|THE HANDSTAND|| |
| The Invisible Intellectual|
By Sudhanva Deshpande
March 14, 2004
Unobtrusive, withdrawn, almost shy, he died as he lived: quietly, without fuss, in his sleep. Krishna Raj was responsible for creating, single-handedly, one of the most incredible intellectual institutions of our times, a journal called Economic and Political Weekly (EPW).
India boasts of one of the most vibrant democratic intellectual cultures anywhere in the world, even if the actual realization of political democracy on the ground remains imperfect, uneven, flawed, skewed, and currently - under the right wing dispensation that rules at the centre and in several states - under grave threat. The mark of this democratic intellectual culture is the vast variety of opinion that gets expressed in the media, and indeed in the very wide range of platforms that are available, in spite of growing corporatization of the media, for the thinking and concerned citizen to air his or her views.
While India has more than a dozen major languages - and each one of these languages has a robust intellectual and political culture - English is today undeniably the major language of intellectual discourse. And it is in English that we have four remarkable periodicals.
One is Mainstream, a magazine analysing current affairs, edited for long years by the late Nikhil Chakravartty. Then there is Seminar, a monthly devoted to debating a single problem from a variety of standpoints in each issue, edited by the husband-wife team of Raj and Romesh Thapar. Neither is alive today, but the journal continues publication with vigour. The youngest publication is Frontline, a newsmagazine edited by N. Ram.
While Mainstream has lost some of its sparkle after the death of its founder editor, Seminar, by its very nature, only commissions articles and caters to a somewhat shifting readership in each issue. Aijaz Ahmad, in the preface of his latest book 'Iraq, Afghanistan and the Imperialism of Our Time', rates Frontline the best English language newsmagazine anywhere in the world, and his verdict is hard to contest. But it is also to be noted that Frontline is the publication of The Hindu, a family-owned group of newspapers with a long and distinguished history, manned by professional journalists.
The most remarkable in this list of remarkable publications, the most open, democratic platform, is EPW.
To those unacquainted with India, it would be hard to explain the enormity of EPW's prestige and its achievements. Unlike any academic journal I know of from anywhere in the world, EPW was born, and has remained, a weekly.
For close to forty years, the journal's pages have been a clearing house of serious ideas on politics, economics, history, sociology, anthropology, and often the sciences as well. In addition to its weekly quota of some four or five academic papers, EPW also publishes, every year, reviews of agriculture, labour, industry, management and gender studies, consisting of about half a dozen commissioned papers by leading authorities in each field.
The very best of Indian social science research has been published by EPW, and often non-Indian academics have chosen to publish theoretical papers here rather than in journals of the west. As an academic journal, EPW holds its own against the best in the world. I have personally known academics who have waited for an year or more to get their name into EPW, for being published there is a mark of recognition for the quality of your research. An EPW citation invariably occupies pride of place in the curriculum vitae of a young scholar in any university anywhere in the world.
In this democratic republic of ideas, an unknown research scholar from an obscure part of the land gets as much space and prominence as an Amartya Sen or Romila Thapar. Over the years, senior bureaucrats, behind the protective shield of pseudonyms, have used the columns of EPW to critique government policy.
There is not a single debate of academic or political importance that has not animated its pages over the last three decades or more, be it the mode of production debate, or the question of imperialism, or underdevelopment, or the debt crisis of the third world, or the debates around subaltern historiography, or on the nature and direction of the Indian polity, or on questions of gender, caste, culture and environment. And remarkably for what was, for a long time, viewed as a journal of the (non-party) left, EPW has opened its pages to virtually every shade of rigorous thought.
But unlike any scholarly journal I know, EPW has also provided lavish space to commentaries on current issues, to columns by a number of top-class but somewhat idiosyncratic writers, to pithy and incisive editorials on a bewildering range of subjects of public concern, and to longer pieces that set out to provoke academic or political debate. In addition, EPW also publishes tables and tables of impeccably researched economic data and statistics, a lively letters to the editor column, and book reviews as well as review articles.
