May 12, 1998
By doing three tests on a single day, there is no doubt that India has rudely pushed open the hitherto closed gates of the nuclear club. The question to ask is whether this club of international thugs is a club worth joining? If we ask this question of the overwhelming majority of the people of the world there is no doubt that the answer would be a strong negative. Ordinary people have strongly supported a nuclear weapons free world. Treaties like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty came about only because of the relentless pressure put up on governments by people's organisations who want peace and a world where disputes are settled not through terror but through talk. By doing these tests India has demonstrated a contemptuous disregard for world public opinion which deserves severe punishment from the international community if we are to create a world where such selfish high-handedness from anyone is considered intolerable behaviour.
Unfortunately it is not people who impose sanctions but governments and where governments are concerned sanctimonious hypocrisy is the fashion. Thus all the countries without whose consent resolutions in the United Nations remain mere words are themselves nuclear weapons powers and it is not for them to lecture India about the horrors of a nuclearised world. Sanctions like denying India loans or such like steps are likely to prove as ineffective as those invoked against China following the massacres at Tienenman square. Over the long run they would only rightly stiffen Indian resolve not to be cowed down, and the economic logic of doing business with one sixth of humanity, would force their gradual whittling down.
The most effective sanctions that would demonstrably work on the ruling elite in India are easy to implement and require just a slight administrative effort on the part of US administration. That is to find out close kith and kin of high functionaries in the government, legislatures, and the academic bodies in India now residing in the US and to just cancel their visas and green cards. The clamour this denial of entrance to the Garden of Eden would cause amongst those many of whom are now the strongest cheerleaders of Indian nuclearisation would be a spectacle well worth watching. There is no doubt that India has been a closet nuclear power for long. Without prior preparation it would not be possible for the scientific establishment to have delivered three different designs within two months of the new government having come to power and given the go ahead. Having repeatedly proclaimed that the country had purposefully chosen to refrain from exercising the nuclear option, this fact severely devalues the credibility of Indian assurances.
This action is doubly deplorable because it is a provocation that would be used as an excuse by the bomb lobbies in many countries to give up whatever little restraint imposed by years of painstaking negotiations that led to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The fact, that instead of enhancing India's security, this action and its inevitable reaction from across the borders, is bound to severely curtail it is merely incidental.
It is particularly perverse of the Indian nuclear establishment to choose Buddha Purnima_a day linked to one of the greatest sons of mother India who gave the world the mantra of non-violence and furnished a philosophy for right living_to brandish weapons of mass destruction. They did that twenty four years ago and like the Bourbons of France having learnt nothing and forgotten nothing they repeated their sacrilege yesterday. A nuclear test any other day would have been just as bad, but doing it on Buddha purnima and gloating over it shows a special lack of culture which is the hallmark of a rootless elite and a goonda political establishment.