination in this regard."4 While the India-
      Pakistan relationship has always oscillated (periods of lesser or
      greater tension) around the fulcrum of strategic hostility, the
      dominant view in India's strategic establishment about the Sino-
      Indian relationship is that its fulcrum has lain between the two ends
      of strategic friendship and strategic hostility, closer to but not
      con- gruent even with the posture of strategic rivalry; hence the
      deep uncertainty about how to deal with China.5 Immediately after the
      1998 tests, Prime Minister Vajpayee publicly justified these by
      referring to the threats posed by Pakistan and China, although, after
      the collapse of the USSR followed by China-Russia rap- prochement,
      Sino-Indian relations had significantly improved with the signing of
      two treaties easing border-related tensions. In fact such was the
      diplomatic faux pas vis-a-vis an angry China, that within a month the
      Vajpayee government publicly declared that India's bomb was "not
      country specific" and within a year it was stated that it was "not
      threat specific" either. What about the Indo-US nuclear deal? Is it
      an example of wish- ful thinking and incompetence on the part of the
      US and thus a spectacular example of India outmanoeuvring the US? On
      the contrary, in spite of the US' overall global political decline,
      the world remains a "hub-and-spoke" arrangement with the US at the
      hub. The initiative for the deal came from the Bush administra- tion
      and took India by surprise. Washington wanted to accelerate the
      process of strategic partnership initiated by the Clinton
      administration once it had reconciled to a nuclear India itself also
      desirous of forging a strategic alliance with the US and a much
      closer relationship with Israel.6 It is the strategic pay-off repre-
      sented by the deal that is most important to Washington and it is
      willing to accept an India that will for a long time to come remain a
      small nuclear power (SNP). In the US-China-India triangle the future
      trajectory of the Sino-Indian relationship will be essen- tially
      determined by the US-China relationship, which itself will be
      decisively determined by US behaviour with China as the reactive power.

      India, post-1998 continued to oppose the BMD but abandoned objections
      after the US abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty only
      asking now to be contractually and politically in- volved in the
      process of preparing and deploying the BMD-TMDs (Theatre Missile
      Defence) shield. New Delhi has endorsed, though not yet joined the US-
      led and illegal Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). It is also
      now a willing junior partner of the US in the Indian Ocean and has a
      level of military cooperation (exer- cises, training and officer-
      exchange programmes) with the US that goes well beyond what it ever
      had with the USSR. The US sees India, Japan and Australia as the key
      nodes in the construction of an "Asian NATO" (North Atlantic Treaty
      Organisation) with other south-east Asian countries being invited to
      provide supplemen- tary support.7 As recently as 23 October 2008
      India and Japan inked a declaration for a "Strategic and Global
      Partnership". I ndia is only the third country - after the US and
      Australia - with which Japan has signed such a document.