EPW defies every stereotype. It is a small, independent journal employing some twenty staff members on less than modest wages, but its professionalism is the envy of the best and biggest. Not a single issue has ever been delayed for any reason, including the death of its editor. Every single piece that appears in EPW is carefully and meticulously edited for style as well as content. It looks spartan, unostentatious, it is printed on inexpensive newsprint, carries no photographs, and makes no concessions to visual flourish, not even the use of fine typefaces or comfortable inter-line leading.
It is page after page of tightly composed text, and expects to be read with the same urgency as a dictionary or medical reference book. In fact, its functionality is itself an aesthetic, like those old, rugged, metal-bodied SLR cameras.
For a publication that looks nearly intimidating, EPW has phenomenal reach and circulation. University dons as much as undergraduates, corporate bigwigs and financial sector managers, bureaucrats and political leaders, social and political activists, anybody who has anything to do with the world of ideas and the state of the nation reads EPW.
We have all grown up on EPW, debating passionately this or that question that the journal threw at us, waiting anxiously for the issue next week to see how the debate was turning out. And the thrill of receiving the first acceptance note from the editor would surpass for a young scholar the thrill of many weightier honours in future life.
In the 1990s, as the neoliberal reform programme of the Indian economy gathered pace, EPW switched sides and began arguing in favour of the policies of liberalization and globalization.
Opinion on this policy shift was bitterly divided. Left intellectuals, particularly economists, felt a sense of betrayal, rightly so, and some of the best known among them boycotted EPW, perhaps not so rightly. Non- and anti-left liberals welcomed the change, celebrating EPW's 'glasnost'. Whatever one's opinion on the editorial shift, it is uncontested that the journal itself maintained high standards and commanded huge readership.
There is simply no getting away from it: EPW is a magnificent and unique intellectual institution.
On the left, we often think of movements as being more important than individuals, and perhaps they are, but in the process we underrate the individuals who build structures that enable movements to live and thrive.
Krishna Raj was one such man.
A master editor of other people's writing, he also wrote editorials on virtually every subject with care, economy and power. EPW is not a refereed journal. It didn't need to be, not with Krishna Raj in charge. He could debate with the best on most issues, but he chose an anonymous existence, never appearing on television, never granting interviews in print, never signing petitions.
Of all of India's public intellectuals, Krishna Raj was without doubt the most invisible, though arguably the most influential. EPW was his life's passion, his stage and his voice. The journal is what it is because of him, and it is a perfect reflection of his own personality: open, inviting, rigorous, unostentatious, quiet, curious, understated, fiercely independent, forceful.
And his personal integrity was at all times absolutely above the slightest reproach. Even when he turned pro-globalization, he did so not for personal gain - the only individual about whom I can say this - but because he genuinely believed he was right.
Apart from earning for EPW unprecedented stature and goodwill, Krishna Raj also put in place managerial and professional structures - including the ability to raise advertising revenue - that will ensure that EPW will continue to flourish for a long time to come. True to character then, Krishna Raj has ensured that we will not miss him.
But we still will; even those of us who, like me, had minimal personal contact with that gentle, charming man. He touched us all.
EXAMPLE OF EPW ARTICLE
BOOK REVIEW: India's Nuclear Fantasies: Costs and Ethics
Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream (Itty Abraham In 'Economic and Political Weekly' Dated 28th June 2003)
This volume is the latest and most com- prehensive collection of essays arguing against nuclear weapons in the sub-continent, taking forward and adding to the findings, insights and arguments found in Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik’s path-breaking South Asia on a Short Fuse1 and Smithu Kothari and Zia Mian’s extensive collection of essays and opinion pieces published following the tests of 1998.2
Amartya Sen’s essay, ‘India and the Bomb’, offers the most direct entry point to some of the key questions at stake in the nuclear problem in south Asia. His lucid contribution raises a number of critical issues that can be used to map other articles which go into particular issues in greater depth. These include the tactical and strategic costs of the tests, implications of nuclearisation at a global level, the cost factor, the ethics of nuclearisation, and the anxieties of a post-colonial elite.
