Indian Civilisation: Prelude to a New World View

30 May, 1998    ·   103

Giri Deshingkar points out how the nuclear tests recently conducted were nuclear lab driven. The politicians were entrusted with the decision of 'when' and not 'what'.

After the recent nuclear explosions, a top nuclear scientist reportedly said that until the tests Indians had to read their ancient classics to feel proud; now they would not have to do so. This scientist, who celebrated the event by opening a champagne bottle, forgot in that moment of glory that our ancient classics were our own; what he was celebrating was just a special case of import substitution; the devices/weapons the Indian scientists and engineers had produced had been invented by the West, then imitated by China, and were already within the easy reach of many developed countries. The idea of measuring the achievement of the Indian civilization on the scale of megatons of destruction can however, be considered a conceptual breakthrough by a particular kind of Indians!



The fact that there were five different tests as well as supplementary claims about other achievements tells us that they were nuclear laboratory (and DRDO) driven. It is not the political leaders who, through a discussion among themselves, told them what kind of devices/weapons the labs were to work for and make. Funds were allocated and the labs were left to themselves. The only role played by the political leaders was about when to go public. We know from the reactions of the scientists and engineers to the debate over whether India should sign the CTBT that they panicked at the prospect of their "scientific research" coming to an end if India had signed the treaty. But now that the government is speaking about signing the CTBT after "negotiating with key interlocutors", we will need to see whether the labs mount any secret resistance (as did the American and Chinese labs) and whether they seek exponentially higher allocations to weaponize the devices for serial production and then for stockpile stewardship as well as "fail safe" and command-and -control technologies.



New revelations about the genesis of the Indian bombs show that successive Prime Ministers of India, with the sole exception of Morarji Desai, had supported the Indian weapons programme. Thus, there never have been any internal constraints on the labs, only external US pressures to prevent actual testing. Thus, for all practical purposes, India ’s nuclear (and space) labs have been functioning as autonomous entities, making demands on the exchequer under the cover of secrecy.



Indian nuclear theology holds that there can be no nuclear arms race in the subcontinent unless Pakistan receives technical help from other powers. Our own brand of nuclear theology raises more questions than it can answer. The deed is done; the nuclear labs have presented the country with a fait accompli. While the Prime Minister has somewhat controlled aggressive political clamour, the scientists continue to air plans for hyperplanes firing missiles from space, reusable precision guided missiles with nuclear warheads and such other Star War like technological advances. To encourage the whole country to move in that direction, the Prime Minister has declared the day of Pokhran II, 11 May, also the day of Buddha Purnima, as "Technology Day", effectively equating technological progress with nuclear bombs. The scientist quoted at the beginning of this piece was not speaking out of turn. The bombs have indeed produced a new Indian civilization.