Anil Athale.

 Coordinator Inpad ( Initiative for Peace and Disarmament)


(A former Jt Director War History and Colonel of Indian Army. He has edited and contributed to a book “ Nuclear Menace the Satyagraha Approach” published by Inpad in May 1996 that laid down the contours of Indian approach to Nuclear question. )



The draft agreement between India and the US for co-operation in civil nuclear technology is path breaking event that has the potential to bring a major shift in the Global balance. It will signify that the Cold War estrangement between the two countries has finally ended. The US Congress has the historic opportunity to bury the past and look to the future Indo-US partnership. Much has been written about the deal from economic, environmental and trade point of view. Here is an attempt to see the deal in historical and global strategic context in futuristic terms.


While in India the two main political parties are in favour of this policy, there has been some opposition in the US. The opponents of the Indo-US nuke deal can be classes under three distinct categories. The first and the foremost are the Non Proliferation ‘Ayatollahs’ or the “purists’ who worry about the effect of this on NPT and on countries like N. Korea and Iran, the neo-aspirants to nuclear weapons. The second group of opponents are the old Cold Warriors in bureaucracy, think tanks and political parties, who do not trust India, are concerned about the effect on Pakistan and are worried about their old Anti India positions and fear becoming irrelevant. The third group is the ‘pragmatists’ who see the agreement as a give away to India and advocate tough bargaining and conditionality. They feel that the US could get India as a partner without these ‘concessions’. The Pro China lobby sees in this a tilt.


Weakening the  NPT Argument of Non Proliferation Ayatollahs.


The ‘purists’ among this group mis-represent the NPT. It is NOT about stopping proliferation or disarmament but is essentially a device to ‘freeze’ the world nuclear power balance as it existed in 1968. It is very similar to the structure of the UN Security Council where the world balance of 1945 is sought to be frozen to eternity. Is it a mere co-incidence that the five permanent and Veto wielding nations of UN Security Council are also the five ‘recognised’ nuclear weapon powers under the NPT? The fact that under the NPT regime vertical proliferation has continued unabated gives the game away. Even the post 1992 charade of ‘reduction’ in nuclear weapons by US and Russia is an eye wash. All that has happened is that the ‘surplus’ nukes after the end of NATO-WARSAW Pacts confrontation in Europe, have been decommissioned. The feigned morality displayed by the supporters of no-changers in NPT is fake.


But 2006 is NOT 1945 and the world has changed dramatically since those days. The idea of a static power balance is itself historically incorrect. If this was to be true then half the world ought to have been still under the Roman Empire. The problem about the NPT and even UN is that unfortunately there is no ‘Exit’ policy for the ‘have-been’ great powers. What the Indo-US nuclear deal does is merely recognition of the new reality. Do the opponents of this treaty seriously believe that they can ‘cap, roll back and eliminate’ Indian nuclear weapons? The continuing sanctions have failed in stopping proliferation. What the Ayatollah’s are essentially arguing is that India should be continued to be ‘punished’ for not having signed the NPT. How that is going to stop Indian nuclear weapon programme is a question that is left unanswered.


The argument that concessions to India will have ‘domino’ effect on other wannabe nuclear weapons aspirants is as false as was the original ‘Domino’ theory that plunged the US in an unnecessary war in Vietnam. Even the case of Indian subcontinent (India and Pakistan) is wrongly interpreted. ZA Bhutto, late Pakistani Prime Minister, began his nuclear weapons programme in 1971, three years before Indian nuclear test of 1974. ( “Pakistanis will eat grass but have nuclear weapons” , from ‘If I am Assassinated”   Biswin Sadi Pub, 1979). Interestingly, while India tested a nuclear device in May 1974, it was not until 1983-84 that Pakistan is likely to have obtained one. Recent revelations in rediff have shown how it was the Americans who bailed out the notorious A. Q. Khan- this on the authority of no less a person than the ex PM of Holland! Pakistani nuclear capability was possibly created by the US by proxy. The Chinese designs have been found in Libya where they reached via Pakistan. Pakistani nuclear capability is a result of American and Chinese actions during the Afghan and Cold War and NOT a knee jerk reactions to Indian actions. To think that Indian actions will have effect on Iran or North Korea is not logical.


Ultimately, as pointed out repeatedly by India, the NPT only addresses the ‘supply’ side of the nuclear question. The nuclear weapon nations have failed to take any worthwhile action on the ‘demand’ of the nuclear question. India has already taken steps in this direction by giving a ‘No First Use Pledge’. A universal pledge on the same lines will go a long way in curbing the demand for nuclear weapons amongst the nations like Iran or North Korea that feel threatened.


The Indo-US nuclear agreement whereby India voluntarily joins in the nuclear safeguards and export restrictions of the NPT regime is a net gain. Thus while the Indo-US nuclear deal may not be exactly as per the letter of the NPT, it however is in line with the spirit of the treaty. This is where the purists like the Ayatollah, seem more concerned with the letter.


