IN the CCS’ statement, two new elements have been introduced into the No First Use posture. Firstly, in the original DND retaliation would have been in response to “any nuclear attack on India and its forces” (para 2.3b, DND, op cit.) The same has now been modified to mean that nuclear weapons will be used “in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere” (PMO, op cit.). That Indian forces are going to be “anywhere” is certainly a revelation. The government owes an explanation to the Indian people as to what it means. It certainly cannot mean peacekeeping missions under the aegis of the United Nations, because Indian forces during such missions have not so far been engaged in any peace breaking activities unlike the US forces.
There is absolutely no reason why Indian forces, which engages themselves in credible peace making activities, should come under a nuclear attack. (But any likely military deployment abroad by India, which is outside the pale of the UN, would be questionable and should not be undertaken in the first place.)
Secondly, unlike the DND, the CCS states that “in the event of a major attack against India, or Indian forces anywhere, by biological or chemical weapons, India will retain the option of retaliating with nuclear weapons” (ibid). This is again a very questionable posture. Does this mean that if there is a major chemical disaster for which say a US multinational company (e.g. Union Carbide Corporation in the Bhopal gas leak disaster of December 1984) is culpable, will the government of India then consider the option of targeting the United States with nuclear weapons? How will discretion be exercised? Effectively, this posture would mean that India is going back on its No-First-Use pledge. When chemical or biological agents are released by firing artillery shells it may not be difficult to identify the aggressor. But the magnitude of the damage that could be inflicted through such a process would be very limited and cannot even theoretically justify a nuclear response. Under other circumstances, identifying the aggressor is going to be quite problematic just as in the case of a nuclear attack. A nuclear response to any situation might be a very convenient belligerent stance but that would only compound the problem and can never bring about any solution. All types of terrorism can be contained once its global links are severed. What is required is international co-operation in eliminating the menace; there is no other short cut.
In an attempt to tone down the bellicosity, the CCS has reiterated that it would remain committed to: (1) “Non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states”; and (2) “A continuance of strict controls on export of nuclear and missile materials and technologies, participation in the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty negotiations, and continued observance of the moratorium on nuclear tests”. That the government has chosen to standby these commitments is a sign of sobriety. The CCS also re-emphasised India’s “Continued commitment to the goal of a nuclear weapon free world, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament” (ibid). However, if this laudatory pronouncement was not followed up with concrete action, there is a high propensity that the same would become a mere cover for concealing aggressive nuclear war plans. To assume that the onus of pursuing the goal of global nuclear disarmament is that of someone else is a convenient way of passing the buck and to quietly shy away from taking on the responsibility.
ITCHING FOR WAR
The CCS, which announced the setting up of a Nuclear Command Authority – a two-tier body consisting of a Political Council and an Executive Council – has tried to imply that India is a responsible nuclear weapon power. It has claimed that only the “Political Council…chaired by the prime minister” (ibid) [hopefully meaning the elected leadership] of the country can take the dreaded decision to initiate a nuclear strike. But this announcement is hardly reassuring considering the fact that it was an elected government in the United States that took the reprehensible decision to use nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 when an already defeated Japan was on the verge of surrender. While the ultimate decision to use the horrendous weapon may rest with the civilian leadership, the fact is that effective control over nuclear weapons as expected would remain with the military. A Strategic Forces Command has already been set up for the purpose and the CCS has appointed a Commander-in-Chief for the same to manage and administer all strategic forces.
The CCS also indicated that it has “reviewed and approved the arrangements for alternate chains of command for retaliatory nuclear strikes in all eventualities” (ibid). The way this statement has been formulated underlines the cold and insensitive manner in which the proponents of the nuclear doctrine are treating the issue. That the prime minister of the country could get knocked out in the very first nuclear strike is presented as just a matter-of-fact. That millions of Delhiites would perish along with the PM is left unsaid because it is of little consequence. The whole emphasis is on ensuring that there would be a ‘next-in-command’ who would be empowered to give the deadly signal for a retaliatory strike. It is as though the authors of this abhorrent doctrine are hoping that someone (preferably Pakistan) would carry out a nuclear first strike on India so they can retaliate in a manner that would “inflict unacceptable damage” on the aggressor. They are just itching to retaliate because their entire focus is on retaliation and not on initiating concrete steps towards preventing a nuclear war.
