The nuclear tests by India

We were contacted by some community members with their comments to nuclear tests. We were also approached by some media persons for our response to nuclear tests. In turn we also contacted some NRI's around the world for their comments. Our response is as follows :

The nuclear tests by India will have several implications. Firstly, the newly elected government in India will definitely get a boost, perhaps lasting longer than the fears in the international political and military circles. The masses in India will surely be very ecstatic; the opposition will be going along too.

Secondly, it will enhance the international image India carries. The largest democracy in the world,  the awakening financial and economic tiger, and a resource for technically skilled personnel now becomes a nuclear power. Irrespective of what stance individual governments take in various countries around the world, India will be seen in a different perspective - perhaps in a more dignified way and not as the largest democracy with little might. It is this different image that will matter in the long run. We do not believe that the political leaders around the world are going to lose their sleep with the fear that India will be an aggressor causing a major military and political crisis in the near future.

Thirdly, we believe that although it will deter any major attackers, it may not affect minor skirmishes near the borders or smuggling of arms and infiltrators. No one will expect India to use nuclear weapons for minor border skirmishes. It will have preventive effect only for major wars which we do not perceive in near future in any case. Security in this sense is a myth. It does give a boost to India's military strength, the morale of people of India, the current government in India, and India's international stature, but security benefits are marginal and perhaps temporary until neighbours develop their armament. That development of armament in the region will lead to an arms race which is the main fear of international leaders. The regional arms race will ultimately find its own military equilibrium perhaps with more risks. But with proliferation of nuclear weapons since the fall of USSR, such a race was inevitable - perhaps it was going on underground. India stayed behind for a long time perhaps because such a race was not affordable or perhaps such a race was purposely being avoided. However, India paid the price in terms of international recognition. Perhaps this realization by the leaders in India during the last decade or so led to non signing of CTBT and these tests. We do not believe that India has any other military objective.

Finally, economic sanctions against India will definitely allow countries around the globe to send their signals to India and make known their disapproval of these tests. However, it will not affect India in a major way. Long run development project will be affected adversely - some may never be revived. Alternative resources will have to be found for affected projects that must go on. Nevertheless, any effect from economic sanctions will be temporary. Once the dust settles, the business eventually will be as usual. This is what has happened in case of China, Cuba, and other countries. It is our belief that stocks and mutual funds related to India will pick up again and the temporary rupee devaluation caused by these tests will be corrected. Hence, if you have any financial interest in India, do not dispose it. If you do not have any interest, it may be better to buy now since with devalued stocks and devalued rupee, you will be able to buy more of it. After a while, it may fetch you more than what you expected. 

There are no major reasons to worry. Let India decide her own course - in a democratic way.

                                                                                                                    May 15, 1998

( written by Rajen Merchant based on responses from NRI community around the globe)



Brief individual reactions from some NRI's :

" From human side, I do not like it. The arms race is not good. The economic sanctions will hurt India. However, India needed them to prove that she is capable and to prepare herself against any military threats." Mrs. Chandrika Anjaria - Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

" India did a good thing. The economic sanctions will have negative impact. " Mrs. Shah - Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.

" Personally, I did not like it. However, I sympathize with India. Big powerful countries cannot have exclusive rights to nuclear armament. The reactions will affect foreign investment negatively, but the effects will be temporary. " Jagdish Awatramani - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

For a poem in Hindi on nuclear tests by India, please see "Hindi Jagruti" section.

Nuclear Testing by India
By Jay Chauhan *

Nuclear blasts in May 1998 by India in the Rajasthan desert area of India has raised the specter of the arms race in Asia paralleling the U.S.- USSR arms race in the post war period. Should the western world worry about the Asian tigers getting out of control? What is the rationale behind U.S., England, France, China and Russia maintaining a stockpile of Nuclear weapons and India being asked to stay nuclear free?

The news may have come as a surprise to the U.S. intelligence agency, but not for those reading  Hindustan Times in the last 10 years. Indian economy has taken off after liberalization. India's population of about a billion people represent about one sixth of the world's humanity. Rising from its
slumber and made dormant from the colonial period of about 250 years, this Asian tiger is more like an elephant moving from its walking pace to running in developing its economy after its independence in 1946 and particularly in the last few years. The element of surprise comes from the fact that most of India's economic achievements are not cited in the western press.

