Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Reflections of an economist

A September 2001 interview of Amartya Sen by David Barsamian. Sen talks about several issues including his personal life, Tagore, Gandhi, Benhal famine, Indian Nuclearization, deomcarcy, literacy, globalization etc.

Interview with Amartya Sen, for Alternative Radio, USA - India Together

a few snipets on the nuclear issue:
I thought this was a disastrous development. India of course had exploded a nuclear device in 1974. That was a regrettable event. The Indian government didn't admit that this was actually a nuclear bomb, but said that they would not manufacture nuclear bombs. To some extent, there was some consolation in that because it did seem that after having established its capability to do so, India wasn't keen on taking it further. But all that was changed by 1998, when the new government came into office.

In effect, the tests contributed very little to India's well-being. It made the entire subcontinent less safe. It was predictable that Pakistan would retaliate. Everybody knew that Pakistan had the capability to produce the bomb. It doesn't matter that its capability is much less than that of India because with a nuclear holocaust you get hundreds of millions dying anyway. It made the situation much less stable. The argument that that would prevent conventional war, which is a kind of quick wisdom from the Cold War days between the Soviet Unionand the U.S., was often aired in India. That was given a lie by the Kargil confrontation that occurred in the summer of 1999 which indicated that it didn't have that effect at all. If anything, just the opposite.

As far as taking India more seriously is concerned, I think there's deep confusion in Delhi about the effect. It's true India is taken somewhat more seriously now. But that's much more to do with economic development, with the fact that in information technology India is a relatively big player. There is a big presence of India in America and in Europe. India is the second-largest producer of computer software in the world. And India is a big economy which is moving in a way Pakistan's economy has not been. So because of these factors we would have expected greater recognition of the presence of India in the world among the bigger powers. To attribute that recognition to the nuclear bomb is a great mistake. Nuclear bomb is something that India and Pakistan have in common. If that had made the crucial difference, then Pakistan would have exactly thesame greater recognition as India has. But it hasn't. The reason is that what differentiates India from Pakistan is a more solvent and dynamic economy and a functioning democracy.


neil said...

extremely good, deep, thought provocing, we should have a discussion the next time we meet, if you ever show up in the department

Purushottam said...

Here is a link to a longer essay by him on the nuclear topic:
India and the Bomb