Some non proliferationists have been hurling charges of cheating, theft etc at the Indian nuclear establishment. It should interest them to know that the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research began work in area of nuclear energy even before independence, in 1945. Nuclear science and photonics owes its existence to Indian scientists like C.V. Raman and Satyen Bose. Going back in time, the science of Mathematics, Algebra, Astronomy and Surgery owe a debt to Indians. The Western science has progressed standing on the shoulders of these ancient Indian thinkers and scientists. The churlish accusation of theft of intellectual property etc betray an uneducated mind.    







Legacy of Mistrust and Cold Warriors.


The historical circumstances combined to get India a raw deal at the end of Second World War. In Tehran conference in 1943, when the contours of future world organisations were finalised an American diplomat dismissed India’s claim to Security Council seat on the grounds that India had yet to win its York Town! (28 Sep to 18 Oct 1781 that sealed the fate of British and is regarded as the decisive battle of American war of independence). The diplomat failed to realise that York Town was NOT an American victory alone but the French played a major role. But with Imperialist Churchill at the helm of affairs, India’s case went unrepresented. This despite the fact that over two and half million Indians fought in the second world war. Indians won more Victoria Crosses and George Crosses than even the British! Indian claims to the high table were ignored unfairly as the British have never forgiven Indians for ending their empire. A taste of this was when the British media came out  strongly against the Indo US nuclear deal. American Congress will be well advised to ignore the unsolicited advice of our and their former colonial masters!


I have been dealing with American diplomats and think tanks for last 15 years and one feels that the stale smell of Cold War mindset still lingers on the corridors of Foggy Bottoms or think tanks corridors like the yesterdays Pizza lunch! Situation is similar in South Block, home to Indian foreign ministry where the smell lingering is of old non-alignment era Doas! Since the 1970s the US did everything to thwart Indian progress in nuclear field. Death of Dr. Homi Bhabha in plane crash in  Jan 1966 is still a mystery. Once India embarked on construction of heavy water based reactors, equipment for this suddenly dried up. Exchange towers meant for Talcher plant suddenly fell off the ship off Portuguese coast. The plant faced prolonged labour trouble. Baroda plant was destroyed in an explosion. The nadir was reached when in 1980s the US came out strongly in favour of Punjab separatists. To cover the tracks of those activities, it probably scuttled the trial of ‘Kanishka’ bombers till as recently as last year! Even during President Clinton’s first term, every time India seemed to get a grip over situation in Kashmir, Ms Albright ensured that the morale of the separatists was kept up. The US has its own share of misgivings. Throughout the cold war India sided with the Soviet Union and kept quiet even when the Soviets brutally squashed the Hungarian revolt of 1956, Czechoslovakian uprising of 1967 and was chary of condemning Afghan invasion of 1979. In fact, till as late as 1979, the NATO military exercises routinely counted the Indian armed forces as part of the enemy camp.


Career diplomats and think tanks specialists had made a living out of India bashing during the Cold War. A constant theme of the arguments was the equating of India and Pakistan. The nuclear deal decisively puts an end to that charade. But old habits and written words do not die easily. The opposition to the deal is more due to the fear of losing funding and damaged careers rather than any logical reasoning. Some of the ‘specialists’ have now taken to the job of conjuring up Phantom demons in rise of Indian nationalism. Even Samuel Huntington in one of his essays post the ‘Clash of Civilisation’ theory mentions the fact that Indian Bolywood continues to out produce Hollywood in terms of number of movies per year! He wonders as to why the American soft power has left India untouched. But he and the think tanks have forgotten another Indian threat: the spread of Yoga! ( though to the American credit, even the ‘Time’ has appropriated Yoga and some have even gone to the extent of patenting it.) But surely if Bolywood and Yoga conquer the US, the effect could only be beneficial to a society that is violent and obese! Both could do with some tear jerkers of Bolywood and slimming actions of Yoga!


Nuclear Deal: Win Win for Both.     


But in the ultimate analysis, the fate of the Indo-US nuclear deal will be decided by the ‘Pragmatists’ and not by the out of sync specialists or jaded Cold Warriors. Here it would be honest to admit that the nuclear deal and its attendant lifting of technology sanctions on dual use items will enhance Indian military capability. Will this pose any threat to the Americans like the old folly of patronising AQ Khan of one OBL! Here the American law makers must see the fact that despite its available capability, India has refrained from developing an ICBM that could reach the US. Indian nuclear capability is specifically oriented towards deterring China. In case of Pakistan, for very long India has been having a strategy of developing small nukes for battlefield use. ( Combat Papers of July/Aug 1981 under the inspiration of late General K. Sunderji). In any case far too many Indian decision makers and elites have their kith and kin in the US for India to ever think of targeting US with nuclear weapons.


