India and Pakistan are governed by madmen. The prime ministers are mad, the generals, scientists, civil servants all mad. The proof of their madness is their paranoid obsession with security and nuclear weapons. What, after all, could be more insane than two desperately poor countries, struggling to feed, educate, and house their people spending scarce resources on preparing to murder millions of innocent people, then glorying in their capability and willingness to commit such a monstrous deed. More disturbing still is that while these madmen and their obsessions may mean the death of us, we do next to nothing about them. Perhaps the people, governed by lunatics for so long, have also quietly gone mad, to protect themselves from the consequences of understanding what is happening to them.
These thoughts have been brought on by India’s recently released nuclear doctrine, and the expectation that the madmen in Islamabad will follow those in Delhi and move a step closer to deploying their nuclear weapons, and a step closer to using them.
The Indian nuclear doctrine contains no surprises. It is what anyone should have expected from India’s National Security Advisory Board, given that it is a nest of nuclear hawks. Asked to produce a doctrine, no one should have expected reason from them. Each was bound to try to out do the others, and none would relish being found wanting in patriotism or hard-headedness. Then there is the lure of history. The nuclear tests were about science and technology, and the scientists took the credit. As strategic thinkers, the National Security Board will take credit for having made the plan for how India’s weapons are to be used. For some of them, this report is the culmination of decades of writing and arguing for India to have nuclear weapons; it reflects their hopes, dreams, fantasies, of a nuclear India.
Given how nationalistic these men are, how committed to a kind of independence at any cost, one is reminded, ironically, of Lord Macaulay’s famous 1835 Minute on Education. Writing about British rule in India, he said the aim should be to create “a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste and opinions, in morals and intellect.” The British succeeded to the extent that a hundred or so years later it was anglicized Indians like Nehru and Jinnah who took over from them. American strategic thinkers, who preside like demented gods over their own nuclear weapons, can boast they have had the same effect in even less time. Despite all their differences, and animosities, within fifty years of inventing nuclear weapons, destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then claiming that nuclear weapons were for defence, the US nuclear weapons complex has successfully created enclaves of Indians, and Pakistanis, who have exactly their nuclear “morals” and “intellect.”
The tone and content of India’s nuclear doctrine carries the stamp of the hardest of the hardest liners and their global fears and ambitions. The doctrine declares that “the very existence of offensive doctrine pertaining to the first use of nuclear weapons and the insistence of some nuclear weapons states on the legitimacy of their use even against non-nuclear weapon countries constitute a threat to peace, stability and sovereignty of states.” It is this threat, the doctrine declares, that India’s nuclear weapons are supposed to protect against. But the countries which have said they will use nuclear weapons first are the US, UK, France, Russia, and Pakistan. China has a policy of no-first-use. Israel has never said what it would do, but no doubt will use nuclear weapons whenever it feels like it. It is also the US, in particular, and its NATO allies, who have indicated policies of using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states.
The fixation on the US is part of an established pattern. Indian hawks have always had global pretensions. For years, members of the National Security Advisory Board have justified Indian nuclear weapons with reference to the inequities of the international system and US threats to India during the 1972 war with Pakistan. One member of the Board, Bharat Karnad, wrote last year that India’s nuclear weapons should be aimed at “deterring an over-reaching and punitive minded United States leading the Western combine of nations.”
With this in mind, the doctrine is blunt, India’s nuclear forces are aimed at “convincing any potential aggressor that… India … shall inflict damage unacceptable to the aggressor.” Worst case analysis, the kind of thing that nuclear hawks love, would suggest that India has to build a nuclear force able to retaliate against the US, even after a massive US attack on India. This may seem absurd. The USSR tried it and ended up building over 30,000 nuclear weapons. How could India possibly manage it?
One way to try would be to follow the Chinese example. Following its first nuclear test in 1964, China is estimated to now have about 400 nuclear warheads. They are on aircraft, missiles, some artillery shells, and a few at sea. The majority are spread over about 20 locations, including some hidden in caves in mountainous regions, in the hope that they would survive an attack and could be used to retaliate – and kill even more people. China has about 20 missiles able to hit the US, each has a single warhead of 4,000-5,000 Kt, (a hundred times more destructive than the hydrogen bomb India claimed to have tested, and a few hundred times more destructive than the simple atom bombs Pakistan claimed it tested).