On the central question of what India gained from going nuclear, Sen’s answer is, very little. At the domestic politics level, it didn’t help the BJP win state elections. At the tactical level Sen says nuclearisation constrained Indian conventional military options in the efforts to expel the intruders and regain the heights of Kargil.
At the strategic level, it allowed Pakistan to overcome its conventional weakness and claim parity with India on a nuclear scale. These points and the dangers inherent in the Kargil conflict are brought to the fore by Ejaz Haider, a senior editor of Lahore’s Daily Times and Friday Times, in one of the few pieces in the volume not written by an analyst of Indian origin. He reminds us that at least a dozen nuclear threats were made by officials on either side during the conflict, making a mockery of the idea of nuclear weapons deterring conflict; the reverse if anything was true. In fact, he argues, nuclear weapons emboldened the Pakistani military leadership to undertake the operation in the first place. “Pakistan saw its nuclear weapons capability as an ‘equaliser’ against India’s conventional military superiority” (p 136). Ultimately, he notes, international pressure prevented escalation and allowed the cessation of conflict, another blow to Indian strategic policy which seeks to keep the region free of foreign influence.
At the global level, nuclearisation alienated China and hardly furthered Indian ambitions to become a permanent member of the Security Council. Kanti Bajpai addresses the China question directly. He argues that while Indian decision-makers have seen in China the ultimate rationale for their nuclear programme, this perception is fatally flawed. Bajpai demonstrates this in two ways: first, by an examination of China’s India policy and foreign policy objectives, and second, by discussing the China-Pakistan relationship. He notes that “India has never figured in China’s threat cosmology in any serious fashion” (p 36). While Bajpai is realist enough to argue that the Middle Kingdom needs to be watched carefully and that India’s relative ‘military weakness’ is being ignored (p 39), he notes that China has already obtained what it needs as regards the contested border. In other words, in relation to India, China is the status quo power, India the revisionist one. Bajpai stresses the value of the ongoing rounds of discussions between the two countries and suggests that it is hardly in India’s interest to create a permanent enemy of China. That may be so, the hardliners would say, but what of Chinese support of Pakistan? In the most provocative section of his paper, he offers a series of hypothetical reasons for Chinese support of Pakistan, all of which have nothing to do with India. His basic point is, does China really need Pakistan to deter or defeat India? Although Chinese support for Pakistan makes India edgy and nervous, is China supporting Pakistan for other reasons altogether? Bajpai proposes that Chinese assistance to Pakistan has more to do with rewarding Pakistan for its constantcy, limiting US influence in the region, and keeping Muslim separatists in Xinjiang in check.
If this assistance upsets India, that’s a price China is willing to pay. Bajpai suggests that perhaps Pakistan has also shared western military technology with China, for which there is not yet much evidence. What seems more plausible is that Pakistan is also valuable to China in relation to North Korea, offering a low cost and hands-off means of subverting US non-proliferation policy and support for Taiwan. Some of these questions should have been answered in Ye Zhengjia’s disarmingly direct paper on India-China relations. Yet in the ‘officially correct’ manner typical of Chinese scholars of international relations, Ye completely avoids mention of the unpleasant subject of Chinese relations with Pakistan. The paper correctly points out that there still remains a great deal of misunderstanding in India of Chinese motivations, in my view a combination of ignorance bolstered by neo-orientalist western journalism and the absence of a critical mass of first rate scholars of China in India.