Measured by purchasing power parity, India has moved to 6th position in the world for economic output.  Bombay stock exchange carries as many public companies as the New York Stock Exchange. India is now a net food exporter rather than an importer. It exports in computer software is only second to those of the United States. India's manufacturing and technical expertise enables it to manufacture its own aircraft and tanks. It can launch its own communications satellites and if required nuclear weapons to their destinations. India's single economic market , along with its 6% per annum growth rate, creates the potential for an economy which will be bigger than NAFTA ( U.S., Canada and Mexico) and the European common market. It appears incongruous to expect  such a power to remain outside the nuclear club.

India's nuclear tests will cause greater concern to Pakistan than to China as China is already armed with nuclear weapons. The nuclear tests appear however aimed more at obtaining the recognition of its maturing status in the world community than threatening its neighbours. It is an expression similar to that of  France detonating bombs in Polynesia last year.

Pakistan could respond by developing its own weapons and doing tests for that purpose. The advice of the western leaders to stop the nuclear escalation may fall on deaf years, unless the advice is matched by aid which Pakistan very much needs. Its foreign reserves are far lower than those of
India and with its comparatively smaller population and political instability make the economic and military aid more imperative.

There is no doubt that the Bharatiya Janata Party with a slant towards Hinduism has gained considerable popularity in India by conducting the tests. The blasts have been a source of pride with many ordinary citizens in India who strongly feel that they are not accorded their proper status in
the world community.

Unanimity in announcing the economic sanctions against India was lacking in the G 7 countries. Only Japan, Canada and the U.S. decided to impose these sanctions. The sensitivity of Japan towards nuclear bombs can be understood from the memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki towards the end of the second world war. Canada's  moral position in imposing trade sanctions is weak considering the fact that throughout the period of cold war it has fully enjoyed the protection of the American nuclear umbrella.   United States has no real direct threat from India militarily.

In the short run the burden of sanctions will be bourne by the small businessmen who have little to do with politics and military. They make it possible to make a  living and create some jobs for others. Some of the development projects will also suffer. India could face shortage of  foreign reserves  unless it is willing to make concessions to what is called the NRIs, that is the Non Resident Indians and plead for their support. NRIs have made substantial contribution to the foreign reserves of India and its capital accumulation for economic growth. In India they are still denied the right to own agricultural property and do not have rights to dual nationality. Giving concessions to them can alleviate some of the foreign reserves problem.

Indian history is replete with examples of foreigners passing through Khayber Pass  into India to exploit the  the temples and Indian wealth. It has suffered foreign colonial domination. King Ashok in the past was more known for exporting religion than war. Indian politicians do not lack the vision that nuclear weaponry has the potential for destroying the evolutionary history of mankind. It would be naive to suggest that only the current nuclear powers have the self discipline in using these deadly
weapons. There are enough examples in history to illustrate that no major civilization can survive without the ability to defend itself.

What India is looking for is its proper place in the world order. With this planet becoming smaller the institutions of the United Nations need to be developed to deal with the accommodation of the border disputes and recognition of the changing stature of the bigger powers. India should now be recognized as a major player in world politics and should be given a permanent seat on the Security Council of the United Nations and permitted to play the role of a matured state. It is more likely that the nuclear tests were planned to take place just before the meeting of the G 7 countries for the recognition of the new position India seeks in the world community. Such recognition is more likely to stop the future testing than the trade sanctions. Trade sanctions isolate a country and are punitive in nature. They reduce the ability of the trading partner to influence the positive thinking necessary to achieve the much needed harmony in this world.

* Jay Chauhan is a lawyer and writer in Richmond Hill, Canada.

What's next - after the nuclear tests?

So, nuclear tests in India have caused some reactions around the world. Next, Pakistan will carry out some tests. Some of their politicians have stated : "it is a question of when, not if." Some of our Muslim friends from India have stated that neither India nor Pakistan should carry out further tests. Some of our Pakistani friends have stated that Pakistan must carry out their tests - as soon as possible. What if Pakistan does carry out the tests? The post cold war underground proliferation of nuclear weapons will come out of closets - finally. It will definitely have emotional impact in Pakistan. It possibly will cause world leaders to take some positive actions in controlling or destroying nuclear weapons around the globe. If  Pakistan does carry out the tests, it will demonstrate that economic sanctions will be meaningless. Diplomatic boycott will be of no help either. We believe it will have some positive impact in the world. First, in recognizing the reality of spread of nuclear weapons. And second, in recognizing the need to take some immediate positive actions, rather than punitive economic sanctions or diplomatic boycott.

