Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, February 27th, 2020

Post-1998 Nuclear Dangers of South Asia

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Post-1998 Nuclear Dangers of South Asia

Following the 1998 tests the question of nuclear proliferation had reopened. The test were unambiguously military including one claimed to be of a sophisticated thermo- nuclear device.  Their declared purpose was  “to help  the  design of nuclear weapons of different yields  and  different delivery systems. Until May  1998,  the region  was satisfied  with “existential  deterrence”,  which  kept both countries, nuclear capability in ambiguity and in a non-weaponised state. The 1998 demonstration of capability by Pakistan was  carried out in something of a crisis situation. There was  intense international pressure on Pakistan, including threatened punishments (sticks) and possible inducements (carrots), if it refrained from  testing. Pakistan chose  to suffer the  sticks because it considered that a lack of response would erode  the  credibility of deterrence, which required not just demonstration of the “capability” but also demonstration of the  “will” to respond. Since  1998, the  nuclear bomb  has  been  a symbol  of India’s power and  prestige, but  the nuclear domain has  always stood  as a site  within which  India’s unique moral judgement could  be applied and  exihibited. Dominant thinking in  international relations finds  it hard to reconcile the  two trends, and  many have scratched their heads in puzzlement over the incongruity of India’s peaceful intentions and hard power hype, or the juxtaposition of “the land of Gandhi” and  the bomb.
Effects of explosion
By explosions, in one stroke, the dam broke sweeping away the premise of virtually all of the Western, European, and Japanese-sponsored dialogues. This premise was that  South Asians could  be  dissuaded, via  dialogue, from exercising the nuclear option,  or if they did  possess nuclear weapons, from testing  and  declaring that  they were nuclear weapons states. This not only  broke  the existing test ban moratorium, for all practical purposes it buried the  CTBT. However, in  practice, if not in theory the international community has accepted India’s nuclear ambivalence. Following the tests , although both countries  were placed under international sanctions, but tests led to a profound revaluation of India in the US. The  Talbott-Jaswant talks, as  they  became known, provided the diplomatic groundwork for an American review of India that ended with President Bill Clinton making a triumphant visit to India. Further the Bush Administration took the Clinton cue and elevated India to an even closer partnership. The credibility of Indian claims to nuclear restraint and  responsibility contributed without doubt to  the exceptional civil nuclear trading rights India received, outside the bounds of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty through the India-US civil nuclear agreement. Perhaps Washington has accepted India’s threat perception from  China, who  is also  on US radar. Analysts in New Delhi  have long pointed to Chinese military modernisation as a clear-threat to India. This modernisation includes missile deployment, such as the current deployment of the DF-21 and DF-3 missiles in  Qinghai and Yunnan provinces. Furthermore, there is some suspicion among Indian analysts that though Beijing’s stated policy is  that of  minimum deterrence, the stationing of missiles such as DF-3 and DF-21 reflects a posture of nuclear coercion, and under some conditions, does not preclude a firs t strike  against its neighbours. It is also possible that since  1998,  Beijing may have deployed nuclear  weapons on  the Tibetan plateau in response to a perceived Indian conventional military advantage and  the  nuclear tests. Even  during Kargil, the world  had saw that  Pakistan  acted with impunity providing the highest provocation to a self-respecting nation and yet India did not cross the line  of control which  Pakistan had  isolated to cut off the supply routes to its  forces. In  contrast to Pakistan, India had shown itself to be a responsible nuclear weapon state.
Types of proliferation
Of the two proliferations–vertical and horizontal, the  latter is said  to be on the  strategic agenda of Pakistan. While  the  first is related to modernisation of nuclear arsenals by the  nuclear power states, the  second  meant spread of nuclear-related base materials,  technology and  technological knowledge to aspiring nuclear weapon states and  to non-state actors such  as terrorist groups. If the  nuclear arsenals of countries increase in size and in average weapon yield  in the  future, then multiple attacks on cities would  become  more  likely  in  future war  scenarios. This would  further increase the  risk  of firestorms in cities  suffering nuclear attack, which  would  increase the probability of toxic and radioactive debris reaching adjacent countries. It would also pose greater risk of regional climate disturbances arising from nuclear war.  The use of weapons of mass destruction is  the very worst way  for nations  to solve  international disputes. Moreover, most  forms of nuclear weapons use  are  likely to be illegal under international law and  damage to non-combatant countries in  war breaches international  law.
South Asian dangers ahead
In the context, the history of the A.Q. Khan network and its assistance to states such  as  North Korea and  Iran deserves special mention. And what is more, Pakistan’s ambitious nuclear agenda is now drawing a not-so-unwilling Sri  Lanka into  the  brewing nuclear whirlwind in south Asia.  Evidently, ‘Pakistan is all set to begin consultations with  Sri  Lanka to help  set  up  a  nuclear power plant in  Trincomallee’s  Sampur. A hurt and  frustrated  Sri Lanka, so rendered by the  outcome of the  recently concluded United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) session, in all probability is very enthusiastic about the proposed venture, not so much because of the economic  benefits it will bring about as it is because of the opportunity this new partnership presents to  avenge the  isolation, she  suffered at the  hands of India at said  session. Added  to this impending disaster is  the more immediate issue of deviating state capital away  from  poverty alleviation. Ejaz Ghani, in his article ‘The Poor half-billion: What is holding back  lagging regions in South Asia?”,  aptly calls  the region a “depressing paradox” where luxury and absolute poverty co-exist, mocking the astounding growth South Asia has achieved in the  last few decades. Ghani presents an account of the  two dimensions of Asia  in  existence, labelling one  “Asia shinning” and the  other “Asia suffering”. The latter, he explains, “is doing no better than many Sub-Saharan African countries.” It is therefore, imperative for all South Asian states to appreciate that compromising regional solidarity will amount to compromising the  interests of individual states.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head of University Department of Political Science in B.N.Mandal University, North Campus, Madhepura-852113. Bihar, India. He can be reached at Email-rajkumarsinghpg@gmail.com

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