All in all, Sen concludes, nuclearisation has set back India’s “national self-defence” vis-a-vis its neighbours. To this prudential concern – was the decision sensible? – is then added the ethical concern of the ‘rightness or wrongness’ of the policy itself. The ethical issue, he argues, is in turn a prudential matter of the highest importance as it is a factor in how we assess each other’s actions. The now present threat of massive devastation and mass murder in the subcontinent cannot, under any circumstances, be considered an ethical policy, especially when set against India’s historic opposition to nuclear weapons.
The ethical questions raised by the nuclearisation of south Asia cannot be dismissed as mere debating points for armchair philosophers. A strong ethical stance underwrote longstanding – for half a century – Indian demands for global nuclear disarmament, a comprehensive test ban treaty, and a nuclear weapons convention, and bolstered its opposition to the nuclear asymmetry enshrined in the US-led non-proliferation regime. In retrospect, India’s self-imposed restraint after testing in 1974 added to the moral weight of these demands. These arguments reached their short-lived zenith – and acquired quasi-legal standing – when India submitted a Memorial to the International Court of Justice as it prepared its 1996 Advisory Opinion on the legality of the threat of use or use of nuclear weapons.
Siddharth Mallavarapu presents the details of this historic ruling in his contribution to the volume. Two key aspects of the opinion are worth repeating. First, the special nature of nuclear weapons is clarified; second, the weakening of the principle of national self-defence, insofar as the court agued that self-defence could not be considered independent of principles of humanitarian law. But in the end, the court blinked. It “[could not] conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme case of self-defence in which the very survival of the state would be at stake” (p 255).
While for a long time, it could be taken as obvious that it was the tremendous destructive power of nuclear weapons that set them apart from other weapons, this position weakened with the development of battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons and the enormous leaps in destructive capacity of conventional munitions, especially in the US arsenal. This helps us clarify that it is the long-term effects of nuclear weapons, namely its radiation and environmental effects, which not only affect the present, but which threaten the well-being of future generations and the survival of the eco-system, that make nuclear weapons truly stand apart as weapons of mass destruction.
The effects of radiation are unfortunately already with us. M V Ramana, a physicist and environmentalist at Princeton, and Surendra Gadekar, scientist and co-founder of the anti-nuclear journal Anumukthi, walk us through the horrific effects of the production cycle of the Indian nuclear programme, from the mining of uranium to the fabrication of fuel rods, to waste, reprocessing and testing, and discuss environmental impacts such as ground-water contamination. They make it absolutely clear that in India it makes no sense at all to separate the ‘civilian’ and the ‘military’ programmes on the basis of final use, as some political parties and anti-nuclear groups do, when in practice these systems are completely fused. The evidence presented would have been even more effective if the authors had included a map showing the location of the different sites of reprocessing, production, and extraction, the areas of greatest contamination and their proximity to areas of dense settlement, and the likely routes that nuclear materials and wastes travel across the country. Elsewhere Ramana et al calculated that India has to cope with 5,000 cubic metres (the equivalent of five Olympic-size swimming pools) of high level waste from reprocessing.3 High level waste contains 99 per cent of the total radioactivity from all wastes produced. The harmful effects of this waste will be with us for thousands of years, and there is more being produced daily. Given this, it is not surprising that Thomas George, a physician, describes nuclear weapons as biological weapons (p 449) in his useful summary of the physical effects of radiation on the human body. In a conclusion that brings us into the realm of horror films, he reminds us that following the devastation of nuclear conflagration, insects will rule the world.
The principle of self-defence, an indispensable element of a state’s claim to sovereignty, has long been held as inviolable. But India’s submission to the court noted that even this principle has its limits. In its brief India cited proportionality – the idea that the use of force even for legitimate defence has to be proportionate to the means and ends of the attack; that the use of force must cease once other means, i e, diplomacy, become available; and that where reprisal involves nuclear weapons, their use becomes subject to international humanitarian law. Humanitarian law precludes the targeting of non-combatants and proscribes their needless suffering. The use of nuclear weapons promises both. And if the law is not enough, the Indian submission speaks directly to the non-ethics of deterrence: “deterrence has been considered abhorrent to human sentiment since it implies that a state, if required to defend its own existence, will act with pitiless disregard for the consequences of its [actions on its] own and adversary’s people” (pp 260-61).