In Shakespeare idiom, “ there is something rotten in the state of China “ . It would indeed be in India’s and everyone’s interest if the rise of China is peaceful. But there are serious problems that confront that nation. Lack of transparency and Chinese oligarchy is opaque and is already producing individual violence due to lack of freedom and independent judiciary. , China faces daunting internal challenges, possibly severe and also  plausible. Under the one party iron rule of Communist party, there is no individual freedom in China. Even the judiciary is under party control and an individual with personal grievance has no method of redress. The news that filters through the ‘Bamboo Curtain’ often gives a glimpse of violent reactions to various injustices. But the vice like grip on power of the Communist Party and the Peoples Liberation Army is such that any organised resistance to the regime is unlikely. Chinese have been careful to squash any organization other than the Communist party. The sever crack down on the ‘Guang Falong ‘ is an example. But individual frustration could lead to acts of terrorism and industrial sabotage. There has already been several such incidents. If these individual revolts against the system take a form of epidemic then the effect could indeed derail Chinese economy. Internet and spread of communications as well as ‘external’ encouragement could well make it more than a mere pin prick.


China in its drive for industrialisation completely ignored safety and environment. It is indeed strange that a would be super power suffers from mine accidents on a very regular basis. In the ‘Workers Paradise’ the mine workers have no godfatherThe frequent explosions in coal mines raises serious questions about the efficiency of the management and state oversight.


But even greater disaster in waiting for China is the utter disregard for environmental impact of economic development. The recent incident where hazardous chemicals have flowed into major international river like the Amur is a cause for concern not just for China but even for Russia. The situation  has arisen due to the fact that in the Chinese system there is no room for checks and balances or rival power centres. This may well give an appearance of  efficiency and decisiveness,  but in reality result in poor decisions. How China overcomes this is a question mark. Does it democratise? Can it control the process? There are no easy answers.


China has over last two decades succeeded in controlling its population. Its rising living standards are to some extent due to this. To achieve this the Chinese ENFORCED ONE CHILD NORM.  It is well known that in China in general ( and India ) in rural area in particular there is a marked preference to a male child. In China’s opaque system with wide spread use of abortions, it is indeed certain that the male-female ration is skewed badly in favour of males. What impact this would have on crime and law and order situation in future is unknown to even the best of social scientists since this is a indeed a unique case. With the enforcement of ‘one child’ norm, already large part of the Chinese population would be the ‘only’ child of its parents. From universal experience of families, it is seen than a single child is often obstinate, demanding and selfish. Imagine a country where 500 million citizens have this psychological background. Nation is after all a collection of individuals. What will a future China look like? Will such a nation be able to live in peace with the rest of the world or would it be aggressive and domineering?


To be fair, India is attempting to put its relations with China on an even keel and is unlikely to be an ‘Appendage’ of the America’s China policy. But by its very existence it will be an uncertain ‘X’ factor that China will have to consider in any of its future confrontation with the US on issues ranging from Taiwan to oil is Sea of Japan. Militarily strong India is in the interest of the US.


US Congresspersons are well aware that the greatest nightmare facing the US is the possibility that the Islamist terrorists get hold of the nuclear weapons. Given the history of AQ Khan network, Taliban link and lure of Pan Islam, nukes when used against the US will have a ‘made in Pakistan’ tag on them. The danger is NOT of nuclear weapons falling into the Jihadi hands, but much greater, of the whole of Pakistani state being taken over by the Jihadis! There are limits to what Musharraf can deliver and doubts about how long he will last. Interestingly, thanks to people to people contact, cricket and role of Indian Muslims, India is no longer the enemy number one in Pakistan, that honour goes to the US. This is not an exaggeration as the US diplomats in Islamabad would testify that in recent ‘Cartoon row’ it was the students from English medium schools and govt colleges who threw stones at the American embassy. Fifteen years ago, on 17 July 1991, while on a visit to the US, I had given extracts of Pakistani text books and drawn attention of Ms Sandy Charles, Director Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, to the ‘Islamization’ that is taking place in Pakistan and its long term repercussions. That generation of Pakistanis fed on the Zia Ul Haq designed curriculum is today come of age. Pessimistically, it is not question of whether but  when the Jihadis take over that country. In that situation, it is only India that can de-fang Pakistan.



India-US: Partnership for Peace.


Despite convoluted logic from Harvard Professor of Sanskrit language, the fact remains that India is pluralistic civilisation with basic ethos rooted in not merely individual freedom but individual divinity. India had an Empire in South East Asia that was a result of export of culture NOT soldiers. In its 5000 years of unbroken history, India has never invaded a foreign land.  More than 71 % Indians regard US ( not necessarily President ) as a friend. Indo-US nuclear accord will only cement a relationship based on shared values. US Congress will do well to ignore the out of date experts, the non proliferation Ayatollahs and British.


Failure of Congress to accept the deal will only delay the positive outcome. Have we not wasted enough time in being estranged?