INDIA’S NUCLEAR TEST
An Article for Los Angeles Times on
While the world slept, India detonated a series of nuclear tests signaling it’s determination to threaten the entire non-proliferation regime in the region.
That India chose to detonate nuclear devices on the eve of President Clinton’s visit this coming November to South Asia showed its defiance of world opinion in the age of Pax Americana.
The Post Cold War global regime has been predicated on the free flow of information and technology. This, we believed, was a world of markets, not missiles. However, India chose to gamble more than $ 30 billion of foreign investments on a series of tests that have united the nation behind it’s weak coalition government.
The Indian explosion is a direct challenge to the American led efforts to arrive at a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and at a regime to control weapons of mass destruction.
To Pakistan, which suffered disintegration at the hands of India in 1971, it is a clear warning to desist from it’s support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir at the insistence of a nuclear India. China, surely, is uneasy to.
As Prime Minister of Pakistan, I tried to convince Western leaders for over a decade that, in the absence of Western mediation, South Asia was plunging head long into a proliferation race that Pakistan did not want and sought to prevent.
I stressed that the fifty year old Indo-Pak dispute over Kashmir, where an uprising had tied down 600,000 Indian troops was leading to a dangerous flash point in the South Asia region. Alas, my pleadings failed to convince a Western world preoccupied with the Mid-East Peace talks, and the bloodshed in Bosnia, Rwanda and other parts of the world.
Western leaders believed, and told me so, that they preferred India and Pakistan to bilaterally deal with the dispute which threatened a nuclear race. This was a strategic error. It paved the way for India to come out openly as a nuclear power.
What is the Pakistani reaction? Pakistanis believe that the West will impose sanctions for some time but ultimately acquiesce to India as a nuclear power. After a decade the West will reward India, as a nuclear power, with a seat in the UN Security Council along with other members of the nuclear club.
Two years ago when the Chinese and the French tested nuclear devices against the backdrop of the CTBT talks, as Prime Minister of Pakistan, I received disturbing reports.
These reports indicated that a frustrated Indian military wanted to force Pakistan’s nuclear hand before taking a decision on a military solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. A segment of the Indian military doubted whether Pakistan had nuclear capability or was bluffing to create a nuclear deterrence which did not exist. An Indian explosion, they believed, would force Pakistan to come into the open. If Pakistan did not have a nuclear capability, India could consider a military solution of the Kashmir dispute.
Pakistan had not actually put together a device, although it could do so, as a signal to the West of it’s support to a non-proliferation regime unless it’s security was threatened. An Indian detonation, our experts believed, would threaten Pakistan’s security unless we could create an equilibrium through deterrence.
Pakistan decided to pen the option of a test by making the necessary preparations to respond with a nuclear test of it’s own within 30 days unless the West showed the will to stop India in it’s nuclear tracks. Pakistan also decided that if it was forced to detonate it would follow up with a unilateral signing of the international agreements aimed at controlling weapons of mass destruction.
This is surely a nightmare situation for the West. What can the West do? Doling out military and economic assistance can shore up Pakistan’s security for a decade. But as Pakistan learnt in the aftermath of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, not more. Nor can a West which failed to prevent the Indian test guarantee that a weak Indian coalition government rashly seeking popular support would not equally rashly seek a nuclear war in South Asia.
I am not a military expert. But I believe sanctions are not simply enough. Rogue nations which defy world opinion ought to be taught a lesson. If a pre-emptive military strike is possible to neutralize India’s nuclear capability, that is the response that is necessary.