We still do not fully understand the transformation that took place between 1996 and 1998. In a matter of two years, the same country that issued the statements above conducted five nuclear tests and declared itself a nuclear state. As Sen puts it: “The claim that subcontinental nuclearisation would somehow help to bring about world nuclear disarmament is a wild dream that can only precede a nightmare” (p 187). The easy explanation blames the whole mess on the BJP, or, as Krishna Ananth suggests, on the entire Indian ruling elite.
Political scientist Srirupa Roy agues that the decision to go nuclear must be seen in historical context, situated and justifed within a coherent set of post-colonial state discourses, hence both the origins and the impact of nuclearisation lie outside the nuclear question, narrowly construed. Just as contemporary Hindu nationalism is less of a break from the past than is often imagined, the official frame of Indian nationalism offered the resources, conceptual and material, for a government that sought to go nuclear. “Just as it is impossible to ignore the fact that Hindu nationalism has emerged in India through the working of the existing democratic process, it is also impossible to ignore the ways in which a nuclear India draws upon and reproduces familiar and unquestioned assumptions about national identity and state-society relations” (p 350). Or, by the same logic, going nuclear seeks to affirm and strengthen ‘official’ Indian nationalism. This is tricky ground, because it also forces us to think why forms of destruction become the means by which state continuity and ideological affirmation get reproduced. Is the answer militarism, defined by economist Jean Dreze as “the propensity to use military power, or the threat of it, for political settlement” (p 280), or is it even more structural, an inherent feature of the modern or postcolonial state? The endemic nature of modern warfare and its disproportionate effects in the developing world suggest the latter; be that as it may, it is impossible to deny the staggering impact of war on the process of development, including “material and psychological deprivations associated with entitlement failures, health crises, physical violence, forced displacement, ...[destruction of] productive infrastructure, public services, settlement patterns, environmental resources, social capital and the institutions of governance” (pp 312-13).
The full and sunk costs of nuclearisation are as yet unknown, but economist and journalist Rammanohar Reddy offers a careful and even conservative analysis of the likely costs of the programme in the future. It is worth remembering that the Brookings study of the US nuclear programme, which estimated a total cost of $5 trillion dollars over a half century, found that nuclear weapons themselves were a rather small proportion of the overall costs. Reddy estimates, at a minimum over the next 10 years, the cost of nuclear weapons at Rs 650 crore, the cost of delivery systems at Rs 17,000 crore, the cost of C4I2 (command and control) at Rs 16,000 crore, or Rs 34,000 crore over the decade. When other costs are factored in, including the costs of operating this system, it works out to Rs 7,000-8,000 crore per annum at 1998-99 prices, approximately 0.5 per cent of India’s GDP (pp 273-93), equivalent to the “annual cost of introducing universal elementary education in India” (p 394). Put another way, 7-8 paise of every tax rupee will be spent on this programme (p 393). But what is worse is that these expenditures on nuclear weapons will, in all likelihood, take place alongside an increase in India’s conventional military budget, already 2 per cent of GDP.
Dreze argues that democracies are less likely to be militaristic (in the sense defined above), but notes soberingly that democracy itself is a casualty of militarism. The threats to Indian democracy are real. Nuclear affairs are protected under the colonial era origin Offical Secrets Act with the post-colonial Atomic Energy Act thrown in for good measure. The first casualty of official secrecy is visible in the data used in this volume. Due to the lack of data available from Indian sources, Ramana and Gadekar constantly turn to international comparisons and estimates drawn from extrapolations from international data. Rammanohar Reddy in his analysis of the economics of the Indian nuclear programme adopts the same technique, while making amends for its limitations. With little public information available on India and Pakistan’s planned command and control infrastructures, physicist and activist Zia Mian does a superb job of drawing together existing sources and borrowing from the US experience to construct a careful and comprehensive argument showing the complexity and risks inherent in such an organisation. His point is that there are huge risks ‘built in’, even when the system is working well within its stated parameters.
