India conducted five nuclear tests underground at Pokhran desert on May11 and 13 ,1998 .

The devices tested included a thermonuclear trigger, boosted fission weapons and two sub kiloton devices. Pakistan, India’s neighbour and  adversary, claimed to have carried out six tests of fission devices on  May 28 and 30. This is an attempt to put forward Indian  case  also explains the logic behind Indian actions.  Most of these views were in public domain and were widely distributed by our organisation. It is surprising that despite these well known views and widespread public support to the nuclear tests,. The world professed to be surprised by the events. The gap, apparently was less in communication and more in perception.


Most conflicts in history can be safely attributed to the factor of mis-perception. International research journals and media will be doing a great service by giving an opportunity to Indians to put forward their views.


This is an ‘Indo-centric’ analysis and in no way an apologia for Indian actions. 

Strategic Environment

Ever since 1968  many Indians believed that the NPT was targeted at India

China has been targeting Indian cities since 1970s with her medium range missiles based in Tibet

Signing the NPT with some safeguards was  a possibility  provided  world restrained the Chinese and Paksitani adventurism in the subcontinent. Instead India found the US forging a ’strategic relationship’ with China and even anointed her a regional (junior) policeman in the Indian subcontinent. There can be no other interpretation of the remarks of the American President in Washington on 11 July 98 while speaking to the National Geographic Society.


The real reason India does not want to sign the NPT is that in absence of any global consensus on non use of force to settle disputes, prudence demands that India be prepared to defend herself. India suspects  that the dominance in the field of nuclear weapons may well be  used as lever to pressure non weapon countries in other fields. In the absence of any global consensus on non use of force to settle disputes in the international arena , guns , or more appropriately nukes, remain the last argument of the  PMs / Presidents .

Historically,  India has been, and continues to remain; a non- expansionist power. Yet next to Israel, it is in a sense a national security state. The cement that holds the Indians together with all their diversity, is the basic realization that Indian disunity and neglect of defence was the main cause of her misfortunes in history. 

India appears to have settled for a nuclear posture that seeks to keep her options open by developing an ‘across the board’ capability in thermonuclear and nuclear weapons as also fail safe and ‘survivable’ delivery vehicles. Since India is not a signatory to the NPT she is under no treaty obligation to desist from development of nuclear weapons. In this respect her postion is diferrent than Iraq or North Korea, both being signatories of NPT. The negotiations on comprehensive test ban (CTB)  posed a dilemma as not having tested a thermonuclear weapon , Indian claim to retain its option appeared meaningless. The test of a thermonuclear trigger device on 11 May has rectified this. 

India recognises  the necessity for a weak Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons for the purpose of deterring superior Indian conventional armed strength. But India will build confidence in Pakistan that while she will not be the first to use these weapons, should Pakistan use even a single one , India will carryout complete and total destruction of Pakistan  with a guaranteed 80% kill.

In this posture Indian strategy of ‘ambiguity‘ is confined only to our ‘intentions‘. There is  nothing ambiguous about Indian capability (not just potential). To rescue Indian ambiguity from being reduced to a ‘bluff‘ , India needed to carry out a ‘diagnostic‘ thermo- nuclear test. This Indian position does not threaten any one and yet safeguards long- term Indian interests. 


It is dangerous to treat nuclear weapons as useless. If possible, a Noble peace prize should have been given to the first atomic bomb that has kept peace for the last 58 years. The US will never give up its nuclear weapons as long as it perceives a threat to its security. The US will also never give a no fist use assurance. Two points are important in this- one is the US psyche and second the US believes, if threatened , in being ruthless. If a person doesn‘t understand this then he has not understood the US, the world‘s most law abiding yet ruthless nation.

