Friday, September 05, 2008

India and the NSG

What do the White House, the Taj Mahal and Kumbhkaran have in common?   They were the code names of the shafts in which were placed the devices for India's 1998 nuclear test series. Even though India first successfully tested a nuclear device at Pokhran in 1974, it did not become a nuclear weapons state - in the sense of having the ability to deliver nuclear weapons until it passed a full field drop test in May 1994 at Balasore, though most observers thought that this milestone had been passed years before. Because having a weapon without the means of delivering it does not make for a nuclear weapons state.

With the current ongoing wranglings at the NSG meeting in Vienna, it is time we took a look back at India's nuclear program and to evaluate it with the advantage of hindsight.

India's nuclear program started way back in March of 1944, even before independence when Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha submitted a proposal to found a nuclear research institute, over three years before independence and a year before the first ever nuclear weapon test. This led to the creation of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) on 19 December 1945 with Bhabha as its first Director. The new government of India passed the Atomic Energy Act, on 15 April 1948, leading to the establishment of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) not quite one year after independence.

Sixty years later, I wonder how we arrived at this stage where small and inconsequential countries on the world-stage like Austria, New Zealand and Ireland are able to dictate terms and humiliate India? I remember a quote from former prime minister I. K. Gujral saying that the door to the Security Council was open only to Nuclear Weapon States or those with economic clout. I completely agree with him that on the world stage, might is right and in our case, our progress in the nuclear sphere has been curtailed by the political upheavals that a functioning democracy experiences. Pokhran II which could have taken place a decade earlier, had to wait for the correct political atmosphere to build up.

I have been following the frustrating NSG deliberations and will continue this in another post after the final verdict.

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