The saddest part is that the urgency of preventing a nuclear war has become a non-issue as far as the CCS was concerned. They are content to pay ritualistic lip service to the cause of nuclear disarmament and to do little else. On the contrary, the stress is on “overall preparedness” of the “existing command and control structures, the state of readiness, the targeting strategy for a retaliatory attack, and operating procedures for various stages of alert and launch” (ibid). Any reference to India’s long held principled stand that ‘the use of nuclear weapons constitutes a violation of the UN Charter and a crime against humanity’ is consciously avoided. In fact the very phrase “to prevent use of nuclear weapons” was completely missing from the entire text of even the original DND! ‘Nuclear war-fighting’ is the strategy that has now captured the imagination of the CCS’.
Another matter that has caused concern is the proposal put forward inadvertently by the president of India, Dr Abdul Kalam. In a speech titled “Vision for the Global Space Community: Prosperous, Happy and Secure Planet Earth” (http://pib.nic.in/archieve/lreleng/lyr2003/rjan2003/04012003/r040120032.html) that was delivered at the Space Summit of the 90th Session of the Indian Science Congress at Bangalore on January 4, 2003, Dr Kalam, spoke of the need for an “International Space Force”. While it is very evident that the president had not referred to the Space Force with any sinister motive, the implications of his suggestion would actually be quite contrary to what he had in mind. Dr Kalam had correctly recognised “the necessity for the world’s space community to avoid terrestrial geo-political conflict to be drawn into outer space, thus threatening the space assets belonging to all mankind”. The President had also expressed his eagerness “to protect world space assets in a manner which will enable peaceful use of space on a global co-operative basis without the looming threat of conflict on earth”. But the “International Space Force” that Dr Kalam wants to establish would itself become the biggest stumbling block in the way of attaining the important objectives that he has highlighted. On the other hand, what was required was not the setting up of a group of “protectors” but the total de-militarisation of space so that all assets could be preserved and shared in a co-operative manner for the benefit of all humankind.
The biggest threat that is looming large today is the concerted attempt of the United States to militarise space in a bid to impose its will over the rest of humanity. Under the circumstances, the danger is that any attempt to create an “International Space Force” may in the end just turn out to be a mere euphemism for a “US Space Force”. The president’s noble vision to enable “peaceful use of space on a global co-operative basis” would then remain only a pipe dream. It is in this context that the president’s suggestion appears alarming. The apprehension seems well justified considering the fact that India has held a two-day official level talks with the United States on the so-called Missile Defence on January 15-16, 2003.
These talks were a continuation of two rounds of discussions held in May 2001 and May 2002. It may be recalled that in total contravention of its principled stand against militarisation of space, the government of India on May 2, 2001 became the first major government to declare tacit support to the “Missile Defence” system propounded by the US Administration. It marked a major break from India’s purported policy of Non-Alignment. The “Missile Defence” system is very much an integral part of the US strategic framework to militarise space through its preposterous “Star War” plans. By opting to play second fiddle to the US in this sinister programme, the government of India has completely compromised the vital interests of the country. If the grotesque plan ever gets going the mass of humanity will be forced to pay a heavy price.
A SHARP CONTRAST
The questionable policies that the government of India is pursuing at home and at a bilateral level is in sharp contrast to the forthright policies it has been upholding in several international fora, especially in the United Nations. India’s Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Rakesh Sood, while speaking at the 57th Session of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly on October 7, 2002, had made the following announcement. He stated that the Indian delegation was “bringing before this committee yet again, as it has done since 1982, the resolution calling for a convention to be negotiated for prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances”. Mr Sood also said that: “India’s resolution entitled “Reducing Nuclear Danger” will be presented to this committee for the fifth consecutive year with the expectation that it will receive wider support and convince those who are still skeptical of the need for early concrete action” (http://www.meadev.nic.in/govt/rakeshsood-7oct.htm).
