Thursday, February 23, 2006

India and the Bomb

An essay by Amartya Sen after the May 1998 nuclear tests conducted by India and soon followed by tests by Pakistan, INDIA AND THE BOMB
As Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik put it in their well-researche d and well-argued book, "The most ardent advocates of nuclear weapons have constantly sought to invest these weapons with a religious-like authority and importance - to emphasise the awe and wonder rather than the revulsion and horror - to give them an a ccepted and respectable place in the mass popular culture of our times."

As far as India is concerned, the two policies - of nuclear abstinence and demanding a change of world order - can be pursued simultaneously. Nuclear restraint strengthens rather than weakens India's voice. To demand that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treat y be redefined to include a dated programme of denuclearisation may well be among the discussable alternatives. But making nuclear bombs, not to mention deploying them, and spending scarce resource on missiles and what is euphemistically called "delivery ", can hardly be seen as sensible policy. The claim that subcontinental nuclearisation would somehow help to bring about world nuclear disarmament is a wild dream that can only precede a nightmare.

Also, the encouragement of across-border terrorism, which India accuses Pakistan of, is likely to be dampened rather than encouraged by Pakistan's economic prosperity and civili an politics. It is particularly important in this context to point to the dangerousness of the argument, often heard in India, that the burden of public expenditure would be more unbearable for Pakistan, given its smaller size and relatively stagnant eco nomy, than it is for India. This may well be the case, but the penalty that can visit India from an impoverished and desperate Pakistan in the present situation of increased insecurity is hard to contemplate. Enhancement of Pakistan's stability and well- being has prudential importance for India, in addition to its obvious ethical significance.

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