The BJP and India's nuclear doctrine

There is an emotional charge that flows along with the Hindutva worldview which sees enemies on every border.

Aakar Patel April 12, 2014
The writer is a columnist. He is also a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar. His book Translating Saadat Hasan Manto’s non-fiction work will be published this year [email protected]

Take cover, people. The Bharatiya Janata Party is revising India's nuclear doctrine. The party is expected by opinion polls to form the next government.

Its manifesto says the “BJP believes that the strategic gains acquired by India during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime on the nuclear programme have been frittered away by the Congress.”

And so the BJP will “study in detail India's nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times.”

To which the natural response is: shouldn't you have studied it in all these years? And the other thing that occurs to me is that if they haven't studied it how do they know it needs to be revised?

The truth is that the BJP doesn't really need to read something before deciding it is good or bad or sensible.

Indeed, its prime ministerial candidate prides himself on his ignorance of detail and nuance. Narendra Modi told a fawning interviewer he cannot govern through "academics studies (sic)" because reading files is not his thing. It must be his spiritual intelligence or whatever it is that Hindutvawadis have that make them such excellent decision-makers.

A report that followed the publishing of the BJP manifesto said that “revise and update it to make it relevant to challenges of current times” were “words analysts interpreted to mean changing India’s long-proclaimed policy of no-first use of nuclear weapons.”

The report added that “a relook at the no-first use policy would mark a major departure from India’s existing nuclear policy which states that ‘the fundamental purpose of Indian nuclear weapons is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by any State or entity against India and its forces. India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail. India will not resort to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against States which do not possess nuclear weapons, or are not aligned with nuclear weapons powers’.”

The last time the BJP reviewed the Indian nuclear programme was within seven weeks of taking office in 1998. The result of their adventurism was that India had its first negative-inflow foreign direct investment year in a long time. Capital is a coward and flees uncertainty. The world freaked out as the BJP burst its crackers.

More dangerously, the BJP handed Pakistan the justification to weaponise its covert program and the BJP gave Islamabad the opportunity to demonstrate its deterrence. This forever lost India its conventional superiority over its enemy/neighbour. We can no longer punish or even threaten to Pakistan for the actions of its non-state actors.

Another thing was that LK Advani was taken aback that Pakistan should have done this. There appeared to be not a thought to what the consequences would be when the BJP’s armchair Napoleons approved the nuclear test.

What the benefit of that test was - except to give Atal Behari Vajpayee the world stage briefly - is difficult to say. The chance for such people to thump their chest is not sufficient recompense for the damage they have caused this country.

The BJP’s manifesto even threatens the nuclear deal made by the Manmohan Singh government, and Modi says he will “follow a two-pronged independent nuclear programme, unencumbered by foreign pressure and influence, for civilian and military purposes.”

This is dangerous ground and history provides us with evidence that the BJP doesn’t necessarily think through things before doing stuff it considers is in the national interest.

When the BJP thinks of such subjects, it usually ends up doing mischief. This is because it is unable to see neighbours objectively. There is an emotional charge that flows along with the Hindutva worldview which sees enemies on every border. It is one reason we haven’t been able to normalize with China though independent studies show that India’s view of that country as being treacherous is rooted in ignorance of the war of 1962.

Given all this baggage and the background, the BJP’s new threats would be called stupidity, if it weren't at the cusp of taking power.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2014.

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Mohit - USA | 7 years ago | Reply

@Rakib: "Like most of the Conservatives & Religious Right in the world BJP-RSS too is not educated enough despite university courses attended by some of its apparatchiks."

Which is unfortunately true for 99% of your country.

Observer | 7 years ago | Reply


Your article is full of inaccuracies and naivete. One example:

"More dangerously, the BJP handed Pakistan the justification to weaponise its covert program and the BJP gave Islamabad the opportunity to demonstrate its deterrence."

This is a totally ignorant statement. Pakistan had fully assembled nuclear weapons in the mid 1980's itself. The actual bomb test was done in China in the mid 80's, long before the 1998 Pokhran Indian tests. A. Q. Khan himself told highly respected Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar of Pakistan's nuclear bomb capability in 1987. Read:

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