Republic Day Special Series





Chapter X: Defence Forces Remain Colonial (Part 4)

Now that both, India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, what difference does that make to the relative strength of their defence forces? It would appear that Pakistan has been the net gainer, at least in the short term.

India has tarnished its image as a peace-loving democratic nation. It was this stature enjoyed by India in the international community that kept even Islamic countries from going beyond certain limits in supporting Pakistan even on issues like Kashmir. A thousand year traditions of Gautam Buddha to Mahatma Gandhi lay in ruins within two days of the five detonations at Pokharan.

Gone are the days when the state of advancement of a country was judged by its nuclear arsenal. Many a student of Physics in the U.S. and Europe possess all the technical know-how required for exploding an experimental nuclear device. If India wished to demonstrate its advancement in Science and Technology, it could have done it in a hundred and one ways that would not have tarnished its image as country of Gautam Buddha.

Most of the Islamic countries would like to have at least one atom bomb howsoever small. Most of them are itching to use it against Israel, whose army has thrashed the Arabs on several occasions. They are hoping that Pakistan’s know-how will become available to them. It is certainly not to the liking of the western powers that the nations ruled by despots should possess nuclear bombs. Even the rich Arab countries of the Middle East who have the nuclear ability do not dare use it for fear of American reprisals. Gadafi and Saddam are not the only rouge despots in the world. The world knew that India had the nuclear ability and the world knew that Pakistan was similarly placed. India’s explosion has proved nothing new. It has certainly strengthened the bonds between the Islamic nations which cannot be to the benefit of India. The western countries have for long watched with amused interest the frequent conflicts in the Indian sub-continent. The Pokharan has changed the scenario. The sub-continental context has suddenly become a potential threat for the globe as a whole. The western countries would try by all possible means to stop Pakistan from helping an Islamic nuclear bomb. If Pakistan complains of the need to have arms-parity with India, the U.S. will be prepared to supply it with abundant non-nuclear armament and equipment. Thus Pakistan’s position in a conventional war will actually have improved because of Pokharan. Pakistan would have been better advised not to respond to Pokharan. It would have been more advantageous for that country to go on holding out a threat of nuclear explosions but never really carrying them out. That would have certainly changed Pakistan’s image of a rogue nation and helped it acquire generous quantities of conventional armaments. Luckily for India, Pakistan succumbed to jingoistic posturing and had its own N-tests.

As in India so in Pakistan, jingoistic stances are more popular. And the Pakistani Prime Minister thought that if India had the bomb he has to show that Pakistan could do it too. By responding to Pokharan, Pakistan has axed the very branch on which it was perched. It cannot hope any more to get supplies of conventional armament to close the gap with India. Pakistan has thus literally slaughtered the hen that lay golden eggs.

It should be clear that in case of an actual breakout of war nuclear devices become irrelevant. There is no scenario where either Prime Minister would feel justified in using the ultimate weapon. If the extremists in Kashmir slaughter a thousand Hindus, will the Indian Prime Minister press the nuclear button? Will he do that if hoards of Pakistani invaders cross the Line of Control? Will he decide to use the nuclear bomb if the Pakistani forces helped by the local populace reach Shrinagar? Will he do that if Pakistani Air Force starts bombarding Amritsar, Ludhiana or even Ambala? Atom bomb is thoroughly useless not only as a deterrent, but also as an instrument of last resort. In a war between India and Pakistan there can be no winner. It is inconceivable that one of them will be able to trounce the other militarily and effectively occupy and hold the enemy’s territory.

If the BJP Government were sincerely concerned about India’s defence they would have undertaken a total reorganisation of the armed forces rather than going for sophisticated equipment, planes, missiles and nuclear devices. The India-Pakistan war-match cannot last beyond 2-3 weeks, since both of them will have exhausted all their arms and equipment by then. At that stage, the country which can adopt tactics like human waves with the help of large number of young men wielding small modern weapons that will have an advantage in holding out indefinitely. To provide the Indian jawans with a state-of-the-art automatic machine-gun in place of the present obsolete rifles would be far more effective than any number of nuclear devices. But, that kind of a measure has none of the political glamour that “Pokharan” has. During war, the jawans risk their lives while the civilians shout nationalistic slogans. It would be interesting to see if they would continue with the same jingoistic slogan-mongering hysteria if their own children were liable to be called to the front any moment.

In the post-Kargil and post-Pokharan era another opportunity has arisen to rethink on the structures and the constitution of the Indian Armed Forces. The moment is ripe for making the army open to people by introduction of compulsory military service so that young men pick up, during the training of about two years a fairly high level of industrial and combat skills. This long-pending reform will give India’s defence a big boost and also provide a rich source of skilled manpower for the Indian economy. It will also ensure a sense of discipline, patriotism and idealism that could help India recover from its present slide of apathy and avarice.

The Ministers of Finance, Commerce and other Ministries are going round the world soliciting foreign investments in India. Despite all tall talk, everyone knows that one really bad monsoon and the Indian economy will be in jeopardy. The year of the Pokharan, over thousand and five hundred farmers committed suicide by consuming poison. A Pokharan might do a lot of good for some time to the national ego. But, in the long run, that may prove to be expensive. If India faces a famine situation in times to come, it would have great difficulty in obtaining food-grains for the starvings. The switch over from a super-power pretension to the role of a mendicant is extremely painful and ridiculous. The world does not take kindly to it. A poor man subsisting by the leftovers of the affluent in the neighbourhood can ill-afford to suddenly turn into a Mafia Don for howsoever brief an interval. This kind of comedy can go on only for a certain time but not for too long. India can have no grievance if all the threatened sanctions are actually implemented. Iraq’s Saddam picked up the gauntlet, it must be said to his credit that he sustained and survived some of the fiercest punching by the American forces. It would be difficult to claim that India could take the beating that Iraq did. Of course, Iraq is not India and the Iraqi scenario is unlikely to be repeated here. The question is, did those who gave green signal to Pokharan, plan for such a contingency? It is equally doubtful if the authors of Pokharan had taken into consideration the consequences on the process of Globalisation under WTO.

Pokharan appears to have been a political bonanza for the ruling party. Not even the leaders of the opposition party have raised any significant protests. Everyone appears to be unanimous in praising the genius and the ability of India’s scientists. Was Pokharan good or bad? The answer appears to have been provided by the market. The share market collapsed and the Rupee fell by 70 paise per U S dollar.

Atal Behari Vajpayee is a highly respected leader and a popular Prime Minister. There could be no better judge of the possible response of the Indian people to a call to come to the defence of their Motherland. People have responded with great enthusiasm, every time there was a threat to the nation. Pokharan has given Indians a big ego trip. It is to be hoped that this will outlast possible economic sanctions, trade boycotts, shortages of petroleum, fertilisers and chemicals. If the Indian economy is weak and India is unable to import Diesel, there will hardly be any point in putting even a Hydrogen bomb in the arsenal of the Indian army.



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