The UN General Assembly adopted the two above-mentioned resolutions on November 22, 2002 with the support of both India and Pakistan. The resolution for a ‘Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons’ (A/RES/57/94 -see http://disarmament.un.org/) was passed by 110 to 45 votes with 12 abstentions (with the entire NATO block and its supporters opposing it). While the resolution on ‘Reducing Nuclear Danger’ (A/RES/57/84) was passed by 107 to 46 votes with 17 abstentions. Both India and Pakistan have extended support to yet another important resolution titled “Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the ‘Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons’”. The UN General Assembly adopted this resolution (A/RES/57/85) also on November 22, 2002 by 161 to 4 votes with 1 abstention. (Those who voted against were France, Israel, Russia and USA, while UK chose to abstain – leaving little doubt that they are the five powers that constitute the biggest stumbling block in way of global nuclear disarmament.) India and Pakistan were also among the group of nations that sponsored and supported the resolution (A/RES/57/57) on “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space”, which was passed in the General Assembly by 159 votes to 0 with 3 abstentions (Israel, Micronesia and USA).
However, it is a little too premature to be euphoric about the support that these resolutions have received. As India’s representative, Rakesh Sood, has pointed out: “The political will necessary to kick-start the negotiations of long awaited and future oriented disarmament treaties has not been in evidence for yet another year. If we do not get our act together, we are in danger of engaging in activities “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. He further added that: “we need to shake ourselves out of our stupor and take concrete initiatives that address both the issues that have remained with us for long and those that have emerged in the post – September 11, 2001 context” (Mr Sood’s statement, op cit).
STEM THE DRIFT
It is time that the government of India itself first took heed of Mr Sood’s plea. The point is that both India and Pakistan have on the floor of the UN General Assembly unequivocally supported several resolutions in favour of global nuclear disarmament and against the arms race. They both claim: (1) that they support a convention on prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances; (2) that they are ready to take all necessary steps to reduce the nuclear danger; (3) that the only defence against a nuclear catastrophe is the total elimination of nuclear weapons; (4) that they recognise the need to commence negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons with a specified framework of time; and (5) that they are against an arms race in outer space. Then why is it not possible for the two nations to reiterate the same at a bilateral level on a joint platform? Instead, what is happening is that, outside the four walls of the UN and especially at home, the two neighbours are constantly at loggerheads and rattling their nuclear sabre at each other. (The rare exception is the ‘Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack Against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between India and Pakistan’, which was signed in 1988*. As to why similar agreements cannot be signed bilaterally to prevent a nuclear war or, for that matter, any war between the two is inexplicable.) [*The agreement came into force in 1991. Under the agreement, the two countries are to inform each other on January 1 of every calendar year of the nuclear installations and facilities to be covered by the Agreement. The 12th such exchange took place on January 1, 2003. See TheHindu, Delhi, January 2, 2003]
It may not be an exaggeration to say that the leaders in both India and Pakistan try to conceal from their peoples as much as possible about their common and often joint activities in the UN for furthering the cause of world peace. Any way it cannot be denied that hardly any publicity is given to these efforts. At home they are more pre-occupied with rabble-rousing and little else. Demonisation of each other caters to the wild passions of the religious right and conflating hatred of the other community with defence of one’s nation is done so as to extract good dividends in domestic politics. By refusing to initiate concrete action on the numerous issues on which they have a common position, the leadership of the two countries are only deceiving their own peoples. Unless the concerned citizens of India and Pakistan rise up to put an end to this mindless drift, a tragic end might not be too far away for a sizeable section of humanity.