With all these arguments and data together making a comprehensive case for the lack of benefits from, and the dangers and ethical consequences of nuclearisation, how is it possible that such a programme continues unabated? Sen helps us get a little deeper into this question when he narrows in on the grievances held by Indian elites, and sets them in an international context. He reminds us that India’s scientist-president, Abdul Kalam, is kind-hearted, mild-mannered, amiable, philanthropic, and, an intense nationalist who greeted the bomb with joy. Kalam is a product of what I have elsewhere termed the “strategic enclave” of Indian state scientists,4 the focus of articles by M V Ramana and Amulya K Reddy. Ramana recounts in now familiar detail the important story of how the scientists around Homi Bhabha, present at the founding of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, have become a de facto bomb lobby, restrained only by political leaders. The distinguished scientist Amulya Reddy explores the complicity of modern science with large-scale destruction. He reminds us of the qualitatively new levels of destruction that were reached in second world war by both sides, thanks to the scientisation of death, from genocide in Auschwitz and the concentration camps to the firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, and the only hitherto recorded use of nuclear weapons. This complicity is not necessary, but comes from a failure of morality and will. Reddy notes with dismay how the scientific establishment in India either greeted the tests with joy or remained silent. His diagnosis of the scientific community in India is sociological. He argues that the lure of state patronage post-independence marked the initial fall from grace: with it went scientific independence. Symptoms of decay include the lack of a “community of interacting scientists” (p 198), the “manipulation” of peer review, the marginalisation of unorthodox thinking, and, most telling, the absence of scientific controversies. His insight that the “decoupling” of science and technology in India has led to “abnormality” is also the context for a plea that the natural work of science in India is to address “the country’s defining characteristic and fundamental reality” – poverty (pp 197, 199). Unfortunately, the poverty of Indian state science precludes consideration of this reality.
The grievances held by Indian nuclear scientists may be generalised across the Indian elite, especially the political class. Their obsession is to be taken more seriously – how often do we hear that India is the world’s largest democracy, produces the second (or is it third?) largest pool of scientists and engineers in the world, etc, etc – but this obsession is symptomatic of global tensions that work in contradictory ways. On the one hand, we have to take seriously the fact that considerable segments of the upper middle class urban populations of India delighted in the decision to ‘go nuclear’, whether they voted for the BJP or not.5 Getting the attention of US media and policy-makers remains, for the still-to-be-decolonised, the only measure of world success. They remain oblivious to Sen’s insight regarding their “overestimation of the persuasive power of the bomb [...] and underestimation of the political, cultural, scientific, and economic strength of the country” (p 186). The crudeness of their response, on the other hand, should not blind us to the degree to which American imperial power and military force has become the currency of the day, forcing into disrepute alternative forms of public diplomacy and non-coercive international relations. American-style realism is not alien to India. The constituent assembly debates demonstrate that realism of this kind has been an element of elite discourse about India since independence, a discourse that until given centre-stage by the Hindu right remained embarrassing and marginal. But global nuclear relations have always been the site for the clearest representation of a grossly unequal world system which sanctions weapons of mass destruction only in the hands of a select few. In fact, a simplistic and not unreasonable lesson to learn from contemporary US responses to North Korea and Iraq is how much the presence of nuclear weapons appear to count.
