In­dia’s 1974 Nu­clear Test: Rai­son d’être

India Strategic - - EDITORIAL - Gul­shan Rai Luthra

I never for­mally in­ter­viewed Mrs Indira Gandhi but it was easy to ap­proach and in­ter­act with her as she would oc­ca­sion­ally visit the old Delhi air­port to re­ceive or see off VVIPS. There was a rather small VIP lounge, and she was in­vari­ably well in ad­vance there to wel­come the for­eign dig­ni­taries. At­tired gra­ciously, she never sat down and in­ter­acted with of­fi­cers and jour­nal­ists if we ap­proached her, pa­tiently re­ply­ing to what­ever was asked, par­tic­u­larly about the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions con­cern­ing the coun­try of the vis­it­ing dig­ni­tary. The in­ter­ac­tions were pleas­ant, and I must men­tion, al­ways en­cour­ag­ing. I had the priv­i­lege of do­ing nearly all the news­breaks con­cern­ing In­dia’s first nu­clear test at the start of my ca­reer, and my cu­rios­ity about diplo­matic and tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments was nat­u­ral. In one of the air­port in­ter­ac­tions, I asked her for the test’s rai­son d’être. Bal­anc­ing China, and the high ta­ble at the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil which In­dia de­serves, was her an­swer. It was her fa­ther, Jawa­har­lal Nehru, a per­fect gen­tle­man and states­man of the times who had fa­cil­i­tated China’s en­try into the UNSC. But China hurt In­dia by at­tack­ing us in 1962, and later Mrs Gandhi re­alised that In­dia has to es­tab­lish its place in the hard world. Pol­icy de­ci­sions set by her are still the guide­lines for In­dia not­with­stand­ing the pe­ri­odic changes in po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. The US was then keen for a mil­i­tary al­liance with In­dia against both China and the erst­while Soviet Union. In­dia was how­ever right in opt­ing out of the two Cold War blocs led by Wash­ing­ton and Moscow. Wash­ing­ton was un­for­giv­ing, and ini­ti­ated the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group (NSG) and other de­nial regimes against In­dia, even though New Delhi never shared or spread nu­clear or mis­sile tech­nolo­gies. Mo­rarji De­sai and VP Singh have been the only two Prime Min­is­ters to block In­dia’s nu­clear and mil­i­tary pro­grammes. De­sai, who suc­ceeded Mrs Gandhi af­ter the Emer­gency in 1977, re­moved 600 civil and mil­i­tary per­son­nel who also worked for the coun­try’s ex­ter­nal in­tel­li­gence agency, RAW, while VP Singh, build­ing up on al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion against Ra­jiv Gandhi in the 1986 Bo­fors deal, added a lie that the gun was of poor qual­ity, fired back­wards and killed own troops. Narasimha Rao took the nu­clear pro­gramme for­ward but could not con­duct a sec­ond nu­clear test due to the US pres­sure. He ad­vised his suc­ces­sor, Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee, to do that and the 1998 tests fol­lowed. Those were the days when In­dia could not even buy heavy water for its op­er­a­tional civil nu­clear re­ac­tors. In fact, RAW, which had a small busi­ness jet for com­mu­ni­ca­tions, had to buy a re­place­ment wind­screen from the black mar­ket at three times the price, thanks to the US-im­posed re­stric­tions. The US, and the world, have re­alised that while In­dia has strug­gled to de­velop ca­pa­bil­ity to find its right­ful place in the world order, it has al­ways meant well. Prime Min­is­ter Modi has worked hard in this per­spec­tive, and thank­fully, Wash­ing­ton is un­do­ing its past fol­lies – or mis­un­der­stand­ings. In­dia is now get­ting mem­ber­ship of MTCR. I hope NSG, and the UNSC hap­pen in our life­times. Well done, Mr Modi. Thank You, Pres­i­dent Obama.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.