India Needs the Bomb

By Harold A. Gould Los Angeles Times | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 19, 1996 | Go to article overview

India Needs the Bomb


Harold A. Gould Los Angeles Times, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


India is taking a lot of flak these days because of its publicly proclaimed refusal to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Indeed, The Washington Post has described India as a "spoiler" for standing in the way of an accord many see as a necessary first step if nuclear weapons are ever to be eliminated.

This perception certainly will be enhanced by the public repudiation of the treaty in its present form by India's external affairs minister, Kumar Gujral, after his July 25 meeting with Secretary of State Warren Christopher at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia.

India's reasons for assuming this stance - its legitimate security concerns - deserve a measure of sympathetic understanding.

New Delhi not unreasonably perceives an implicit double standard in provisions of the treaty that would determine who would and who would not be permitted to retain a nuclear option. The five nations that now possess nuclear arsenals (the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China) are allowed to retain them for whatever period of time it takes for them to figure out how to fully disarm. During what will surely be a protracted (perhaps even a permanent) interregnum, the privileged five would retain a decisive de facto strategic edge over the nuclear have-not nations.

In this context, what are the concerns that have gotten such short shrift from the United States' nuclear wonks?

China: India already has gone to war once with China, in 1962, over still unresolved territorial and political differences such as Tibet. In an atmosphere of mutual distrust, India faces a severe military disadvantage if it forsakes its nuclear option while China remains a nuclear power. This has special poignancy in the face of China's relucta nce to sign the treaty unless its strict inspection requirements are diluted.

Pakistan: India has already fought three wars against Islamabad's U.S.-equipped army. Pakistan is obsessed with hatred of India, actively supports Kashmiri separatism and doggedly pursues a nuclear capability while blatantly ignoring all attempts by the United States and the international community to get it to desist from doing so.

China/Pakistan: Considering China's existing nuclear capability and Pakistan's potential for nuclear capability (thanks especially to China's cynical and illegal technology transfers to Pakistan), is it so surprising that India balks at signing a comprehensive test ban treaty that implicitly brushes aside these compelling security concerns? Especially when many Indians are convinced that Washington privately winks at this unsavory relationship because it creates a mini-cordon sanitaire around India as a means of curbing its regional assertiveness. …

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