In any case, India should stop carrying further tests and initiate, through United Nations or on her own, some actions to promote total nuclear disarmament around the globe. Such actions will prove the point India has been trying to make. Further tests will only aggravate the situation.

The United States will soon realize that economic sanctions will hardly achieve anything. She will have to do some soul searching : Should she offer to disarm herself of nuclear weapons? Will US carry as much weight in initiating summit meetings for peace purposes or for nuclear disarmament? Indeed, as Philip Bowring pointed out in his article in International Herald Tribune : "India's nuclear tests have brought into focus the contradictions among the United States' roles as global policeman, honest broker and missionary for democracy." The world is watching the United States and expects her to offer something - a diplomatic and political solution, not a military or economic threat.

Canada has perhaps the most credibility as a country involved in promoting peace and democracy around the world while not owning any nuclear weapons. Canada can do lot more than just calling her High Commissioner back or imposing some economic sanctions. Some of our contacts are upset with the stand Canada has taken so far and were even suggesting condemning Canada for imposing economic sanctions. We believe the current leadership in Canada did what it thought was best - condemning each other is not going to solve anything. Canada can perhaps take a lead in collaboration with Australia, UK, and other countries in organizing a constructive discussion to achieve the total nuclear disarmament.                                                                     May 26, 1998

( written by Rajen Merchant based on responses from NRI community around the globe.)

The nuclear tests by Pakistan

Congratulations to both India and Pakistan. Irrespective of what some in western media say that this was not a goal worth achieving, more than a billion people in India and Pakistan believe it was. Irrespective of what anyone may say, there are cool headed people on both sides (although there are radicals too and some who engage in a war of hot words). As a result, many of our viewers believe nuclear war is no closer than before. What the tests have done is to bring it out in open that both the countries had nuclear capabilities and were capable of producing nuclear weapons. It has become "official". Probably, both the countries knew it anyway. And if they knew, would they have engaged in a major war, say last month? So, will they engage in a major war now? Most of the NRI's do not appear to be worried about a major war between India and Pakistan in the near future.

What the tests have done is to bring the proliferation out in open. And that raises many questions. Who next? Israel? Iran? ..... How far have the nuclear proliferations gone? Is CTBT redundant now? In case the nuclear weapons are used by somebody, where will it lead us? Is the world closer to the "Day of Judgement"? Should all the countries agree to the total destruction of the nuclear weapons? Who is now going to initiate addressing the questions related to the nuclear weapons in this new context? The United Nations? Japan? Canada? Australia? The United States? The United Kingdom? India? Pakistan? Or are they all going to wait till something else happens?

The economic sanctions and diplomatic boycott will not help solve anything. It may worsen the situation. The United States have already sent their High Commissioner back to India. And that is a good sign. It will help keep the lines of communication open. It is the multilateral extensive discussions and the development of a set of checks and balances that will help keep nuclear weapons under a lid.

The tests are compelling us to compromise - not confront. And that is why congratulations to both India and Pakistan are due.                                                           May 30,1998

( written by Rajen Merchant based on responses from NRI community around the globe.)

Canada's stand on current nuclear tests by India & Pakistan

Congratulations to Canada - for staying away from joining the nuclear club, for helping others in using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. But did it help in convincing US, USSR, UK, China, or France from not joining the nuclear club? So why does Canada believe their stand can influence India and Pakistan? Because Canada helped them in past? Because economies in both the countries are still not strong so they can be pressurized economically? Because breaking off diplomatic relations with them will make them feel guilty?

Consider the following - Irrespective of what some in western media say that this was not a goal worth achieving, more than a billion people in India and Pakistan believe it was. Whether the technical know-how was obtained by buying, borrowing, begging, or burglarizing; whether the equipment was obtained by buying, borrowing, begging, or burglarizing; or whether the materials were obtained by buying, borrowing, begging, or burglarizing; after all they could put all the ingredients together and come with a recipe that produced the blasts. That is what counts for over a billion people there and that is what concerns many billions around the world. Quite logical! But how many countries already have such recipes and the world does not know it "officially"? Will Canada's current stand prevent India, Pakistan, and others from continuing their experiments openly or underground? Congratulations to both India and Pakistan - for being able to demonstrate they can develop such recipes - more importantly, for bringing the issues related to proliferations and the use of nuclear energy for non-peaceful purposes to a sharp focus.

