Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Beginning of Nuclear Politics in South Asia


Beginning of Nuclear Politics in South Asia

India, with its independence in August 1947, shared a lot of common ideals and institutions such as democracy, freedom of press, freedom of religion, respect for individual liberty, human rights, independence of judiciary, federalism etc.  But the foreign policy of a country, far from being an independent variable, depends on number of factors, which especially include domestic concerns and institutions of that country. It is the domestic context in which a country’s foreign policy arises. The domestic context pertains to those important aspects such as the geo-strategic location, historical, socio-cultural and politico- economic environment of the country which prescribes the parameters within which the foreign policy-makers of a country have   to shape its foreign policy.  This   significance of the international milieu in the shaping of Indo-US relations notwithstanding, policy convergences or divergences between two democracies have often been explained mainly in the context of external environment.
Role of Cold War
In the period of Cold War rapprochement, and difference between two countries took fair amount of time due to both internal and external compulsions. From the start, the United States is a super power whereas India is a middle power. And further, a superpower’s domestic compulsions may not be directly related to its relation to any one regional power while a regional power’s approach to international politics is invariably linked to the role of the global power in its internal and neighbourhood politics.  In the circumstances, it is quite natural that the US perceives its national interest in global context while India’s immediate concern often hinges around preserving its internal autonomy. A super power could accommodate another super power, because the alternative would be equally devastating to both.   But the relationship between a super power and a middle power is of different kinds. The former may not accommodate the latter while the latter cannot allow itself to be a satellite of the former. This simple difference in situation is responsible for much of the tension afflicting their mutual relations.
On the issue of Indo-US relations there are some who believe that bilateral relations ‘should be separated from the strategic and multilateral issues and such analysts argue that on some issues which do not directly affect their bilateral relations, the countries may afford to have disagreements, However, in practice, this is not feasible. First, because there is interaction and mutual influence between bilateral and multilateral issues. Second, there are some middle range issues which belong to both worlds. One such issue is the nuclear relationship between the United States and India. It directly affects the vital interests of India, if not those of United States. It is a part of the international debate on nuclear non-proliferation in which both the US and India are active participants, championing opposite points of view.
Logics of Indian side
On India’s part, its commitments to the peaceful use of nuclear energy is firm, although, at times, it has been subjected to some strain. During the stewardship of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s commitment in this respect was unequivocal. No doubts were cast on his bona fides, during his lifetime. Only a Nehru could assure the world on behalf of any future government of India that this country would not go in for nuclear weapons. Even after the security environment had radically changed in 1962, there was no policy change in this regard and he considered nuclear weapons as a “symbol of evil”. Only nine days before his death, Nehru is on record reiterating his commitment that India would “never” make a bomb.  In addition, to its commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, India has maintained its right of independence in decision-making on nuclear issues. It has not allowed its sovereignty to be compromised by succumbing to external pressures or by accepting unequal treaties. As early as  1948,  Vijyalaxmi Pandit,  India’s representative  to  the  UN General Assembly told  that while  India was  willing to give the Inte r nation nal   A to mic  De ve l o pm e n t A uth or ity al l  po w e r necessary to ensure  the peaceful use  of nuclear energy, it strongly opposed the idea of giving  it any authority which  might restrict its  sovereignty over the peaceful utilisation of atomic energy resources.
However, over the years, particularly in post-Nehru era, the pro-nuclear lobby became active which included Indian elites K. Subramanyam, the Director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi, Sisir Gupta, a Professor of Diplomacy in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Subramanyam Swami, the Janata Dal M.P.  and an economist. They emphasised that India’s nuclear option would give it a lot of leverage vis-a-vis the three big powers. They argued that nuclear weapons are simply the “currency of power”, and India will always be regarded as a second-rate developing country until it has its own nuclear arsenal. They cite the example of China which earned the respect of Americans after it went nuclear. In addition, some Indians strongly feel that India should have a nuclear deterrent against a nuclear China which is hostile to India and against Pakistan which is frantically trying to explode a nuclear device.  Some of the hard-liners also believe that if India possessed nuclear weapons, the border dispute with China would be quickly settled through negotiation and nuclear “haves” would be subjected to strong pressure gradually to agree to vertical non-proliferation.
US nuclear understandings
In just opposite is the US nuclear understanding which revolves round the policy of nuclear deterrence and   non- proliferation. It is of the opinion that the US should possess a large number of powerful weapons which would be an effective deterrent against a first nuclear strike by any other nuclear power, especially the Soviet Union. As a result, Washington’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation has been half-heated and partial. If favours only horizontal non-proliferation, without offering any commitment even to a gradual vertical non- proliferation. The nuclear policy of the US thus sharply clashes with that of India, whose   commitment to nuclear non-proliferation is total and which advocates vertical as well as horizontal non-proliferation.  India feels that a non-proliferation agreement ignores the present proliferation and pre-occupies itself with the future proliferation which is naturally unrealistic, ineffective and therefore unacceptable.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head of P.G.Department of Political Science, BNMU, West Campus, P.G. Centre, Saharsa-852201. Bihar, India. Email- rajkumarsinghpg@yahoo.com

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