      As for Iran, even the pro-US lobby in India would have preferred to
      pursue parallel paths of sustaining and strengthening relations with
      both since New Delhi has had a long-standing and important friendship
      with Tehran reaching back to the time of both the Shah and Ayatollah
      Khomeini. But the US forced India to choose and it buckled under the
      pressure as the Indian vote at the governing body of the
      International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed, enabling a transfer
      of the Iran dossier to the UN security council (UNSC) on the
      flimsiest and most unjustified grounds so that the possibility of
      punishment via sanctions could now be exercised. The role of El
      Baradei, who has been unjustly eulogised in far too many circles,
      needs to be properly understood. The fact that El Baradei has to
      maintain some credibility for the watchdog role of the IAEA means he
      has to distinguish himself from Washington. But at crucial points -
      allowing the Iran dossier to go to the UNSC, endorsing the Indo-US
      Deal, help- ing the US (which bullied "recalcitrants") to swing over
      the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) - he has fallen in line. The US'
      maximalist desire is for India to give it significant support in its
      efforts to isolate and weaken Iran. Its minimalist aim is that India
      should not in any serious way obstruct these efforts, in effect its
      political neutralisation vis-à-vis Iran. India is operating at a
      position slightly above the minimalist US aim. evaluating the Npt It
      is easy enough for all to agree on the discriminatory nature of the
      NPT, the perfidious behaviour of the NWS signatories in fail- ing to
      live up to their end of the bargain embodied in Articles I, IV and VI
      as well on the inherent contradiction of the treaty in
      simultaneously promising to help NNWSs to develop the where- withal
      for a bomb through promotion of a civilian dual-use programme as an
      inducement to formally abjure a military nuclear programme.
      Thereafter differences in evaluation emerge. Some judge the NPT to be
      a limited success for two reasons. It has lasted with no breakouts
      barring North Korea (which may well prove temporary) and has
      prevented horizontal proliferation. But it is only by insisting that
      the NPT must not be seen as a "stand alone" measure that one can give
      it a "credit by association" as it were. There have been limited
      successes in the field of nuclear arms re- straint (the ABM Treaty),
      reduction (the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 which did
      eliminate for the first time a whole class of arms), formalised
      abstinence (nuclear weapon free zones - NFWZs). So future advances,
      like getting the CTBT into force or eventual success in negotiating a
      Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), would, presumably, lend new
      credence to the NPT. It would be wiser to subscribe to a much more
      negative evalua- tion. Except for the commitment to drawing up a CTBT
      that was the price to be paid by NWSs to get a permanent extension of
      the NPT in 1995 (a measure that further reduced what little leverage
      NNWS signatories had) the NPT has been a "stand alone" agree- ment.
      Management of nuclear arms racing allowing qualitative improvements
      in arsenals, alongside occasional quantitative reductions and
      restraint measures such as NWFZs have all taken place independent of
      the NPT. So why has such an iniquitous treaty survived and why have
      so many countries adhered to it including those with bad relations
      with the US? Could this be because of the NPT's dual-use character as
      well as its escape clause (Article X) that allows a member-country to
      withdraw if the "supreme national interest" demands this? But this is
      a standard clause in virtually all inter-state/international
      treaties. On the other side, why has the US in the post-cold war era
      sought to undermine the NPT and more generally the non-proliferation
      regime so suitable for it, for example, by rewarding India? The
      puzzle is more apparent than real. The US aims to extend its global
      (including nuclear) dominance which leads it to both use the NPT as
      cover and to defy it whenever circumstances demand this. Coming into
      force in 1970 by its first five-year review confer- ence in 1975, the
      NPT had 91 state parties. By 1980 this rose to 110, to 128 by 1985,
      to 138 by 1990, to 178 by 1995, to 190 by 2003. But was this post-
      cold war expansion predominantly a manipulated one even for the
      stronger potentially NWSs? Was it created by prodding and bribery of
      all sorts by the P-2? But can one seriously claim that Brazil, Cuba
      and some others like Argentina and South Africa (remember that the
      ANC always opposed nuclear weapons) fell prey to this kind of