In other words, once we set the south Asian nuclear equation in global terms, the ethical and the prudent diverge sharply. While there is still no substitute, from the point of view of human security, to general and global disarmament, is it a prudent strategy to wait until the difficult conditions for such an agreement are made possible? Or, is it necessary to work on multiple fronts simultaneously, from the regional to the global, seeking to reduce the very real threat of nuclear conflagration wherever possible? Adopting the latter, pragmatic, position is not without its own dilemmas. It means that anti-nuclear activists in south Asia join hands with some elements of the nuclear establishment who argue that the global nuclear forces are no less a threat to world security and that simultaneous reductions in global and regional arsenals are necessary: the adoption of a rigorous and verifiable global convention on nuclear weapons is the minimum goal of such joint efforts. This is not a trivial concern: the rise of US triumphalism has coincided with reports that indicate pressure building up for a resumption of testing and the development of a new generation of US tactical nuclear weapons. At the same time, the south Asia anti-nuclear movement must continue its efforts towards mutual restraint in the region.
Should these efforts stop short of rollback for the time being? In the present political conjuncture, there is a case to be made for the presence of nuclear weapons in the region, not to deter the US from attack, but as a form of pressure and bargaining chip that may yet force decision-makers in Washington to reduce their own immense arsenal, based ultimately on their fear of weapons in the hands of people unlike them. This is a dangerous position to adopt; using nuclear weapons as means to an end is a deeply problematic position to take, whether justified in terms of destructive or progressive ends. An interim and unhappy solution offers itself in the formation of a new international regime on the lines of the missile technology control regime (MTCR) which would seek to bring the five old nuclear powers, India, Pakistan and Israel into a mutually binding compact. Such a move would mean the effective end of the discriminatory non-proliferation regime, which is perhaps on its last legs anyway, and its replacement with a new discriminatory system whose only saving grace is that it puts a hold on the expansion of nuclear weapons in south Asia and globally. This would delight the pro-bomb lobby in both India and Pakistan for symbolic reasons but would also impose a form of restraint on them that would make military adventures of the kind south Asia has become all too familiar with in the last few years much more difficult to pull off. Such is the definition of pragmatic.
Whether these proposals are viable or not, the anti-nuclear movement in south Asia, in India in particular, is faced with a dilemma. Five years from the time that the national security states in India and Pakistan formally declared themselves weapons-capable through a series of nuclear tests, little progress has been made in rolling back or capping the nuclear juggernaut in either country. The movement has been proven correct in its analysis – the risks inherent in nuclearisation and misguided faith in the false god of deterrence have been made manifestly visible to all but the wilfully ‘Blind Men of Hindoostan’.6 Being correct, however, is no guarantor of positive change. What restraint there is in the system – declarations of no first use, no further testing, continued adherence to a limited set of confidence-building measures – has been self-imposed by those who decided to carry out these tests. The anti-nuclear movement cannot really take credit for these marginally positive developments nor can it fall back, for all the reasons expressed in this volume, on a wholly justified but politically vacuous response of ‘I told you so’.
In the last instance, India and Pakistan are unlikely to shelve their own programmes once and for all unless enormous pressure is put on them from all fronts. These include the international, the economic and the political. To the extent that the latter front has remained underdeveloped, it remains a fertile zone for the anti-nuclear movement to exploit. In India, this means above all transforming the mindset of regional political formations into taking positions on ‘national’ issues. There are local reasons for doing so, as the cost of sanctions against India for its nuclear follies are disproportionately felt in some parts of the country rather than others, but also because not to do so allows the ostensibly national parties such as the BJP and Congress to fill this vacuum and monopolise some policies ‘in the name of the nation’. As heterogeneous coalitions become the standard form of governance in New Delhi, vernacular nationalisms rooted in local struggles and expressing diverse interests hold out the promise of less bellicose and aggressive expressions of Indian national interest. Only then might it be possible to confront the costs and ethics of India’s nuclear fantasies.
1 Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik, South Asia on a Short Fuse: Nuclear Politics and the Future of Global Disarmament, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999.
19 November 2007
A little more on Economic and Political weekly; nuclear fantasie and more
Wish WE had a journal like this!!