India arrives with a ban

As India gate crashes to take its rightful place in the comity of nuclear powers, every Indian who values his self-respect and understands his self-interest has reason to be proud and elated. After decades of hypocritical dithering and painful procrastination, India, under a new dispensation, has at last made bold to break the shackles imposed by a combination of a meaningless self-denial, an unwarranted moralistic dilemma and an unfair nuclear regime.

True, the BJP government has made a calculated gamble in these troubled times when the region is reeling under a spell of mistrust, fear and escalating tensions. But with Pakistan flexing its muscles there is no way India can be expected to remain a passive spectator, and besides the move goes in line with the BJP’s stated intentions on the nuclear option. The powers that be had obviously decided, and rightly so, that the time was ripe for India to assert its military capabilities, if only as a deterrent. The message of the Pokhran blasts is loud and clear: India has arrived. The BJP government has indeed done itself and the country proud by mustering the political courage to call the bluff perpetrated by an overbearing superpower whose arm-twisting had long back crossed the limits of reason and equity.

Admittedly, the world reaction, especially of the exclusive club, is unlikely to be as muted as the countdown to the blasts in Pokhran, which took all, including Indians, by surprise. Rather, the immediate aftermath of India’s exhibition of its prowess, is bound to witness quite a redound of negative sentiments, like Uncle Sam’s post haste expression of shock and threats of economic sanctions. But then what is US diplomacy without threats and insinuations and one can hope that it is only a matter of time before the Big Brother, who incidentally was not watching, sees reason and relents. Not that the BJP is also surprised by all these sabre rattling which was only expected. Indeed it is a measure of the government’s confidence to tide over the diplomatic crisis that has arisen and its firm conviction that whatever the economic realities, India’s security cannot be compromised. Besides, the government might have also banked on the possibility of the US business lobby prevailing over impulse. Not wholly wishful thinking considering the fact that the two countries have broken lot of ground in bilateral trade in recent years which had happened only after phenomenal mutual efforts aimed at removing misconceptions and mistrust that had been the hallmark of Indo-US relations. Indications that the proposed visit of President Clinton to India would be as scheduled strengthens such a line of thinking.

All said, the nuclear tests are indeed a giant leap for India’s standing in the eyes of the world. From an unenviable situation of being bullied into signing on the dotted line, India has in one emphatic gesture of self expression foisted itself into a position of strength. Whether one likes it or not, India has come to stay on par in the exclusive league of big powers, where it has to be ‘consulted’ and not merely ‘told’ on the burning issues of nuclear nonproliferation. The super powers on their part have little option but to shed their discrimination and start talking as equals. The inescapable feeling that the whole episode may be a prelude to India signing the NPT and CTBT also creeps in, but it may be too premature to hazard a guess on that count. Also the government has announced its readiness to discuss some of the provisions of the treaties and is unlikely to rush into signing them, though there is sure to be a marked positive inclination in that direction.

Back home, it is truly a political masterstroke by Vajpayee and his team. Though in line with the BJP’s manifesto and national agenda, no one expected the PM to act within just a few days in office on a matter which has wide ramifications. Besides extricating himself from the political turmoil wrought by vociferous allies and their irreconcilable objectives, Vajpayee has also taken the wind out of the sails of the opposition, who have been left with little room to browbeat the government, except at the risk of being dubbed cowards themselves.

For the man on the potholed Indian streets what does this augur? Why should Vajpayee be bursting crackers in distant Rajasthan when Diwali is still another six months away? Why all this hulla baloo about better security when almost everyday the citizens live with the perennial fear of getting bombed out by hidden explosives? Well, my countrymen it is just that from now on, Pakistan and even China (courtesy: Fernandes) would think twice before launching their missiles on India because we can pay back too. But of ISI, Al-Umma et al, you had better watch out, especially if you happen to reside in Tamilnadu. The State government is yet to find an effective deterrent for them.

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Jawahar T R