      There is a more plausible general form of explanation for such
      membership by potential NWSs that took place at specific times in
      specific historico-political contexts. For some like Egypt,
      Switzerland and Turkey there was a significant time gap between
      signing and ratification. For others the decision to sign and ratify
      came later. Why with the exception of North Korea has there been no
      withdrawal and why have so few members (Iraq and Libya) sought to
      secretly build an arsenal? As for Iran, given its disavowals and the
      willingness of Iran to cooperate with the IAEA there is more reason
      to believe that the dominant elite view has been of keeping the
      option open with a current willingness to even foreclose it if given
      appropriate inducements. The general point to be made is not that
      the NPT itself has been such a barrier to proliferation (vertical and
      horizontal) and there- fore it has endured but that potential NWSs
      for one reason or the other decided at different points of time to
      finally renounce nuclear weapons programmes and only then signed/
      ratified the NPT, and barring a very few, have found no reason to re-
      evaluate that decision. In some case this can be seen as confirmation
      of the assessment by fiercely independent and often beleaguered
      countries of the "strategic uselessness" rather than the presumed
      "strategic usefulness" of nuclear weapons.8 The NPT has been the
      expression of a prior resolve to renounce. It should not be seen as
      either a bulwark against horizontal proliferation or as some kind of
      trap to which potential NWSs have been lured or bullied into. The
      NPT should not be assigned any virtue nor should its iniquity be
      exaggerated. It is best treated as irrelevant. It cannot be r eformed
      and there is no point in demanding its abandonment. Serious efforts
      at disarmament will need to ignore and bypass it. Harsher judgment
      of the NPT sometimes segues into seeing it as an unwarranted obstacle
      to even a selective spread of nuclear weapons to countries outside
      the existing nuclear club, for exam- ple to Iran or North Korea,
      which could then be countervailing forces to the US's imperial
      project. This would be a good thing but for the NPT. We return
      therefore to the long debated counter- factual - the efficacy or
      otherwise of nuclear deterrence.

      Nuclear Deterrence and the World Order

      Can nuclear weapons deter? The answer is yes. But deterrence is not
      the mere registration of this property. It is a rationalisation, a
      theorisation that constitutes a much bolder and considerably less
      plausible claim that this property is so strong and so lasting that a
      country can rely on it for its enduring security. To believe in
      nuclear deterrence is to believe that terrible fear will always
      ensure that fallible human beings (state leaders and managers) will
      behave as you want them to though they and you operate in
      circumstances and conditions (sometimes of great stress) that neither
      they or you can ever fully control. Security, of course, is a
      nebulous term which even when it is understood conventionally and
      narrowly involves an inescapable psychological element. The
      proportion of one-time believers, including top echelon officials of
      civilian and military personnel in NWSs, who have defected from
      belief in the efficacy of nuclear weapons to the ranks of critics and
      sceptics is several times greater than defectors in the opposite
      direction. Illustrative though this is, it cannot of course be a
      serious intellectual riposte to deterrence defenders. It is Kenneth
      Waltz who can claim to have provided the strongest such foundation
      through his cautious conditional "The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More
      May be Better".
      Waltz's argument for proliferation cannot be separated from his
      overarching and foundational international relations (IR) theory of
      Photorealism or Structural Realism. Severe weaknesses in his broader
      theory should alert us to being more critical in assessing his
      specifically nuclear arguments. Photorealism for all its parsimonious
      elegance and internal consistency, logically speaking, remains a
      deeply flawed theory of limited explanatory power, of even more
      limited scope and given its positivism quite lacking any critical
      self-reflexivity. Some have taken note of his "Realist abstraction of
      the differing social character of states" but the problem goes
      deeper. His whole approach is ahistorical and asocial and as an IR
      theory has long passed its peak of influence. From the 1980s onwards
      it has been assaulted from certain strands of feminist IR theory,
      from certain political economy approaches to IR, from Critical
      Theory, and most powerfully from the Neo-Marxism in IR of Justin
      Rosenberg and Benno Teschke (Rosenberg 1994; Teschke 2003).

