Against Nuclear Apartheid

28 Sep, 1998    ·   145

The following are extracts from an article in the Foreign Affairs journal, September/October 1998

The Case for India 's Tests



While the end of the Cold War transformed the political landscape in Europe , it did little to ameliorate India 's security concerns. The rise of China and continued strains with Pakistan made the 1980s and 1990s a greatly troubling period for India . At the global level, the nuclear weapons states showed no signs of moving decisively toward a world free of atomic danger. Instead, the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) was extended indefinitely and unconditionally in 1995, perpetuating the existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of five countries . . . In 1996, after they had conducted over 2,000 tests, a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature, following two and a half years of negotiations in which India participated actively. This treaty, alas, was neither comprehensive nor related to disarmament but rather devoted to ratifying the nuclear status quo. India 's options had narrowed critically.



India had to ensure that its nuclear option, developed and safeguarded over decades, was not eroded by self-imposed restraint. . . . Faced with a difficult decision, New Delhi realized that its lone touchstone remained national security. The nuclear tests it conducted on May 11 and 13 were by then not only inevitable but a continuation of policies from almost the earliest years of independence. India 's nuclear policy remains firmly committed to a basic tenet: that the country's national security in a world of nuclear proliferation lies either in global disarmament or in exercise of the principle of equal and legitimate security for all.



The Tests of May



In 1947, when a free India took its rightful place in the world, both the nuclear age and the Cold War had already dawned. Instead of aligning with either bloc, India   . . chose the more difficult path of nonalignment . . . India 's foreign policy was based



on its desire to attain an alternative global balance of power that, crucially, was structured around universal, nondiscriminatory disarmament . . .



Nuclear weapons, theorists (however) reasoned, are not actually weapons of war but, in effect, military deterrents and tools of possible diplomatic coercion. . . . In the absence of universal disarmament, India could scarcely accept a regime that arbitrarily divided nuclear haves from have-nots . . . From the start, therefore, its principles instilled a distaste for the self-identified and closed club of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. . . .



In the 1960s, India 's security concerns deepened. In 1962, China attacked India on its Himalayan border. The nuclear age entered India 's neighbourhood when China became a nuclear power in October 1964. From then on, no responsible Indian leader could rule out the option of following suit.



With no international guarantees of Indian security forthcoming, nuclear abstinence by India alone seemed increasingly worrisome. . . . A series of Indian nonproliferation initiatives had scant impact. . . . In 1968, India reaffirmed its commitment to disarmament but decided not to sign the NPT. In 1974 it conducted its first nuclear test, Pokhran I.



The first 50 years of Indian independence reveal that the country's moralistic nuclear policy and restraint paid no measurable dividends . . . Disarmament seemed increasingly unrealistic politics. If the permanent five's possession of nuclear weapons increases security, why would India 's possession of nuclear weapons be dangerous? If the permanent five continue to employ nuclear weapons as an international currency of force and power, why should India voluntarily devalue its own state power and national security? Why admonish India after the fact for not falling in line behind a new international agenda of discriminatory nonproliferation pursued largely due to the internal agendas or political debates of the nuclear club? If deterrence works in the West . . .  by what reasoning will it not work in India ? Nuclear weapons powers continue to have, but preach to the have-nots to have even less. India counters by suggesting either universal, nondiscriminatory disarmament or equal security for the entire world.



India is alone in the world in having debated the available nuclear options for almost the last 35 years. No other country has deliberated so carefully and, at times, tortuously over the dichotomy between its sovereign security needs and global disarmament instincts, between a moralistic approach and a realistic one, and between a covert nuclear policy and an overt one. May 11, 1998, changed all that  .





The Failure of the Old Regime



Since Independence, India has consistently advocated global nuclear disarmament . . . (It) was the first to call for a ban on nuclear testing in 1954, for a nondiscriminatory treaty on nonproliferation in 1965, for a treaty on non-use of nuclear weapons in 1978, for a nuclear freeze in 1982, and for a phased program for complete elimination of nuclear weapons in 1988. Unfortunately, most of these initiatives were rejected by the nuclear weapons states . . . For years India conveyed its apprehensions to other countries, but this did not improve its security environment. This disharmony and disjunction between global thought and trends in Indian thought about nuclear weapons is, unfortunately, the objective reality of the world. . . . Since this currency is operational in large parts of the globe, India was left with no choice but to update and validate the capability that had been demonstrated 24 years ago in the nuclear test of 1974.



