From Nepali Times, ISSUE #289 (10 MARCH 2006 – 16 MARCH 2006)
MK Gandhi would not have taken India nuclear, nor sought the atomic blessings of the US
How much of the satisfaction of being ‘India’ can present-day India take, if there is cause for satisfaction, that is? Much of the heritage of what is today the nation-state of India derives of course from the ‘Indian civilisation’ to which the contribution has been made by regions as far afield as (present-day) Tibet and Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Burma.
But there are certain actions for which discredit must go solely to nation-state India, the post-1947 phenomenon. Such as the nuclear weaponisation underway, to which George W Bush has recently given his unipolar superpower blessing. The ‘smiling Buddha’ nuclear explosion of 1974 at Pokhran and the BJP-engineered Pokhran-II explosions of 1998 were actions that went against the civilisational attributes of the Subcontinent.
This need to go nuclear has emanated from an incomprehensible and unjustified sense of inferiority harboured by the Indian power elite. Unhappy with the ‘third world’ stigma that represents the reality of the majority population, it has reached out for artificial markers of modernity that are brittle and unconvincing. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would not have supported the 1974 test nor the 1998 explosions. He would most likely have gone into a protest fast and satyagraha against their regressive message. Rabindranath Tagore would have written a ballad against the misuse of the name of the Sakyamuni to announce the fission at Pokhran-I.
Boy, are the strategic thinkers happy to be part of the nuclear club, to be able to discuss ‘throw-weights’ and ‘mutual assured destruction’, ‘delivery vehicles’ and ‘failsafe systems’. The world has been there, done that but the boys with their toys are thrilled.
Among them is one elevated to be president of the republic. Having grown up as brown sahibs, here is the opportunity to actually be a sahib. They wouldn’t care to acknowledge to their minions that going ‘nuclear’ no longer requires great technological capability. Any half-capable university physics department could manage an atomic explosion.
There are many countries in the southern hemisphere capable of developing nuclear weaponry but which have decided to forgo this lethal arsenal. India should be shamed by the forebearance and abstinence of the Australias, Malaysias, Indonesias or Egypts. In 1994 Argentina, Brazil and Chile brought into force the Treaty of Tlatelolco and agreed to forgo their existing nuclear programs. South Africa under Nelson Mandela took the most Gandhian step of the nuclear era by relinquishing its existing nuclear weaponisation program.
The decision-making classes and opinion-makers of these southern countries did not have the level of self-questioning that they needed a nuclear weapon to provide confidence before the world.
Meanwhile, what of the anti-nuclear proliferation cacophony that emanated prior to 1999 from Indian diplomacy and intelligentsia? Suddenly, the reference to Gandhian ahimsa as the Indian gift to the world has disappeared from addresses by New Delhi’s representatives at the UN in New York. Now, it is all realpolitic and India has more or less stopped speaking for the South at large.
The nuclear anointing of India, at the cost of nuclear non-proliferation, is the most recent manifestation of American and western understanding of what India is becoming and what the West wants India to be. The first hints of the changing fortunes of the Indian upper classes, in terms of wanting to be part of the sophisticated worldly set, came when the manipulative corporatised Miss World and Miss Universe competitions decided to place their respective crowns on a Sushmita Sen or a Aishwarya Rai. The process of co-optation had begun.
Since then, the economic growth of India has made those within the Washington Beltway suddenly keen to co-opt those within the New Delhi Ring Road. As for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, who cares for the destruction of an entire international regime when the short term agenda of George W Bush dictates otherwise?
Bush and his vainglorious administration can be expected to do few things right and the Indian power elite have simply decided to take advantage of this situation for the sake of their own short-term goals which goes in the face of their Southasian civilisational heritage. Who are you going to use those nuclear-tipped missiles against? Do you really need them to become a world power and would you
not become a better world power when your children are better fed?