      While the "problematic of the International" like the "problem- atic
      of the economic" is always trans-historical, its proper under-
      standing must involve historicised and socialised concepts and
      theories like those of Marx. Instead of Waltz's face-saving artifice
      of different "levels of analysis" he should have realised that inter-
      rogating the concept of capitalism, which bridges the domestic and
      international, has always been the best way of understand- ing modern
      geopolitics. It is not in the least surprising that his theory is
      inspired by borrowings from the utterly abstract, and socially and
      historically speaking, barren conceptual field of neo- classical
      economics. Similarly, his thinking on the specifically nuclear front
      is abstract, a-historical and asocial. Before examining Waltz's
      particular failings in this regard, let us remind ourselves that all
      strategic nuclear thinking is inescap- ably speculative and must
      therefore be disciplined by reference to (a) empirical controls, and
      (b) the balance of plausibility in argument. Take the "long peace in
      Europe" issue attributed to the cold war militarised face-off. There
      are three distinct claims that are made here. Nuclear weapons were
      necessary and sufficient to prevent nuclear and conventional war
      between the east and the west. Nuclear weapons were necessary but not
      sufficient to pre- venting such wars. Nuclear weapons prevented intra-
      European wars as well. The opposing stance towards all three claims
      is that nuclear weapons were irrelevant to the issue of long peace.
      But even a conventional war between the US and USSR would have been
      third world war and world wars are by their nature multi- casual and
      a single-factor explanation for their presence (though the trigger
      can be singular) or absence is untenable. The problem with even the
      second claim is that it is still a single-factor form of explanation
      of the absence of a world war, even if there can now be a number of
      such necessary single-factors whose absence can also do the trick. Of
      course after the cold war ended intra-Euro- pean wars erupted despite
      the existence of a nuclear overhang. Is it not more plausible to
      explain the long peace by the existence of a cold war glacis - itself
      a multi-causal phenomenon - wherein nuclear weapons were an
      expression and promoter of cold war tensions but not a decisive cause
      of this glacis? If one is to respect the logic of Waltz's
      argumentative structure, then deterrence works and is stable only if
      confronting each of the NWSs has a credible second strike capacity. A
      new entrant would have to be allowed time to develop such a capacity
      against opponents, whether near or distant. Since Waltz operates
      through asocial and a-historical categories he must provide an
      essentially "abstract rationalist" answer (backed by weak empirical
      illustra- tions) as to why a new entrant will be given such time and
      f reedom from a pre-emptive or preventive strike aimed at its
      fledgling nuclear weapons system. Waltz would have us believe that a
      preventive strike would only harden the resolve of the targeted
      country to make successive future efforts to make the bomb until it
      was ultimately successful. Once a few bombs are developed deterrence
      of a pre-emptive strike will succeed be- cause even the absence of
      the capability of, say, a west Asian coun- try to make
      intercontinental missiles that can reach the opponent will not be a
      problem. Just the fear that a few rudimentary bombs can quite
      belatedly be secretly moved by plane, ship or land to a distant enemy
      is enough of a deterrent. So a very small nuclear arsenal can serve
      as a credible second strike capability and this can be developed in a
      very short time (Sagan and Waltz 1995: 19).

      This argument is important to note given Israel's history from its
      bombing of the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1991 to its 2007 bombing of
      IAEA safeguarded facilities in Syria. There is higher plausi- bility
      in the belief that if push comes to shove neither Israel nor the US
      will tolerate even a rudimentary Iranian nuclear weapons system and
      it is now very much harder for a highly monitored state to achieve
      this secretly. As for the notion that a second strike equilibrium can
      be reached quickly and then remain stable, all historical evidence
      indicates that this is always an upwardly moving "equilibrium"
      related to the nuclear ambitions/preparations of perceived opponents.
      This brings us to the issue of arms races, conventional and nuclear.
      Yet another Waltz claim invalidated by reality is that new and small
      nuclear powers are more likely to reduce conventional arms spending
      and not engage in arms racing once they acquire nuclear weapons. This
      has not been the case anywhere among paired rivals including India
      and Pakistan precisely because nuclear weapons cannot do what
      conventional arms can do (ibid: 29).