NPT is a selective arms control measure that does not address many issues. But these issues need to be clearly defined by India. Whole world agrees that the earth should be protected from the weapons that threaten all. Control is possible through world government, but all agree that it is not likely to take shape too soon, unless there is a dramatic change like an extra terrestrial threat et al. Therefore planning must be based on realistic possibilities. What can be done then ?

a) Nuclear weapon powers should drastically reduce their weapons to show that they are serious.

b) Universal regime of fissile material accountability-neither freeze nor cap but transparency.

c)transparency in missile production .

d)same about aircraft.

e)in a ten years time frame if the above takes place then the threshold powers should declare their assets and join the club. .



The time frame may well appear unduly optimistic. It can well be stretched to even two decades. The proposal also offers flexibility as the process can linger on at any one phase without detriment to any one. The two most important points are, an it forces the nuclear haves to make a commitment and pay a price and secondly it attempts to tackle the whole gamut of use of force and not merely nuclear weapons. Piecemeal approach is unlikely to work, as the arms race will merely shift into other areas.


The fact is that while India is opposed to the nuclear weapons, she has built up a formidable nuclear capability. A creative Indian response to the nuclear question has been lacking. This is an attempt to provide an Indian alternative to the discriminatory, partial and ineffective NPT.

Most Indians agree on the issue of India keeping her options open as long as nuclear weapons exist anywhere in the world. But since she has not provided an alternative, there is a danger of India being isolated.

Ideas and alternatives that have been thrown up in this discussion have one singular aim, how do we create the restraint of the cold war era without the nuclear terror. Undoubtedly this restraint was one aspect of the cold war that is missed much today. Recreating this to control nuclear weapon menace is the real challenge before us. Even the nuclear weapons powers should welcome this, as nuclear threat has never worked. Even when it appeared to have worked against India in 1971, the real reasons were weaknesses in the Indian decision-making structure or Indians having second thoughts on the course of action rather than the threat itself.  So when the nuclear weapon powers give up the option to use nuclear threats except in self-defence, they in reality give up nothing. National arsenals can remain but an international force to be subscribed to by Japan , Germany, India , Sweden et al can be created that can act as the global nuclear policeman. A limited world consensus for control of nuclear menace is the only realistic remedy to rid the world of this perpetual menace to humanity.







Most of the the ideas and arguments given in this paper were first put forward at a University of Pune seminar in February 1994 and during a discussion on  NPT on 18 March 1995. For a complete exposition of the view of authors on this subject, readers may refer to “Nuclear Menace: The Satyagraha Approach” published in May 1997.


l. Jungk Robert, BRIGHTER THAN THOUSAND SUNS,Penguin Books, Middlessex, England et al,1960. pp 83-l0l. 

The logic of scientists who feared the Germans getting the atom bomb first was based on the fact that as Germany had taken on the might of the whole world it must have been on the basis of the ‘ultimate weapon‘ as atom bomb was referred to. The constant German propaganda about ‘secret weapon‘ further reinforced this fear.

2.Ibid, pp 147-158.

Gilpin Robert,AMERICAN SCIENTISTS AND NUCLEAR WEAPON POLICY,Princetoin University Press,Princeton NJ,1962.pp. 39-49.

3. Kothari D S,NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND THEIR EFFECTS, Publications Division Govt of India, New Delhi,1959.

Gilpin, op. cit. p.40. „---- on the basis of World War II  experience ,strategic bombing was so ineffective in comparison to the effort expended that its future was actually in doubt—„

Quester George H , NUCLEAR DIPLOMACY : THE FIRST TWENTY FIVE YEARS, Dunellen Pub Co Inc, New York, 1970. pp. 1-9.

4 Brodie Bernard, STRATEGY IN MISSILE AGE, Princeton University Press <Princeton , NJ, 1959.

5.Kahn Herman, ON THERMONUCLEAR WAR, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1960.

Agakhan Sadruddin (Ed),NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND CLIMATIC CATASTROPHE : SOME POLICY IMPLICATIONS, Claredon Press, Oxford et al, 1986.pp.242-255.

Keller C M et al (Ed), NUCLEAR DETERRENCE : NEW RISKS -NEW OPPORTUNITIES, Peragamon-Brasey‘s, Washington et al, 1986. Chapter V.

