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45. Achin Vanaik, linking India´s nuclear tests to ´Kashmir´
´South Asia´ has been designated as the ´most dangerous nuclear flash-point´ today. This is a self-serving argument dished out by the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) which practice nuclear apartheid. The NWS which are also the permanent members of the UNSC have a vested interest in not admitting more members into their select club. Faithfully parroting this line of thought is the group of self-appointed nuclear watchdogs under the names Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) and South Asians Against Nukes (SAAN). This group blames India´s 1998 nuclear tests for Kargil, Kandahar, Kashmir, for the intended pre-budget hike in the cost of LPG and for India´s defeat in the test series against Pakistan in January-February, 2006. This group chooses to ignore:
Jihadi Islam can wage jihad without nukes.
Jihadi Islam vivisected India in 1947 when there were no nukes in ´South Asia´.
Pakistan is bleeding India through the ISI, the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and the Jaish-e-Muhammad without nukes.
Kashmir has been a festering wound long before nukes appeared on the scene.
India is committed to a no-first-use while Pakistan has given no such assurance.
The world had already been endangered by the nukes in the possession of the US and the USSR.
Nuclear apartheid which implies nuclear weapons in the hands of White Christians (except China) is a yoyo while nuclear weapons in brown hands makes South Asia a dangerous nuclear flash-point.
This is what Achin Vanaik and Praful Bidwai have to say about India´s nuclear weapons for which they were jointly rewarded with the Sean Macbride Peace Prize in 2000.
How much was India´s past nuclear programmes and the forces and vested interests associated with it responsible for what eventually emerged? Alternatively, how much weight is to be given to other factors such as the distinctive character and ideology of the Sangh Combine and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which led the coalition government at the time and took the decision (independent of its partners) to prepare and carry out the tests?
If India virtually pushed Pakistan to test and declare itself a nuclear weapons power, then Islamabad´s acquisition of a ´nuclear shield´ of sorts undoubtedly was one important spur to its embarking on the Kargil misadventure. The political- diplomatic defeat for Pakistan over Kargil promoted serious dissent within the Pakistan armed forces and led to the attempt by the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to revamp the upper echelons. This in turn promoted the counter-coup that led to the establishment of the military dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. There is a train of events then that connects India´s decision to nuclearise South Asia to the emergence of direct authoritarian rule in Pakistan.
In the fall of 1999 with memories of Kargil still fresh, there was the takeover of an Indian Airlines plane carrying Indian civilian passengers at Kandahar in Afghanistan by hijackers of Pakistani-origin.
Within the country, following Kargil as it did, this incident was seen as yet another deliberate provocation by Pakistan. Furthermore, the nuclearisation of the region does make Kashmir a distinctive ´flashpoint´, which requires greater international attention and for Washington, its mediation, if things are not to go out of hand.
In explaining why India decided to go openly nuclear in 1998 we have separated fundamental causes (the political and ideological rise of Hindutva, and the accession to power of the BJP backed by its cohort organisations in the Sangh Combine) from more proximate, secondary and complementary factors.
Over the last two decades in India, the steady rise of Hindutva- related ideology and politics has caused the most dramatic rupture with India´s whole past history, including the decades of its National Movement for independence. Indeed, any Indian political scientist worth his or her salt, regardless of political inclination, would testify to the remarkable changes this has wrought in the country, in civil society and the state, in policies and politicking. It is truly extraordinary but true that it remains possible for security analysts to believe that these great changes are of peripheral or minimal, indeed of negligible, consequence for explaining and unfolding the story behind Pokharan II! It is only because Realism is so barren and inadequate an explanatory paradigm that it becomes possible to elide altogether the issue of Hindutva in accounting for Pokharan II We certainly do not claim to have provided a complete portrayal in our book. But we do believe that we have provided at least the skeletal framework on which the larger story can be constructed. It is given by the concept of ´elite nationalism´ and the story of why India went nuclear must above all be the story of how this elite nationalism has changed so as to enable the political and ideological pre-conditions to emerge that finally made India cross the nuclear Rubicon.
To reverse the nuclear path India has set upon will require us to oppose the highly aggressive and belligerent, the intolerant and exclusivist form of Indian nationalism that today has far too many people, albeit in the elite, under its partial, substantial or complete sway. We hope there will be many among our readers who will join this endeavour (excerpts from draft foreword to the second edition of ´South Asia on a Short Fuse: Nuclear Politics and the Future of Global Disarmament´, to be published by Oxford University Press, India).
I could sum up Vanaik and Bidwai´s intellectual calisthenics on the reasons behind why the BJP decided to conduct nuclear tests in 1998 in just two words. Vanaik and Bidwai are telling the RSS, ´You dunnit´. The duo could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.
The grassroots activism of these politically-motivated activists is the fig-leaf covering their naked political ambitions - ambitions not restricted to electoral politics but an expansive and manic desire to control not only the political discourse of this country but the course of Indian polity itself. The rise of the Italian Christian Sonia Gandhi in the Congress party and, through the party, in Indian politics, and the politics of minorityism of the Congress- led UPA Government are perhaps a testimony to this ambition. This group of anti-nation, anti-Hindu activists has so far not been placed under the scanner of public scrutiny and intellectuals have not dared to acknowledge the dangerous portents of their political activism. Raju Rajagopal hit the nail on the head when, in his pathetic defence of Sandeep Pandey and AID, he stated that most of us would never bother to really examine the grassroots work of these activists and organisations. But that has changed now. This book, besides exposing the anti-nation character of their activism has also critically scrutinised ASHA´s claim of so- called grassroots work by analyzing the projects and their source of funds as described by them on their website. The project analysis of ASHA is the next chapter in the book and its denouement.