      But the greater embarrassment for Waltz is that no sensible notion of
      deterrence can explain the ridiculous overkill capacities and the
      extraordinary range and levels of tactical weaponry deve- loped by
      the US and Russia. Waltz can only bemoan that rather than pursuing
      "deterrence by punishment" the two great powers pursued (and in due
      course perhaps other NWSs might pursue) "deterrence by denial". The
      point here is that Waltz's overarching Neorealist theory focused as
      it is on the primary goal of "sur- vival" and the value of nuclear
      deterrence in relation to this, has no room for the reality that
      whether before or after acquiring nu- clear weapons, states aim to
      use them for purposes beyond mere existential survival and for
      general foreign policy support. This drives them to build a "ladder
      of escalation" that, in turn, pro- motes a momentum of continuous
      arms racing. The "what if" question has to be addressed. What if,
      since there is never a guar- antee against it, that nuclear weapons
      are somewhere, sometime used between nuclear rivals? Then the
      existence of a range of dif- ferent nuclear arms provides tactical
      flexibility for trying to con- trol this "ladder of escalation".
      Waltz's own view is that should nuclear war break out, it will very
      quickly come to a halt - a comforting reflection designed to shore up
      his view of "more may be safe enough" but hardly an impressive line
      of argument. In fact, Waltz in no way seriously interrogates what
      can be called the "escalation dynamic" and can therefore be more com-
      placent about nuclear weapons not being used. While deliberate use of
      nuclear weapons is not that credible, one can credibly create a
      situation - the Cuban crisis - where tensions can escalate into a
      nuclear exchange. Any number of nuclear strategists from Henry
      Kissinger to Thomas Schelling (but not Waltz) have deve- loped
      different models of "calculated risk taking" recognising that
      different levels of nuclear brinkmanship is very much a part of the
      larger nuclear "game" that in reality is played once one moves away
      from the simplifying assumptions of Waltz. Between Pokhran-I and
      Pokhran-II there was no war between India and Pakistan. In 1999
      believing it had a "nuclear shield", Pakistan launched the Kargil war
      and both sides readied their nuclear arsenals for use. Shortly after
      the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, India
      and then Pakistan mobilised over a million troops in all on both
      sides of the border for some 10 months till tensions were defused
      with the help of the US. This was the largest and longest such
      mobilisation anywhere in peace- time since the end of second world
      war. Both sides once again made nuclear preparations.

      Subsequently in 2005, lieutenant general Khalid Kidwai, the head of
      the Strategic Planning Division of Pakistan's National Command
      Authority and one of the two "fingers" (the other is current military
      chief, lieutenant general Ashfaq Kayani) spelt out the country's
      nuclear red-lines, the crossing of which by India would result in
      the use of nuclear weapons - severe military defeat by India, serious
      territorial advances towards any of Pakistan's major cities,
      economic strangulation through a blockade, political destabilisation.
      After the November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, the then RSS
      supremo, K S Sudarshan in an interview by a freelance journalist,
      declared that a war with Pakistan would turn into a nuclear one, but
      that it was necessary to defeat the demons and there was no other
      way. And let me say with confidence that after this destruction, a
      new world will emerge which will be very good, free from evil and
      terrorism.9 Of course, Kidwai and Sudarshan are in large part
      displaying a mixture of bravado and bluster. But both the first is a
      vital decision- maker and the latter also whenever the BJP is in
      power. Such attitudes and beliefs are disturbing. The lesson that
      needs to be drawn is that in a context of enduring hostility, an
      escalation dynamic can throw things out of control. Minor incidents
      can trigger a chain of events leading to an outcome - nuclear
      exchange - that neither side to begin with would have ever wanted
      since it would be completely disproportionate to the purposes
      initially sought by both sides. And this is a key point of weak- ness
      in deterrence thinking.10 There is good reason to worry about India's
      and Pakistan's nuclearisation and about further horizontal

      Contemporary Dangers: the Way Forward?

