The IIC Discussion – A Rejoinder

08 Jun, 1998    ·   114

Maj. Gen. Dipankar Banerjee (Retd.) comments on discussion held at the IIC seminar on India's Nuclear Policy

The IIC discussion on 6 June highlighted the weakness in India 's approach towards policy formulation on critical issues facing the country today. It is not well informed, shaped often by individual biases and does not adequately allow alternate views.



First, on the question whether there is any change in the nuclear environment from 1990. The suggestion that there isn't is surprising to say the least. After the nuclear tests in May, both India and Pakistan have moved to a declared nuclear weapon status. From an ambiguous, recessed or non-weaponised state, both parties are now for all practical purposes weaponised. This is a major step upwards in the nuclear escalatory ladder. The major differences are:-



·                     Both sides can now improve their weaponisation. It was not possible till now.


·                     The weapons may also be deployed.


·                     Even if it is accepted that there was a nascent capability, without the tests it lacked credibility and was meaningless as an effective deterrence and therefore, was irrelevant.


·                     Given Pakistani infirmities, they could not have tested without India 's doing so. Our tests gave them the green light and allowed them to move up the escalatory ladder on India 's back.


·                     It now opens us up to international criticism and its consequences.


·                     We have now lost the moral high ground to criticise the world on its proliferation and affect the global non-proliferation agenda.


Lead to an Arms Race. It is indeed remarkable if we now believe that there will be no arms race in Southern Asia . True it will not be at the scale it was in the west. That was utterly irrelevant anyway. But, more because we just do not have that kind of money. But, if it can be assumed that we can develop adequate numbers of weapons, have sufficient delivery means and also cater for their command and control etc, at no cost; then this secret of military capability needs to be shared with the world. True these expenses can be hidden in other budgets. Such as in Space budget for missiles and Atomic Energy for nuclear weapons, but expenses there will be. China too will have to spend more to cater for a new situation. The logic of nuclear deterrence compels a growing capability with spiralling expenditure.



Need to Weaponise. The suggestion that in a state of minimum deterrence there is no need to weaponise and the bombs do not have to be kept with the Forces and may remain with the "scientific establishment", is again very surprising. It is true that the programme was essentially technology led and was not overtly related to security or strategy, but surely at this stage the holding, deployment and command and control needs to be with the armed forces. Else it will add another element of instability to the process. The political leadership must ofcourse exercise total control over its employment.



On the other hand there is no ground for being complacent that the Pakistani nuclear weapons are likely to be under the command of their Army and not the political leadership. To suddenly concede that the Pakistani Army is virtuous and fully responsible defies imagination. After all it is the Army that runs the ISI. It was also the alcoholic and morally lax General Yahya Khan who launched the irresponsible air strike in 1971 to start the war. Would he have not used a Ghauri with a nuclear warhead if he had one? Can one be absolutely sure? Why have we allowed a situation to develop where the lives of our citizens in Delhi , Mumbai or elsewhere for that matter be left at the tender mercy of a Pakistani General? Such a situation may not actually come about, but that is the reality of sub-continental nuclear weaponisation today and we cannot turn a blind eye to that.



Shekhar Gupta



His allusions to stunning self-goals are apt. The Government has also demolished the consensus in the nation on security and foreign policy issues. There existed a consensus that the NPT was discriminatory and India could not sign it. That the CTBT was against India 's security interests. Preparations may have existed for a nuclear test, but there was no consensus on actual nuclear testing. To expect an all-party consensus after the act, which was patently political, would be asking too much. A consensus would have emerged only after a mature debate and after the Strategic Defence Review. This was not allowed to happen.