An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 27 March 2006

On 4th March at Hyderabad House, Condelezza Rice exclaimed, “We have a deal”, and President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, altered the balance of power and the nuclear equations in the world, by arbitrarily opening doors for India to enter the exclusive nuclear club of five. That act when finally consummated will spell the death knell of the already ailing Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India will join the five policemen –– guardians of non proliferation. NPT’s symptoms of sickness were evident at the conference held by 180 nations in New York in 2005, and more recently Iran’s blatant defiance of the treaty.

A nuclear world order with India as an integral member is in the offing, which is only likely to be challenged by China and some Scandinavian countries, but Indian leaders are dealing their cards with finesse. India can thank its founding fathers to have kept out of the NPT and CTBT and secretly continued the pursuit of nuclear technology like a good national insurance plan, which has now paid dividends.

Many in India, especially some of India’s political parties, do not appear to have grasped the significance of the bold step of India’s Prime Minister and his team of advisers, to sign the nuclear deal with Bush’s team, and the benefits that can accrue to India when the deal finally goes through the US Congress and the 44 strong Nuclear Suppliers group.

The BJP at present groping for a credible strategy, started the path but are smarting that no credit is being given to them. The opposing factions which have lined up with surprising anti-national utterances have unwittingly joined Pakistan, Iran and others, because as card holders they still have to come to terms that the cold war era is over and dead. Mentalities and attitudes take time to change but balance of power equations change faster, and so do geopolitics and economic equations.

It is this new climate that has been grasped by President Bush to forge an economic and strategic partnership with India for the mutual benefits that will accrue to both countries. It is a repeat of the secret mission undertaken by Henry Kissinger in 1971 facilitated by Pakistan, when Kissinger opened USA’s doors for China. From being a communist pariah China became a business friend of USA for trade and China almost gave military support to Pakistan in India’s 1971 war on Nixon’s behest, but Mrs Indira Gandhi wisely signed a Strategic Pact with Russia, which proved to be the decisive deterrent. China never looked back with FDI and technology from USA.

Today it is deterrence that Indian leaders need to pursue militarily and in diplomacy.

The wise words of the present Defence Minister of Singapore Rear Admiral Teo Chee Hean rings a bell. Since 1990, every time an Indian leader called on him in Singapore, he tried to explain that a benign strategic relationship between nations is essential for business. India has only recently adopted this policy whole heartedly and signed defence and strategic partnerships with umpteen nations and one with Australia recently, and President Kalam is visiting Mynmar where he is following up on India’s strategic and energy interests in competition with China. In Mauritius we have economic interests as 80% of FDI comes via that country and we have Intelligence tie ups. The President is going there too and as a shrewd space and nuclear technologist he knows what deterrence is all about for an accepted nuclear power.

Now that India has overt acceptance of its nuclear arsenal, its Leaders need to understand the tenets of deterrence. Openness is necessary to ensure the safety of the nuclear arsenal, which may never be used except for deterrence and publicity of its capabilities and plans, to deter any aggressor. The military are the users of the arsenal but they are still not in the loop, and with 35% nuclear facilities now labeled military, the Armed Forces will need to be involved in the policy and practice of nuclear deterrence.

India’s most ambitious and expensive DRDO project for building a nuclear submarine technology demonstrator, after the Light Combat Aircraft LCA, which is still struggling to become combat worthy, has seen large covert funding from the PMO and needs to be brought out in the open in a calibrated manner as it too is struggling. The project is euphemistically called the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV). The existence of the nuclear submarine building project has long been denied by successive Indian defence ministers and navy chiefs. Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat lost his job as Chief of Naval Staff for asking for an audit of the ATV project.

However now it is in the public domain and soon its large funding will shift to the Navy especially if more are ordered. Over 12 acknowledged vendors including Larsen and Tubro Ltd and Mazagon Dock Ltd are involved in this multi-crore project and they speak about it and its future for business at exhibitions looking for sub contracting, but in official terms of the Government it is still a mirage and does not exist. This situation needs to be corrected to remove doubts in the minds of many including US Congress which will need to trust India more and more.

As luck would have it the ATV project was at last officially confirmed first by the Defence Minster Pranab Mukherjee to the media in Moscow during his visit to Russia in December, and more recently during the President’s impressive Review of the Combined Fleets in Vishakaptanam on 12th February.

President Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam whilst at Vishakapatnam, visited the sprawling Ship Building Center (SBC) adjacent to the Naval Dockyard and Hindustan Shipyard in the heart of the town, in the gaze of the media men who were rightly denied access. Though the President did not specifically mention the term ATV, he described it as –– a ‘strategic submarine with long endurance and high manoeuvre capability that is taking shape and being developed with partnership’. In fact Dr Kalam as DRDO head steered the project and should be proud of it, even though it has seen uphill days but India will have to have a nuclear submarine fleet soon, since China has over two dozen nuclear boats and USA has only nuclear submarines in its fleet. They are all for deterrence.

The need exists for greater openness in our nuclear ambitions. Finally it must be remembered that in 10 month long OP Parakarma, Pakistan used its nuclear card as a deterrent by issuing a warning and India was deterred though the Government officially never admitted it and called it coercive diplomacy. Only Gen Padmanabhan has explained it all in his writings!

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