      How then do we move towards global and regional disarmament? The two
      routes are obviously connected but not in a manner whereby movement
      along the latter is made conditional on forward movement along the
      former where the US has always been the biggest obstacle, the pace-
      setter in creating and deepening the global nuclear mess. It has
      always been the case that civil society pressure from within the US
      against Washington's global role, even as it is connected to civilian
      and governmental p ressures from outside, is the single most
      important terrain of confrontation. Neither the rise nor decline of
      the great independent (not controlled by communist governments) anti-
      nuclear peace movements in the west (and Japan) of the late 1950s/
      early 1960s and then in the mid-1970s/early 1980s are to be explained
      by reference to the NPT. Both the inspiration for, and decline of
      such movements have different roots. The rise of such movements was
      founded on the growing "felt danger" among a disproportionately
      middle class base. This has been the shared mass sentiment, the
      psychological glue that kept it growing. But no movement based on
      constant fear can sustain itself beyond a limited time horizon. Such
      a foundation is too negative a sentiment and will also be eroded by
      the passage of time itself. As for the poorer parts of the world,
      other more basic and daily "felt needs" of poverty, unemployment,
      inequalities of all kinds, have always had greater priority. This
      includes today's India and Pakistan where in any case the dominant
      attitude among the middle class is sup- portive of the acquisition of
      nuclear weapons. So what now? In the post-cold war era, the danger
      of a global holocaust has greatly receded even as a "limited" and
      regional assault or exchange has grown. Two parts of Asia cause
      concern. Why then should ordinary Europeans or Americans feel so
      worried? Why should one feel surprised about the absence of older-
      type mass movements in these parts of the world? Fears about future
      confrontation with Russia and China through the US effort to build
      the BMD and related TMD systems could help to regenerate a mass
      opposition within the US and in Europe to the US' plans of "full
      spectrum dominance" of which this project is a part. But aside from
      such hopes the larger question is what should be the strategic line
      of march particularly in the US of the anti-nuclear peace movement?
      This must lie in its participation in a wider, more encompassing anti-
      war/anti-imperialist movement. For all its unassailable military
      strength the US can be (and has been) politically defeated. Over the
      last century and a half there has emerged (especially after WWII) a
      growing disjunction between military power and political power/
      success that has thrown up strategic and intellectual problems that,
      Waltz and others in the realist/neorealist school, cannot adequately
      handle because their understanding of power is so under- and poorly-
      theorised.11 The political defeat of US ambitions in west Asia sends
      the mes- sage that the most extreme form of military power - nuclear
      weapons - is not a source of decisive or even significant political
      strength. Successes in building an anti-war/anti-imperialist struggle
      then facilitate the spread of a sentiment of anti-nuclearism. If it
      is accepted that this must be the key strategic line to adopt, then
      it follows that it is the deficiencies pertaining to the building of
      such a mass anti-imperialist movement today that are most important
      to correct, not so much the deficiencies in build- ing an anti-
      nuclear mass movement. And in this regard the role and impact of the
      NPT are of even less, if not nil, consequence. Of other possible
      scenarios, it is right to make light of the bogey of non-state
      nuclear terrorism, not just on the grounds of immense technical
      difficulties but also because it assumes that non-state actors are
      somehow more irrational when compared to state actors. In fact the
      scale of international suffering imposed by acts of state terrorism
      is immeasurably greater not because states have always had the
      greater means but because their terrorist acts are harnessed to much
      more grandiose ends - national security, defeating global radicalism,
      spreading democracy, pro- tecting civilisation, etc. Indeed, such
      state acts of terrorism are not only more easily justified but all
      too often they are not even seen as terrorism. Two of the six
      ideological banners that the US is using after the demise of the
      Soviet Union as part of its software for its current imperial project
      (the hardware requires various regional alliances) are the "global
      war on terror" and "WMDs [weapons of mass destruction] in the wrong
      hands".12 The danger is not the likelihood of non-state nuclear use
      but of the US using this as a justification for a possible small pre-
      emptive nuclear strike to convey the message that non-state actors
      should not even think of making such a strike on US soil, indeed of
      even considering a "dirty bomb" attack or a conventional assault on a
      nuclear reactor to which the US response could very likely be
      nuclear. As it is, after 1991 there has been a great blurring of the
      firebreak between conventional and nuclear weapons in US war
      preparations and war doctrines. With North Korea wisely deciding to
      use its nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip to obtain security
      commitments from the US rather than relying on them to provide an
      "existential deterrent strategy", the two other danger areas are west
      and south Asia.