India 's May 1998 tests violated no international treaty obligations. The CTBT, to which India does not subscribe, permits parties to withdraw if they believe supreme national interests to be jeopardized. Moreover, the forcing of an unconditioned and indefinite extension of the NPT on the international community made 1995 a watershed in the evolution of the South Asian situation. India was left with no option but to go in for overt nuclear weaponization. The Sino-Pakistani nuclear weapons collaboration -a flagrant violation of the NPT - made it obvious that the NPT regime had collapsed in India 's neighborhood. Since it is now argued that the NPT is unamendable, the legitimization of nuclear weapons implicit in the unconditional and indefinite extension of the NPT is also irreversible. India could have lived with a nuclear option but without overt weaponization in a world where nuclear weapons had not been formally legitimized . . . Unfortunately, the full implications of the 1995 NPT extension were debated neither in India nor  abroad. . . .



Nor was the CTBT helpful. In negotiations on the CTBT in 1996. India for the first time stated that the nuclear issues is a national security concern for India and advanced that as one reason why India was unable to accede to the CTBT.   Presumably this persuaded the nuclear hegemons to introduce a clause at the last minute pressing India , along with 43 other nations, to sign the treaty to bring it into force. This coercive clause violates the Vienna Convention on Treaties, which stipulates that a nation not willing to be a party to a treaty cannot have obligations arising out of that treaty imposed on it. Even more galling, this clause was introduced at the insistence of China - the provider of nuclear technology to Pakistan . . .



India 's plight worsened as the decade wore on. In 1997 more evidence surfaced on the proliferation between China and Pakistan and about U.S. permissiveness on this issue. During Chinese President Jiang Zemin's recent visit to Washington , the United States insisted on a separate agreement with China on Chinese proliferation to Iran and Pakistan , which unease and the Chinese signature attest Chinese proliferation as a threat to India 's security. After all these assurances, China continued to pass missile technology and components to Pakistan . Despite this, the Clinton administration was still willing to certify that China was not proliferating or - even worse for India - that the United States was either unable or unwilling to restrain China . As the range of options for India narrowed, so, too, did the difficulties of taking corrective action.



A Fine Balance



. . . The earlier Indian forays into the question of nuclear disarmament were admittedly more moralistic than realistic. the current disharmony therefore, between India and the rest of the globe is that India has moved from being totally moralistic to being a little more realistic, while the rest of the nuclear world has arrived at all its nuclear conclusions entirely realistically. With a surplus of nuclear weapons and the technology for fourth-generation weapons, the other nuclear moralistic position. Here is the cradle of lack of understanding about the Indian stand. . . .



Now, as the century turns, India faces critical choices. India '(s) . . . security environment both globally and in Asia , deteriorated. The end of the Cold War created the appearance of American unipolarity but also led to the rise of additional power centers . . . But the rise of China led to new security strains that were not addressed by the existing nonproliferation regime. The 1995 indefinite extension of the NPT . . . legitimized in perpetuity the existing nuclear arsenals and in effect, an unequal nuclear regime . . . Neither the world nor the nuclear powers succeeded in halting the transfer of nuclear weapons technology from declared nuclear weapons powers to their preferred clients. The NPT notwithstanding, proliferation in India's back yard spread  . . . Chinese and Pakistani proliferation was no secret . . . (Today) India is the only country in the world sandwiched between two nuclear weapons powers.



Today most nations are also the beneficiaries of a nuclear security paradigm. From Vancouver to Vladivostok stretches a club: a security framework in which four nuclear weapons powers as partners in peace, provide extended deterrent protection. The Americas are under the U.S. nuclear deterrent as members of the Organization of American States. South Korea , Japan and Australia are also under the U.S. umbrella. China is, of course, a major nuclear power. Only Africa and southern Asia remain outside this new international nuclear paradigm where nuclear weapons and their rule in international conduct are paradoxically legitimized . . .



In the aftermath of the Cold War, an Asian balance of power is emerging with new alignments and new vacuums. India , in exercise of its supreme national interests, has acted in a timely fashion to correct an imbalance and fill a potentially dangerous vacuum. It endeavors to contribute to a stable balance of power in Asia which it holds will further the advance of democracy. A more powerful India will help balance and connect the oil-rich Gulf region and the rapidly industrializing countries of Southeast Asia .



To India 's north is the Commonwealth of Independent States, a reservoir that has yet to be fully developed. The Soviet Union 's successor, Russia , has considerably less international prestige. Inevitably, the previously existing alliance between India and the former U.S.S.R. has eroded.



On India 's western flank lies the Gulf region, a critical source of the world's energy .  . .  (T)his region and its neighbors have been targets of missile and nuclear proliferation. Long-range missiles entered this area in the mid-1980s. Since 1987, nuclear proliferation in the Gulf, which extraregional assistance, has continued unchecked.



Faced as India was with a legitimization of nuclear weapons by the haves, a global nuclear security paradigm from which it was excluded, a trend toward disequilibrium in the Asian balance of power, and a neighborhood in which two nuclear weapons countries act in concert, India had to protect its future by exercising its nuclear option . . .



