The nuclear race in South Asia is intensifying due to New Delhi’s fear that its military is lagging behind China or Pakistan. However, there arises a question that merits further scrutiny: is the true purpose of nuclear weapons for India merely deterrence?
Over the past decade, South Asia has been alarmed by India’s increase in nuclear weapons and its ability to wage conventional war. India’s massive military expenditure has taken an asymmetric approach in building up its nuclear arsenal.
In September 2009, Financial Times published an article titled ‘India Raises Nuclear Stakes’, in which it argued that India can now build nuclear weapons with the same destructive power as those in the arsenals of the world’s major nuclear powers. A recent report shows India’s heavy reliance on nuclear weapons with an increased estimation programme in the near future.
Brigadier Naeem Salik in his book titled The Genesis of South Asian Nuclear Deterrence: Pakistan’s Perspective, traces the origin of India’s nuclear programme and its nuclear double standards. He provides a comparative study of the dynamics of South Asian nuclearisation, which concludes that former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and, father of the Indian bomb, Dr Homi Bhabha, recognised the dual nature of nuclear technology, and believed it could be beneficial for India.
India’s nuclear programme is moving forward steadily. It secretly pursued nuclear weapons, as declared in the late 1990s. Yet the international community is still engaged with Delhi, constantly extending a hand of friendship, exemplified by different diplomatic measures such as the Indo-US nuclear deal.
In order to mainstream Fast Breeder Reactor (FBTR), the department of atomic energy in India is gearing up to commission a nuclear reactor at Kalpakkam. But the safety inadequacies of India’s FBTR still need to be questioned. This oscillatory approach of India guarding its vested nuclear interests is something that the international community must be wary of, shaking hands with India through nuclear diplomacy, probably does not know everything India has done to protect its obsessive nuclear secrecy.
New Delhi continues to sign nuclear deals, 16 in number until present, without being hindered by any of the nuclear non-proliferation purists. Despite not signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, India has signed a uranium deal with Australia which has raised various important questions regarding the use of Australian uranium in India. As of 2016, India has signed civil nuclear agreements with 16 countries. Has India succeeded enough to bury its proliferation record over decades and shove it under the carpet?
Under these circumstances, it’s also astonishing how India is seeking membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which is a creation of its own disconcerting pursuit of nuclear weapons. Interestingly, India has been building its case for international recognition as a (normal) nuclear weapon state for years, seeking admission to the group, wherein the permission of an NPT-outlier like India would ostensibly to create a domino effect — it would become a compulsion for states like Pakistan to opt for strategies commanded by their security concerns. On the other hand, it was also revealed that India has been busy developing a secret nuclear city. As a result, it is important for the NSG to abide by its criteria and remember that its decision would affect strategic stability in South Asia.
Delhi’s decision to rely on nuclear weapons as a means of warding off potential attacks from a more powerful neighbour has increased the chance of nuclear warfare breaking out in South Asia. Indian pursuit for increased nuclear deterrence is hardly startling; it is an obvious example of an alarming pattern that nuclear powers in the region demonstrate, the consequence of a long and volatile history of hostility towards one another. Thus, the threat of a potentially more aggressive Indian nuclear posture has put an additional strain on an already rocky situation in South Asia.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2017.
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