      Given the absence of mass civilian pressure, all that can be
      suggested by way of positive approaches no matter how uncertain their
      achievement, would be pursuing the following objectives.

      First, build pressure against the BMD-TMDs and PSI projects. There
      is some scope for future optimism here given the unease of some
      significant NNWSs besides China and Russia.

      Second, promote the effort to establish an early and unconditional
      WMDFZ in west Asia (no Israeli filibustering) as the best way to deal
      with nuclear dangers in this region. Iran and all 22 members of the
      League of Arab States have for decades demanded this and it is still
      for all its difficulties of realisation, the best political route to
      take to outflank Israel and the US and put them diplomatically -
      politically on the defensive. The alternative route of Iranian
      nuclearisation should not be promoted or endorsed.

      Third, while India will certainly not accept a south Asian NWFZ there
      are ways of putting pressure to this end by pursuit of three
      measures: (a) demand that the whole of Kashmir on both sides of the
      existing ceasefire line be made an NWFZ. Interestingly, though this
      idea was first floated by peace activists in the two countries after
      1998, it was taken up in August 2007 by the ruling All Jammu and
      Kashmir Muslim Conference on the Pakistan side of the current
      border. Since neither India nor Pakistan has stationed or intends to
      station nuclear weapons in Kashmir, a cceptance of this demand does
      not entail any practical sacrifice. It is also a way of their
      deflecting the criticism often voiced in the west and elsewhere of
      Kashmir being a "nuclear flashpoint".

      This would be one way of deflecting all imputations of
      irresponsibility which do irritate the two governments especially
      when coming from existing NWSs. Of course acceptance by the two
      governments would constitute a "thin end of the wedge", a way of
      legitimising partial regional de-nuclearisation which is all the
      more reason to pursue this call. (b) The Maoists and other parties in
      Nepal should be approached at both the governmental and civil society
      levels to declare in its forthcoming Constitution that it, like
      Mongolia, will be a single-state NWFZ thereby embarrassing its two
      nuclear neighbours. (c) Bangladesh is the one neighbour that has
      publicly called for the establishment of a south Asian NWFZ.13 As a
      transitional measure, Bangladesh should explore the idea of a
      stretching of the Bangkok Treaty to include itself, thereby sending a
      message that will be uncomfortable to India and Pakistan.

      Fourth, work for the signing and ratification of the zero-yield CTBT.
      It is an important restraint measure on qualitative advances on the
      US which is why Russia and China are willing to accept it and why the
      Bush Administration refused to ratify it. Yes, it locks the
      qualitative lead the US already has over other countries.
      But does anyone believe it is better that the US has the freedom to
      make further qualitative advances in such weaponry? Does anyone
      seriously believe that the gap would then reduce? And is it a bad
      thing for India and Pakistan to be denied the opportunity through
      further tests to reliably produce more advanced types of
      nuclear weapons? The new Obama administration may well move towards
      ratification and Israel has already endorsed the CTBT. India and
      Pakistan are the main holdouts and although not signatories must also
      sign and ratify for the treaty to come into force. They are quite
      likely to do so if the new administration in Washington applies
      serious pressure. One should also work for the resuscitation of the
      negotiations towards a Fissile Materials Treaty but the final outcome
      must incorporate the dismantling of all stockpiles held by the
      existing NWSs.

      These are all worthwhile objectives. But the challenge, of course, is
      to make them more than just a wish list.


      1 See Chapter 4 in Bidwai and Vanaik (2000).

      2 See Goldblatt (1985: 114).

      3 In 1995 during the intense CTBT debate on whether India should join
      up or not, the Congress govern-
      ment of Narasimha Rao did consider having a test and then signing up
      to the CTBT but eventually decided against it before the US
      discovered the preparations and put pressure on the government. See
      Bidwai and Vanaik (2000: 69-73).

      4 See Vanaik (1995: 12-13). As far as I am aware no one outside the
      Sangh parivar before then, had publicly predicted this.