It seems Indian hawks are hoping for something like a Chinese style arsenal which is to be developed over a long period of time. The doctrine describes a triad, with warheads on planes, missiles and at sea. Bharat Karnad has talked of 350-400 nuclear warheads and a cost of at least 700 billion rupees over the next thirty years as meeting the aims of the doctrine. It is certain to cost more, take longer, and be more difficult.
What does the Indian doctrine mean for Pakistan? There are enough madmen in Pakistan who will demand that, no matter what, we must do what India does. If India has a nuclear doctrine with operational nuclear forces we must have one also. We must have the planes, the missiles, the nuclear weapons at sea. They will say this for all the usual reasons – it satisfies their hate for India, feeds their ambition to father another bomb or a missile, guarantees them and their institutions even more money, and gives them more power. In previous situations they have prevailed. If they prevail again the arms race will enter an even more tortuous lap.
All the elements are there. Last May, Indian weapons scientists claimed that they had tested a Hydrogen bomb. Last week the head of India’s nuclear program claimed not only that India could build a neutron bomb (an advanced kind of hydrogen bomb that generates a higher than usual amount of radiation), but that they could design and build bombs of “any type or size.” Soon after the May tests last year, the managers of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program talked of being able to build a Hydrogen bomb, should they be asked, and provided they were given enough money. Now, it is said, Pakistan can build a neutron bomb also – although this verges on the unbelievable since Pakistan has not yet tested a simple hydrogen bomb.
The missiles too are being lined up. In April, Abdul Kalam, the head of India’s missile program said that the Agni-II, a 2,000-3,000 km range, was “operationally ready” for deployment with a nuclear warhead. In his independence day speech, India’s prime minister announced that “AGNI-2 has been tested… and will be integrated into our defence arsenal.” India’s space launcher successfully launched three satellites from one rocket, and could be converted into an intercontinental ballistic missile with multiple warheads, given enough time and money. There is no doubt Pakistan’s missile men will say that they too can achieve this, if they are given enough money.
There is no end to the madness. There is talk of an Indian anti-ballistic missile system that will shoot down incoming missiles. Bhabha Atomic Research Center even claims it is building a device (called Kali-5000) that can be used as a beam weapon which “when aimed at enemy missiles and aircraft, will cripple their electronic systems and computer chips and bring them down.” No doubt Pakistan’s scientists will claim they can match that too – given enough money.
This is certainly the response from Pakistan that India’s hawks hope for. In early July, the Hindustan Times ran a report “What Should We Do With Pakistan?” The first answer was “smash them.” But it was not with nuclear weapons. General V.R. Raghavan (former Director General of Military Operations) said “Till now, we¹ve borne heavy costs. Now we must impose costs.” A former Foreign Secretary urged “We must hurt them in every single way…” Brahma Chellaney, a member of the National Security Advisory Board, went further: “Hit them when they least expect, ideologically, strategically and economically, with military force being only a small slice of the offensive.” The Hindustan Times reported him as calling for economic warfare.
The clearest of all was K. Subrahmanyam, the guru of India’s nuclear hawks and head of the National Security Advisory Board. He answered the question of what to do about Pakistan by saying “The perfect war is subjugation of the adversary without going to battle. If India raises its defence expenditure to 3 per cent of GDP from the present 2.3, Pakistan will try to match it and go broke. This was how the US under Reagan precipitated the Soviet collapse.” His plan is simple. Pakistan will be incited into an arms race that it is bound to lose. It will, in effect, defend itself to death. Unless there is war.
The alternative is to put the madness of the bomb behind us. To give it up while there is time, before the bomb’s hateful machinery and its demented mechanics take complete control of life and death.
*Zia Mian is a physicist and peace activist from Pakistan, currently on the research staff of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies at Princeton University. He is a founding member of Abolition 2000, and a member of its Global Council. He is also on the Coordinating Committee of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation, and a member of the Board of Directors of the United Nations NGO Committee on Disarmament.
He is the editor of Pakistan’s Atomic Bomb and The Search for Security (1995) and Making Enemies, Creating Conflict: Pakistan’s Crises of State and Society (1997). Other publications by ZIa Mian include “Diplomatic Judo: Using the NPT to Make the Nuclear-Weapons States Negotiate the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons” by Zia Mian and MV Ramana in Disarmament Diplomacy Issue #36.