Canada should send back both the High Commissioners to India and Pakistan. Canada should remove the imposed economic sanctions. Because the sentiments are high there in India and Pakistan. The current actions will only keep Canada away from where Canada is needed most. Canada should take positive actions - remove economic sanctions, reinstate diplomatic relations, and influence them on a friendly basis, and influence others in the world in staying away from further tests and in developing a timetable for the total nuclear disarmament around the globe, perhaps with the help from Japan, UN, Australia, India, Pakistan, and others. Punitive and negative actions and remaining away from where they should be will not help. Being more influential than in the past may help.

After all, Canada has a role to play in the coming world order - for the next generation. Canada can provide the most needed leadership.                                                        June 2,1998

( written by Rajen Merchant based on responses from NRI community around the globe.)

Canadian High Commissioners to return soon to New Delhi & Islamabad
Highlights of the Briefing by the Canadian High Commissioner to the
Indo-Canadian community in Toronto & vicinity

At the request of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Government of Canada, a meeting with the Canadian High Commissioner, Mr. Peter Walker, was arranged by the Indo-Canadian Advisory Group (ICAG) at the Ontario Investment Service Centre ( courtsey of the Ontario International Trade Corporation ), 161 Bay Street (BCE Place), Canada Trust Tower, Suite 4040, Toronto at 4:00 p.m. on June 8, 1998. ( A similar meeting with representatives of the Pakistani-Canadian community was arranged earlier in the day.) Mr. Ajit Jain, Co-Chair, ICAG, during his introductory statement, noted that a) India Canada relations are going through somewhat tough times,  and b) majority of Indo-Canadians are critical of Canada's stand and are asking if Canada is on the right path.

Mr. Walker mentioned that the purpose of the meeting was a) to brief the representatives of the community on Canadian policy and b) to get a sense about views from the community representatives. He stated that the nuclear tests broke the status quo, increased possibility of armed conflicts, set off a local arms race, raised concerns about overall security, and affected regional stability. He further stated that the Canadian government was concerned about tests leading to production of nuclear weapons, testing of missiles, escalating rhetoric on Kashmir issue, and potential ripple effects beyond India & Pakistan.

As a result, Canada had recalled both the High Commissioners back, cancelled number of high level  discussions, postponed meetings at Ministerial level, banned military exports, cut down non-humanitarian aid, and worked with other countries to oppose loans funded by the International Financial Institutions. Canada had also raised concerns at meetings of different international bodies. Currently, Canada is evaluating possible collective actions to be taken and the possible role Canada can play.

He informed that he will be leaving Canada within 25 hours ( by the evening of June 9, 1998 ) to go back to New Delhi and the Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ms. Marie-Andree Beauchemin, will be leaving for Islamabad in a few days. Canada will be seeking no further nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, an end to weaponization, no further testing of missiles, signature by both India and Pakistan to CTBT, and a productive dialogue between India and Pakistan.

Many representatives, including Mr. V. Basavaiah, Mr. K. K. Bhargava, Mr. R. Merchant, Mr. R. Kothari, Dr. B. Ubale, Mr. A. Jain, Mr. R. Surti, Miss M. Moorthy, Mr. A. Uppal, Mr. R. Goenka, Mr. A. Dave and others, participated actively during question-answer period. In response to questions by these community representatives, Mr. Walker stressed that after about three and a half weeks in Canada, when he returns to Delhi, he will take some time to get a feel of the situation there and will encourage discussions and dialogues between India and Pakistan. He pointed out that the theory that obtaining the status of a nuclear power implied global influence is a bad theory. He emphasized that Germany,  Japan, and South Africa (besides Canada) have good influence globally although they are non-nuclear states. India has the potential to be among the top four globally influential states without remaining nuclear. Although right now business is not as usual, policies regarding issuance of business and immigration visas is not affected. He hoped that, within the next five years, relations will improve and business will be as it was before the tests.

The general consensus among the community representatives was that the meeting was quite productive and that Canada should play an active role while being an honest broker.  

June 8,1998

CSASUoT1.JPG (113614 bytes)