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, vol 244, no 4, Apr 1981, „Catastrophic Release of Radio Activity „ by Fetter S A & Tsipis K , pp. 33-39.

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL 251,NO 2, Aug 1984, „The climatic effects of nuclear war“, by Turco R P et al, pp. 27-29. 

INTERNATIONAL DEFENCE REVIEW, vol 14,no 9,“Nuclear fallout the real deterrent“ by Lt Col Hamming N, p.1120.

One megaton explosion will make a crater 400 feet deep and 1200 feet in diameter. At the maximum acceptable dose of 2 Rems per annum, 1200 sq miles of land will become unfit for living for one year.Even today 367,000 Japanese still suffer the effects of radiation in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing of 1945.Chromosome and genetic damage due to sub threshold radiation is still not fully understood or researched.

Even if only 40 % of the world nuclear arsenals explode the awesome emission will exceed 100 million metric tonnes. If spread uniformly over the globe , 95% of the sunlight will be blocked. Even considering the lower level threshold nuclear war involving ‘only‘ 100 Mt weapons , the effect in short term will be akin to nuclear war involving 10,000 Mt weapons. Difference will only be in the duration for which the effect will last.

Resistance to acceptance of apocalyptic pronouncements regarding the effects of nuclear war are due to, fortunately, ‘theoretical ‘ nature of the study, psychological denial of reality syndrome and need of the politicians to justify the arms race making the nuclear war and nuclear weapons thinkable.

6 Jacobson Carl G (Ed) THE UNCERTAIN COURSE, SIPRI, Oxford University Press, Oxford et al , 1987.

Brewer Garry D & Shubik M , THE WAR GAME: A CRITIQUE OF MILITARY PROBLEM SOLVING,Harvard University Press, Cambridge , Mass, 1979.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS,vol 32 , no 2, Jan 1954, „Nuclear weapons :strategic and tactical“,Brodie Bernard, pp. 217-229. FOREIGN AFFAIRS, vol 34 , no 2, Jan 1956, „ Atoms , strategy & policy“,by Nitze Paul,pp. 187-195.

Stability was not a product of nuclear stalemate between the USA & USSR but of technology that made its use impossible.

7. Gerard Chaliand, REVOLUTION IN THE THIRD WORLD, Penguin ,New York et al,1978.

Osgood  Robert E , LIMITED WAR, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1957.

Griffith Samuel F,trans, MAO TSE TUNG ON GUERRILLA WARFARE, Holt,Rinehart & Winston,New York,1961.

8. Bhattacharya KC, „SWARAJ IN IDEAS“, Indian Philosophical Quarterly, issue

9.ARTHASHASTRA, Shamasastry Dr R [trans], Wesleyan Press, Mysore, 1923.

10.POWER AND INTERDEPENDENCE,Keohane Robert and Nye Joseph S, Little Brown & Co , Boston & Toranto, 1977.

11.PACIFIC AFFAIRS VOL XV MARCH 1942, Kate Michell.‘India‘s economic potential“.

12.ECONOMIC TIMES 7 FEB 1988,p.8,‘India can become economic super power‘.

13.STUDY OF WAR, Wright Quincy, Chicago University Press, 1967.    

14.ARMS AND INFLUENCE, Schilling Thomas S, Yale University Press, 1966.

15.POPULATION , POLITICS AND FUTURE OF SOUTHERN ASIA, Burki Javed et al [ed], Columbia University Press , New York , i983.

16.            Extensive use has been made of research done in the Ministry of Defence , War Studies Division, where the Dr. (Colonel ) Anil Athale served as a Joint Director from 1986-1990.


18.       THE BALANCE OF TERROR, Edgar Bottome,Beacon Press , Boston, 1986.

19.       THE BOMB:A NUCLEAR HISTORY,Corinne Brown and Robert Munroe,Sterling Pub, New Delhi, 1981.