Nuclear Time Bombs We All Try to Ignore

Daily Mail (London), January 23, 1999 | Go to article overview
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Nuclear Time Bombs We All Try to Ignore


Byline: PETER LEWIS

DR STRANGELOVE, I PRESUME by Michael Foot (Gollancz, [pounds sterling]16.99) THE world jumped uneasily in May last year at the news that first India, then Pakistan, had carried out a nuclear weapon test.

Two more countries had proved they belonged to the ever less-exclusive 'Nuclear Club'.

The rejoicing and triumph among Indians and Pakistanis in their long-sustained enmity was sickening.

Citizens wept in their streets with joy. India had shown the world (especially Pakistan) what its scientists were capable of. Pakistan had shown the world (especially India) that it could bring about doomsday as well as anyone else.

No one was more appalled at all this than Michael Foot, the doyen of campaigners for nuclear disarmament.

He tells us plainly how he felt: 'A nuclear arms race on the Indian subcontinent was the ultimate insanity.' This book is his anguished reaction to this renewed proof of the macho madness of mankind, even in a country such as India which, though technically capable of developing a nuclear weapon, has always proclaimed it did not wish to.

The world's largest democracy had long supplied the chief voice calling for non-proliferation and international disarmament as an example to us all.

But this book is more than a lament for what went wrong with India and the pressures to which it yielded. It is a broad review of the disarmament campaign since the Fifties and an analysis of why it has borne so little fruit.

The non-proliferation and test ban treaties were preliminary steps in the right direction. So why is proliferation continuing in this spectacular fashion? Why have forbidden tests, by France as well as India and Pakistan, continued with the excuse 'Just one more trial, then we'll sign the treaty'?

When the Cold War ended with the collapse of communism, the West thought euphorically that the threat of mutually assured nuclear destruction had been lifted. Ever since, we have looked the other way, assuring ourselves that we live in a time of mutually assured nuclear peace. No one will ever use the things. Well, they haven't so far, have they? The odds are in favour of our survival.

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