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India debates the nuclear bomb (1991)

A discussion with K Subrahmanyam, Gen. Sundarji, Jaswant Singh, Praful Bidwai, and others.

Rummaging through Indian Express’ archives has unearthed an interesting discussion in India in January 1991, on the merits and demerits of going nuclear and costs associated with such a decision.  Interestingly, the discourse in India at the time was motivated by accounts of Pakistan already possessing a nuclear stockpile;  not the other way around, as some commentators would like the world to believe.  Clearly, AQ Khan’s admission to Kuldip Nayar in at the height of the Brasstacks crisis played a critical role in shaping Indian perceptions of the regional security environment, post 1987.

The seminar, entitled “Nuclear Pakistan and Indian Response,” was sponsored by IDSA and included commentary from K Subrahmanyam, Gen. Sundarji, Jaswant Singh, Gen. Vohra and Praful Bidwai.  Excerpts from Manvendra Singh’s op-ed follow:

Mr. Praful Bidwai expressed doubts as to whether Pakistan was in fact capable of producing nuclear weapons.  He called it a bogey used by many in Delhi, for the sole purpose of justifying India going nuclear.  David Albright’s article in the June (1987) issue of “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” was heavily quoted by him for the technical aspects of his arguments.

Albright’s article was full of uncertainties, as Mr. RR Subramaniam pointed out in his vociferous rebuttals of Mr. Bidwai, whose claim that Pakistan’s nuclear policy was a response to the 1974 Pokhran test was historically incorrect.  And in fact none of the other participants pointed out to him that ZA Bhutto’s famous (we will eat grass but make a bomb) speech was made in January, 1972 in Multan.

Gen. Sundarji, with his quick-draw tongue, was at his articulately hawkish best.  A specialist in “Deterrence theories,” Gen. Sundarji made a very pertinent point when he stated that simple deterrence, without political engagement leads to overkill, as it did for the Soviet Union.  This was in response to the argument that desire for nuclear weapons in the belief of acting as deterrents can never be satiated, as stockpiles go on rising.  While unequivocally calling for India to go nuclear, he was of the view that diplomatic dialogue has to be encouraged if an overkill situation is to be avoided.

Mr. K Subrahmanyam, the doyen amongst defense specialists, was characteristically blunt and sharp in his analysis. Debunking the argument put forward that an active nuclear policy is grossly expensive, Mr. Subrahmanyam convincingly backed his  thesis that in terms of the value of returns for investments, a nuclear weapons programme is the most effective.  The total amount, he clarified, spent on our nuclear weapons programme is minuscule compared to the overall defence outlay.  Lamenting on the absence of direction and purpose in our nuclear policy, he grimly reminded the participants about the period post-1962, when India went, prostrate before Britain and the United States, desperate for a nuclear umbrella vis-a-vis China, backing Gen. Sundarji’s statement that “weakness is not a virtue.”

Mr. Jaswant Singh, the only active participant from the ranks of politicians (Mr. IK Gujral was largely an observer), created a bit of a ripple amongst the participants when he declared that India had lost the strategic initiative to Pakistan.  He declined to elaborate, saying that it was vital for all to ponder over it.  In all probability, his thesis revolved around the fact that primarily out of our inaction, the internal and external range of India’s maneuverability has shrunk to levels incompatible to India’s status and role in the world.  This is the sum total loss arising out of an absence of clear long-term policy formulation and implementation.

And taking this setback into account, he said, makes it all the more necessary to have permanent bodies like the National Security Council Secretariat.  Active during the period of the National Front government in the formation of the NSC, Mr. Singh stated convincingly that it was imperative for India to have such a specialized decision-making body, given the circumstances that it finds itself in. The shortage of active politicians participating in seminars of such importance is a phenomenon for all Indians to seriously think about.

The decision to go nuclear, or not, rests entirely on the political leadership of India, and which is to a large extent, totally unacquainted with this and related subjects.  In Pakistan,however, it is the military brass that is in control of defence policy-making.  A military in power, directly or indirectly, will always enlarge its arsenal to keep the internal balance of power, psychologically or otherwise, in its favour.  It is therefore natural, no matter how much static exists between Washington and Islamabad, that Gen. [Aslam] Baig will go ahead with increasing and improving Pakistan’s nuclear capability.