      5 See Bidwai and Vanaik (2000: 52-53, 69-74).

      6 In the last few years it seems Israel has overtaken Russia as the
      largest supplier of military hardware to India just as India is now
      Israel's number one arms buyer. In the longer run Israel (and the US)
      may well enduringly replace Russia as India's number one supplier.

      7 See The Indo-US Military Relationship: Expectations and Perceptions
      by the US Deparetment of Defence,
      2002. This a report based on interviews with 23 American military
      officers, 15 government officials and several members of the Indian
      National Security Council and outside experts advising the Indian
      government. Also see Tellis (2005) and Blank (2005).

      8 Nuclear weapons possess a "threat power" so extreme that its
      fungibility or "exchange power" is negligible. No wonder then that it
      is so difficult to point to serious successes through nuclear black-
      mail attempts at which the US is most guilty. No wonder also that
      even in the most extreme conditions of actual war between NWSs and
      NNWSs they have been of no use, e g, the US in Vietnam, the USSR in
      Afghanistan and that American presidents (Reagan and Nixon) have
      expressed their frustration over their political-diplomatic
      ineffectiveness when dealing with enemy states. Vietnam can certainly
      develop a programme to build nuclear weapons if it wants to but
      despite a 1,000 year history of enmity with China, it has decided to
      renounce this option by joining the Bangkok Treaty, i e, the south-
      east Asian NWFZ. There is as much if not more plausibility in the
      argument that not having nuclear weapons affords greater nuclear
      security vis-à-vis an NWS than having them.

      9 http://communalism.blogspot.com/2008/12/text- of-recent-interview-

      10 An excellent analysis of this whole issue is given by Jean Dreze
      in "Militarism, Development and
      Democracy" in Ramana and Reddy (2003: 307-12).

      11 The most serious intellectual contributions to understanding
      "power" have never come from conventional IR theory which places such
      central premium on the notion but from the disciplines of political
      science and historical sociology.

      12 The other four are "humanitarian intervention", regime change in
      the name of democracy, "failed states", "war on drugs". Their
      manipulation is made more plausible precisely because they are not
      simply concoctions but do refer to genuine problems. For an in depth
      analysis of the six ideological banners that have replaced the old
      cold war banner of "saving the Free world from the Communist threat"
      see Vanaik (2007). 13 Statement by Mr Masud Bin Momen, Director
      General (UN), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh at the First
      Committee of the 62nd UNGA, 17 October 2007.


      Bidwai, Praful and Achin Vanaik (2000): New Nukes:
      India, Pakistan and Global Nuclear Disarmament (New York: Interlink
      Blank, Stephen (2005): Natural Allies? Regional Security in Asia and
      Prospects for Indo-American Stra-
      tegic Cooperation, Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War
      Goldblatt, Joseph, ed. (1985): Non Proliferation: The Why and
      Wherefore (London and Philadelphia: Sipri Publications/Taylor &
      Ramana, M V and C Rammanohar Reddy, ed. (2003): Prisoners of the
      Nuclear Dream (New Delhi: Orient Longman).
      Rosenberg Justin (1994): The Empire of Civil Society: A Critique of
      the Realist Theory of International Relations (London: Verso).
      Sagan, Scott and Kenneth Waltz (1995): The Spread of Nuclear Weapons:
      A Debate (New York and London:WW Norton & Company).
      Tellis, Ashley (2005): India as a New Global Power: An Action Agenda
      for the United States, Carnegie
      Endowment for International Peace.
      Teschke, Benno (2003): The Myth of 1648: Class, Geo-politics and the
      Making of Modern International Relations (London: Verso).
      Vanaik, Achin (1995): India in a Changing World: Problems, Limits and
      Successes of Its Foreign Policy
      (New Delhi: Orient Longman).
      * ed. (2007): Selling US Wars (Northampton, Massachusetts, US: Olive
      Branch Press, Interlink Publishers).


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