India 's policies toward its neighbors and others have not changed. The country remains fully committed to the promotion of peace, stability, and resolution of all outstanding issues through bilateral dialogue and negotiations. The tests of May 11 and 13 were not directed against any country. They were intended to reassure the people of India about their own security. Confidence-building is a continuous process to which India remains committed.



India 's motive remains security, not, as some have speciously charged, domestic politics. Had the tests been motivated simply by electoral exigencies, there would have been no need to test the range of technologies and yields demonstrated in May. In the market place of Indian public life, a simple low-yield device would have sufficed. Since that marketplace did not govern the decision to experiment, the rests encompassed the range of technologies necessary to make a credible nuclear deterrent.



Join the Club



India is now a nuclear weapons state, as is Pakistan . That reality can neither be denied nor wished away . . .   India 's strengthened nuclear capability adds to its sense of responsibility - the obligation of power. India , mindful of its international duties, is committed to not using these weapons to commit aggression or to mount threats against any country. These are weapons of self-defense, to ensure that India , too, is not subjected to nuclear coercion.



India has reiterated its desire to enter into a no-first-use agreement with any country, either negotiated bilaterally or in a collective forum. India shall not engage in an arms race, nor, of course, shall it subscribe to or reinvent the sterile doctrines of the Cold War. India remains committed to the basic tenet of its foreign policy - a conviction that global elimination of nuclear weapons will enhance its security as well as that of the rest of the world. It will continue to urge countries, particularly other nuclear weapons states, to adopt measures that would contribute meaningfully to such an objective. This is the defining difference. It is also the cornerstone of India 's nuclear doctrine.



That is why India will continue to support initiatives, taken individually or collectively, by the Non-Aligned Movement, which has continued to attach the highest priority to nuclear disarmament. This was reaffirmed most recently at the NAM ministerial meeting held soon after India had conducted its recent series of underground tests. (The meeting reiterated its) call at the Conference on Disarmament to establish, as the highest priority, an ad hoc committee to start negotiations in 1998 on a phased program for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified time, including a nuclear weapons convention. The collective voice of 113 NAM countries echoes an approach to global nuclear disarmament to which India has remained committed.



One NAM initiative, to which great importance is attached, resulted in the International Court of Justice's unanimous July 1996 declaration that there is an international obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to comprehensive nuclear disarmament under strict and effective international control. India was one of the countries that appealed to the ICJ on this issue. No other nuclear weapons state has supported this judgment in fact, they all have decried it. India has been and will continue to be in the forefront of the calls for opening negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention. This challenge should be confronted with the same vigor that has dealt with the scourges of biological and chemical weapons. In keeping with its commitment to comprehensive, universal and nondiscriminatory approaches to disarmament, India is an original party to the conventions against both. In recent years, in keeping with these new challenges, India has actively promoted regional cooperation - in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, in the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, and as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum. This engagement will continue. The policies of economic liberalization introduced in recent years have increased India 's regional and global linkages, and India shall deepen and strengthen these ties . . .



After the tests, India stated that it will henceforth observe a voluntary moratorium and refrain from conducting underground nuclear test explosions. It has also indicated a willingness to move toward a de jure formalization of this declaration. The basic obligation of the CTBT is thus met: to undertake no more nuclear tests. Since India already subscribes to the substance of     the test ban treaty, all that remains is its actual signature.



India has also expressed readiness to participate in negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on the fissile material cut-off treaty. The basic objective of this pact is to prohibit future production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons. India 's approach in these negotiations will be to ensure that this treaty is universal, nondiscriminatory, and backed by an effective verification mechanism. That same constructive approach will underlie India 's dialogue with countries that need to be persuaded of India 's serious intent. The challenge to Indian statecraft remains to reconcile India 's security imperatives with valid international concerns regarding nuclear weapons.



Let the world move toward finding more realistic solutions and evolving a universal security paradigm for the entire globe Since nuclear weapons are not really usable paradoxically, the dilemma lies, paradoxically, in their continuing deterrent value.



This paradox further deepens the concern of statesman. How are they to employ state power in the service of national security and simultaneously address international concerns? How can they help the world create an order that promises a peaceful present and an orderly future. How are they to reconcile the fact that nuclear weapons have a deterrent value with the objective global reality that some countries have this value and others do not. How can a lasting balance be founded? While humanity is indivisible, national security interests, as expressions of sovereignty, are not. What India did in May was to assert that that it is impossible to have two standards for national security - one based on nuclear deterrence and the other outside of it.



The end of the Cold War did not result in the end of history. The great thaw that began in the late 1980s only melted down the ancient animosities of Europe . We have not entered a unipolar order. India still lives in a rough neighborhood. It would be a great error to assume that simply advocating the new manner of globalisation and the market makes national security subservient to global trade. The 21st century will not be the century of trade. The world still has to address the unfinished agenda of the centuries.