Nuclear Tests in National Security Interest
BY ATAL BIHARI VAJPAYEE
THERE has always been a broad consensus on India’s foreign policy, notwithstanding minor differences in opinion from time to time. There has been unanimity over the need to make India’s foreign policy independent of external pressure+ a policy that encourages self-reliance, protects India’s interests and contributes to world peace. Therefore, when it is argued post-Pokhran-II that this broad consensus has been done away with, it amounts to not seeing things in their right perspective.
Good relations with all our neighbours is integral to India’s foreign policy. Right from the day my Government took charge, we have taken steps to strengthen relations with our neighbours. The President of India has returned from a successful trip to Nepal. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh recently visited New Delhi and discussions were held with her in an atmosphere of friendship and cooperation. The President of Maldives also visited New Delhi. We had very cordial discussions with him. India’s Foreign Secretary has visited Bangladesh and Bhutan in recent days. Given this backdrop, it would be unfair to say that India has been isolated.
Yes, we have problems with Pakistan. But India’s efforts have all along been directed at normalising relations with Pakistan, establishing friendship with that country, opening new doors to economic cooperation and facilitating travel between the two countries. But we did not get Pakistan’s cooperation, which is required for all this to happen. A dialogue with Pakistan had been initiated by the previous regime. India had made a proposal to Pakistan at Dhaka to set up the framework for discussions. But Pakistan did not respond. In the meanwhile, efforts were made to create disturbances in India, posing a threat to our internal security.
Critics at home have been saying that there is tension in the region. We don’t want any tension There is firing on the border, but this has been happening for some time. There are some unresolved issues which can be resolved through bilateral discussions. India and Pakistan have to live together. We cannot change our neighbours We can change friends, we can reduce the number of those who are against us, but a neighbour is there forever. Our effort has been to ensure that India and Pakistan live as good neighbours. This effort shall continue.
Under the Shimla Agreement, all outstanding issues between the two countries have to be settled bilaterally. There is no scope for any third party intervention. To those who want to play a role, I have only this to say: Thank you, but we will deal with our problems in our own way and solve them through bilateral discussions.
As far as the charge of isolating India is concerned, the facts are to the contrary. At the G15 meeting, there was no such attempt. At the NonAligned meeting, there was a concerted effort to criticise India for conducting the nuclear tests — but these efforts failed as there was no support for the move.
The nuclear tests, Pokhran-II. were conducted bearing in mind certain security concerns. Even those who criticised us, those who are opposed to us, for conducting the nuclear tests, have begun to concede that India has genuine security concerns. This is not the first time that India is being criticised. When India refused to sign NPT, it seemed as if the entire world had turned against us and bitterly criticised the decision, but India stood firm and said that as a matter principle we will not sign a discriminatory treaty.
I recall that after Pokhran-I in 1974, some people had criticised the nuclear test and charged the then Congress Government with deflecting attention from other problems and influencing elections. The present Rajya Sabha Chairman, who was an MP in those days, had participated in a parliamentary discussion soon after Pokhran-I and said: “I personally feel a halting decision has been taken. We should have done it much earlier. But let us not say about UP elections, the President’s rule…” This shows the diseased mind of the Opposition people as to how a good thing done by our scientists and by the Government, they want to lower it down”.
History is repeating itself —those who were in power in 1974 are now in the Opposition; those who were in the Opposition, are now in power. But fundamental issues pertaining to the nation’s security cannot be linked to changing political situations; these issues cannot be made dependent on politics of the day.
It has been pointed out that India’s publicity offensive has not been as powerful as it should have been. This is partly true. Those who oppose us, do so publicly; but those who support us, are often not vocal enough. This point had been made during Mrs Indira Gandhi’s time, too. While answering to a debate in Parliament, she had said:
“And any incident or information that comes to the knowledge of Hon’ble Members of Parliament will always be useful to us in seeing how these services and Missions can be improved. But, when we talk of publicity abroad or of the image of India which our Missions are projecting, let us remember that we are dealing with sovereign independent states who have their own assessment of their national interests. They are not concerned with our national interests; they are concerned with what picture suits them and that is the picture which is normally projected in that country. Our task, therefore, is to seek their cooperation in matters where our interests converge as they do with many countries and to seek adjustment and accommodation wherever there are divergenes… We hope that the country will now present a picture of unity and not of division; of progress and not of stagnation; of purposeful activity and not of meaningless presumption. All this will condition and influence our external relations and what others think of us.”
If we become victims of self-criticism, if we do not publicise and praise the achievements of our scientist, engineers and technicians, then we cannot blame others for criticising us.
If we become victims of self-criticism, if we do not publicise and praise the achievements of our entists, engineers and technicians, then we cannot blame others for criticising us
I am not saying that there should be no criticism. If there are any lapses, then the Opposition should criticise the Government – we, too, have done it when we were in the Opposition. But there comes a moment when if thie nation fails to stand united, then the nation’s interest is harmed. Shri V.P. Singh, who is at present in London, gave an interview to BBC and said that the importance of the recent nuclear tests should not be minimised, that the achievement of scientists should be hailed. At the time of Pokhran-1, Shri Singh had said in the Lok Sabha:
“Deputy Speaker, Sir, if anything has been exploded by the Pokhran explosion, then it has been the myth that vital technology can be the exclusive possession of a few countries. It has unsettled some who had envisaged a world order on these premises. They throw up their hands in horror and accuse us of opening the nuclear Pandora’s box and turn pale at the thought of a puny little country, the little eleven with no sense of responsibility, will follow the lead of the tramp called India and start the entire dirty job of producing nuclear bombs, a job which was the sole monopoly of the nuclear weapon countries. What a pious thought! I wish it had occurred before the push-button was released to drop the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The high priests who had installed the nuclear deity on the high pedestal of their global relations are now scared that some of their worshippers may build their own temples. Let it be known that if any country does build a nuclear bomb, it will be following the example of Hiroshima and not that of Pokhran.”
These words are as much true today as they were then. Shri Singh is our political opponent, there are differences between us. But his reaction from his sickbed in London is that of a nationalist.
We have made it clear that whatever we did, we did out of our concern for the nation’s security. Our action was not aimed against anyone. Whichever way we look, we find nuclear arms. India has prepared itself to meet this challenge on the strength of its indigenous talent and resources. We have to understand the true intentions of those who have put together a nuclear device with the help of others and illicitly acquired components.
(Excerpts from Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speech
in the Rajya Sabha on July 10, 1998.)
Courtesy: BJP Today (August 1-15, 1998)