As India is going to celebrate the first decade of nuclear weapons, several questions come to my mind. Were the pacifists right in opposing weaponisation? How far has India achieved? Has it secured the Nuclear status? Let us find the probable answers.
The objections of the pacifists or the anti-nuclear lobby should be elaborated upon and examined. They present the following set of arguments in support of their reasoning:
i. India, a poor country cannot afford to spend so much on the military nuclear field and the funds could well have been utilised for the basic necessities of life—health, education and infrastructure and for poverty alleviation.
ii. The nuclear tests at Pokhran have upset the Indian military superiority in conventional warfare sector and have provided Pakistan with the precious opportunity of Nuclear Blackmail and once a war breaks out, India will be forced by the international communities to wind up war within weeks.
iii. India, even almost a decade of weaponisation, has not been recognised as a Nuclear power by the international community.
First of all, it must be admitted that Pakistan is a country infested with die-hard terrorists and controlled by a ruthless, desperate and irresponsible military. Every one knows that Pakistan had the clandestine nuke programme funded by foreign countries like Saudi Arabia, technologically aided by China and fast forwarded by the military. Thus a Nuclear-missiled Pakistan would have used N-weapons against India whenever it thought its existence threatened or its prestige undermined. The unprepared India would have to swallow the disastrous punch by choosing the Nuclear path, India sent a strong signal to Pakistan as well as China about its preparedness. So it is surely prudent to get the poisonous out of its hole than to be bitten off-guard.
Now let us examine the anti-nuclear or the pacifist lobby’s contentions:
Responding to the first argument about India’s expense on the military nuclear field as an expandable appendage considering it poor status, it can be put forward that defence is no less an important sector than the civilian sectors like health, infrastructure and education. If the sovereignty and existence of a state is endangered, how will be those sectors be saved? Again, why relate the defence to the civilian sector? Are they mutually exclusive? In order to improve the economy standard of the citizens attention should be given to other factors like infiltration, population control, reforms and removal of corruption and so on.
Again, considering the military expense of the two hostile Nuclear neighbours, India spends much lesser (Pakistan and China spend 5% of the GDP, where as India’s is below 3%) the strategic experts are already concerned about India’s declining combat ratio with Pakistan: besides Pakistan is shopping for sophisticated weapons till now and China is menacingly moderning it military.
Responding to the second argument about India, sacrificing its conventional military superiority over Pakistan on the altar of the nuclear, it can be said that in the recent geographical situation diplomacy has gained the upper hand. It cannot be said that Pakistan could be cowered and subjugated had India been a non-nuclear power. Moreover, India’s No-First-Use Policy has encouraged the Pak-blackmail. Moreover, once India launches a symbolic assault against Pakistan, the blackmail policy fizzle out.
About the pressure to finish future war within weeks, it can be said that time-frame is enough, for India objective would never be to occupy the whole of Pakistan. The objective could be either to demolish the training camps or to grab some territories to teach Pakistan a lesson and any flush strike could be wound up within the brief time frame. Here again too, we must remember diplomacy would play a greater role if India succeeds the war can be longer. Among the P-5 states, only China has a soft corner for Pakistan. America’s alliance with Pakistan is of short-term driven by contemporary necessity. For long, the US cannot overlook the Islamic terrorists and the nuclear weapons staring at it. It must be tough in the near future. Among the other members of the P-5, no one bothers about Pakistan. So in this unipolar world, if Indo-US bonhomie excels Pak-US partnership, anything can happen to Pak.
The last argument concerns with India not being considered a Nuclear power by the international community. The pacifist argument contradicts itself when it says that the nuclear status of the two countries would invite third party interference in the event of a future war. Besides, India, a late started in the N-weapon race has not matured into a fully weaponised state. It has not, till now, the most important system in the nuclear triad—the SLBMs. Among the land delivery missiles, Agni has the maximum 3000 km range which has left much of China beyond its range. India till now does not have a nuclear submarine, the nuclear cruise missiles, the anti-ballistic missile system, the effective command and control system. So, N-explosions only do not make a nuclear weapon state. They make an N-bomb state, not a nuclear weapon state. But considering the progress India has been making in the last few years, the world has begun to recognise India as a de-facto N-weapon state. The US has admitted India as a state with advanced nuclear technology. So many countries including Canada, Australia and Japan are hinting about their change of stance on India’s N-programmes and status. India is being respected as a responsible Nuclear power. The USA is fielding its N-powered aircraft carriers and submarines in naval exercises with India, its most advanced strike aircraft F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It has also offered India PAC3 anti-ballistic missile system. It has allowed Israel to sell the Phalcon Awacs system; the Barak anti-ballistic missile system for the Indian navy. Israel has already supplied India with the most advanced Green pine radars. realising India’s rising profile, the USA has expressed its intention to make India a global power. It seeks to project India as a counterweight to China. France, Russia, Britain too have supported India’s demand for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The USA whole-heartedly has tried to bring into the Nuclear mainstream through the Indo_US Nuke deal—through the Indo-US Nuke deal and promised to end sanctions on space and dual use techs.
Lastly, India has made a considerable progress in its command and control structure. We had acquired N-capable SU 30 MKIs which can hit deep inside China. We have acquired Green Pine Radars from Israel and we are close to acquiring Phalcon Awacs system from Israel. Furthermore, collaboration on phased array radars and other electronic warfare systems is on with Israel. India is shortly to lease a Russian Nuclear submarine and get an indigenous Nuclear submarine called ATV (Advanced technology Vessel). The Indp-Russian supersonic Brahmos cruise missile is to pave the way for longer range N-capable cruise missiles. Moreover, ground-work for the Aerospace command has already begun. Talks and projects are on with Israel for jointly building and launching military satellites. The scientists have expressed their confidence of building a 5000km ICBM within three years. So we are almost a sophisticated Nuclear Weapon State.
Lastly, it must be admitted that any vision and mission should be guided by the past, the present and the future. The past witnessed the nuclear powers as the arbiters of world destiny. The present shows the tiny N-Korea threatening the US and securing its demands from the US only because of Nuclear Bombs. Even the Pacifist Japanese are wondering whether or not go nuclear.
The future holds in store for Nuclear India a unique opportunity to be a superpower. Along with its surging economy, vibrant democracy, young work-force and nuclear capability, India must become a global superpower.
(This essay has also been published in the online magazine Global Politician )