In the unlikely event of Pakistani civil leadership initiating moves towards a nuclear treaty with India, Gen. Baig could very easily torpedo the whole process with some populist gimmickry.  A nuclear capability will be an enormous psychological boost for Pakistan’s aims in Afghanistan, Punjab and Kashmir. [Indian Express]

 

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"People give the Indian army a lot of leeway…"

More pearls of wisdom from the Writer Formerly Known As Sane, Arundhati Roy.  She recently hopped across the border to Pakistan to really sink her fangs into the country she calls home.  Speaking at the Karachi Press Club, she talks about the Taliban, the ongoing operation in Swat, Siachen, Indian elections, and the RSS, among other things.  True to her form, Arundhati talks at a tangent, jumping from one unrelated topic to the next.

What makes people like her and Praful Bidwai particularly dangerous isn’t the fact that they speak out against the institution.  It’s that they speak out by distorting facts and drawing parallels between issues that have no logical correlation to support their agendas.  Don’t let them tell you they don’t have an agenda. They do. Everyone does.  Here’s Arundhati at her prattling best:

Each day (Siachen glacier)  is being filled with ice axes, old boots, tents and so on. Meanwhile, that battlefield is melting. Siachen glacier is about half its size now. It’s not melting because the Indian and Pakistani soldiers are on it. But it’s because people somewhere on the other side of the world are leading a good life….in countries that call themselves democracies that believe in human rights and free speech. Their economies depend on selling weapons to both of us.

Each day, apparently, the glacier is being filled with “old boots”; I’m not even sure what she’s talking about here. Her concern clearly couldn’t be environmental, since the “substance” behind the drivel appears to be to apportion blame to the US (aka “democracies that believe in human rights and free speech”) for selling weapons to “both of us” with which the two above-fault former colonial nations fight wars they are conned into waging by the conniving West.  Only problem here is that India didn’t really receive any weapons from the US that it used to fight Pakistan in Siachen.  A convenient falsehood to support her anti-US agenda, certainly, and no different from the mindset of the Pakistani establishment that affixes blame on everyone but itself for the situation it finds itself in.  But wait, there’s more:

The RSS has infiltrated everything to a great extent..The RSS has infiltrated the (Indian) army as much as various kinds of Wahhabism or other kinds of religious ideology have infiltrated the ISI or the armed forces in Pakistan.

Clearly, she’s taking issue with Lt. Col. Purohit and his ilk in re the Malegaon attacks.  But the act of one man, as deplorable as it was, can hardly be equated to the fundamentalist indoctrination of an entire army over the course of 62 years that led it to slaughter 3 million civilians because they belonged to different ethnic and religious persuasions.  Apart from Purohit, what other examples does Arundhati Roy have of an RSS “infiltration” into the army? To be clear, the Indian army is battling infiltration.  But it isn’t from the RSS.  An inconvenient truth that Roy chooses to ignore.

Arundhati continues:

The Indian army is quite a sacred cow especially on TV and Bollywood.I think it is a sacred cow. People are willing to give them a lot of leeway.

Forgive me, but the armed forces of a developing nation that chooses to mind its own business and not stick its nose into political affairs deserves all the credit it gets.  The Indian army isn’t perfect. No army is.  Sure, the media chooses to turn a blind eye to the army’s conduct in Kashmir and Sri Lanka.  But the fact that India has had a virtually unblemished record in democracy since independence (a singular rarity in the developing world) is enough proof that this is an army unlike any other, and if it does get any leeway, it is well deserved.

Arundhati Roy is successful in the sense that her utter ignorance compels people like me to respond and set right the things that this malingering cretin masks with her eloquence.  The fact that she can string a couple of sentences together in English is often mistaken by India’s elite and the Western media as indicative of her mastery over subjects she has no experience in.  I’ve taken issue with Roy before as I take issue with her today.  Abinav Kumar, in his response to Roy’s much published diatribe right after the 26/11 terrorist attacks, said that Arundhati Roy suffered from a failure of the imagination.  I beg to differ.  Arundhati Roy suffers from a failure of the mind.

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