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The Kanti Bajpai Chat

Kanti Bajpai, professor at the school of international studies, Jawaharlal Nehru university, is one of the leading experts on world affairs in his generation. Here he is, assessing the fallout of the nuclear tests on India's relations with the world at large.

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 7:59 IST)
Hello everybody I am here. You can ask your questions

Desi (Mon May 18 1998 7:58 IST)

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:4 IST)
Desi: Nothing much was gained. Obviously, they got some data on the devices themselves which will be fed into their computers and will help in future weapons design. But the political gains are minimal and may even be negative. For instance, at one stroke the government has worsened relations with China, Pakistan and the US. Indeed, these three might find themselves coming together in the kind of axes that we accused them of having in the 1980s. Militarily too there is a loss. When India and Pakistan both have the bomb then the kind of thing Islamabad is doing in Kashmir is encouraged. If Pakistan didn't have the bomb and we didn't either we could have struck across the border to clear out the militants and end the Kashmir problem.

WarPeace (Mon May 18 1998 7:58 IST)
Prof Bajpai, Me thinks that India has blown whatever chances she might have had of becoming a Permanent Member of the Security Council? Would not that have been more useful rather than a bomb in the silo that one cannot really use?

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:11 IST)
Warpeace: Yes, doesn't look like India will make it to the security council but in any case Delhi's calculation for some time had been that it was going to be very difficult to get a seat. Some argue that the seat is useless anyway. After all, who really listens to the security council.

WarPeace (Mon May 18 1998 8:1 IST)
Many guys in Delhi seem to be thumping themselves blue over the bomb blasts? What will happen once Pakistan too explodes a bomb and China moves its missiles on top of the Tibetan Plateau, overlooking every major Indian city!

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:13 IST)
Warpeace: Nothing much will happen when the Chinese and the Pakistanis take counter measures but that is exactly the point. What will India have gained balanced against the almost certain economic losses which will come from the sanctions.

VVNathan (Mon May 18 1998 8:8 IST)
But Mr Bajpai, you have not touched the scenario of China's overt posture and Pakistan's clandestine Nuke development. What are the compelling reasons that we should not show nuke capability. Comment it vis-a-vis nuke-5 choosing it. We seem to be too quick to be self-critical.

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:18 IST)
VVNathan: China has nuclear weapons but they are pointed at the US, Russia and generally towards east Asia. India is the least of their worries. China won the 1962 war and more importantly got most of what it wanted from us, namely, Aksai Chin. Whether we have nuclear weapons or not, we can't get it back except through negotiations. In other words, China is the satisfied party in the quarrel and it does not need to make nuclear threats to India. As for Pakistan, if we both give up nuclear weapons we could work out co-operative agreements. One massive benefit would be communication with the Pakistani people as against their government. We would be showing that India is benign and this is a good chance that Pakistani opinion would then demand an agreement with India on issues such as Kashmir.

Princess (Mon May 18 1998 8:5 IST)
Mr Bajpai, what in your considered opinion was the provocation for the Indian government to conduct the tests at this point in time? The security environment the government talks of has been extant for a long time, so my question is why now? And, do you think we have contained the fallout, I mean diplomatic one, well?

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:24 IST)
Princess: The government I think truly thought that the security environment around India was getting worse and that something dramatic had to be done, particularly when China seemed to be getting away with a lot. Secondly, the government thought that the tests would increase its leverage in global nuclear politics especially the CTBT. I think both reasons are false. Relations with China have been improving for the past decade and relations with Pakistan are no worse than in the past two years. Indeed, the Vajpayee government made a series of very moderate statements on Pakistan. In addition one could say that nuclear politics had improved --- the START agreements, the CTBT which prevents China from testing and the recent China-US agreement whereby Beijing promises not to transfer nuclear technology to any country.

Prem (Mon May 18 1998 8:8 IST)
Mr Bajpai, what does a nuclear -- or thermonuclear -- bomb take to make? And how many of them do we need, to have an effective deterrent against any of the P5?

Prem (Mon May 18 1998 8:9 IST)
Mr Bajpai>> Amendment to that question, I mean in monetary terms, what does it cost to arm ourselves with a N-bomb or H-bomb?

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:29 IST)
Prem: No one in India has seriously talked about deterring the entire P5. But surely if that is the goal we would be looking at several hundreds. For Pakistan and China, minimal deterrent would be about 100 to 200 warheads. Estimates of the costs vary very greatly and it depends on whether you count in ancillaries such as environmental and health effects, command and control systems and other infrastructures. It will certainly be more costly than any present estimate. This has been experience of every nuclear power. No estimate at the time of building has been close to the actual cost which has been much larger.

Princess (Mon May 18 1998 8:10 IST)
You don't seem to support the nation going nuclear. You also mention that this decision would have succeeded in driving the US, China and Pakistan together. But doesn't the Indian action seem like a desperate appeal to the US to take us seriously, that we are a better option that the authoritarian China which could one day threaten US interests whereas Washington has nothing to fear from us?

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:34 IST)
Princess: Washington has got quite a lot from China and while it is wary of China it sees many areas of co-operation as well. In the nuclear field China helped to stop the North Korean nuclear programme. China has also signed the NPT, CTBT and is part of the discussion on Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. Most recently China has agreed not to transfer nuclear and missile technology. China is also part of the MTCR. Economically, there are $ 60 billion worth of trade surplus. India by contrast is not part of any of those nuclear agreements and the India-US economic relationship is tiny in comparison. Human rights and democracy for the US government come well after non-proliferation and economic profit.

Shiva (Mon May 18 1998 8:10 IST)
Sir, It is unfortunate to see Japan upset with India. But frankly, if Japan did NOT have the US's security umbrella, would they not have gone nuclear? In fact, many strategic thinkers clearly believe so? So how moral is Tokyo's outrage?

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:38 IST)
Shiva: Yes Japan has a security umbrella from US. But if you were Japanese do you really think that the US would risk a nuclear confrontation to save Tokyo when it risks losing New York in the ensuing nuclear war? I don't think that the Japanese, beyond a point, can rely on the US. Just as the Europeans were doubtful during the cold war about the US protection. So we should not exaggerate the selfish logic of Japanese in promoting non-proliferation. The Japanese have made a decision not to build a bomb not only because of the US factor but because they think it is dangerous and immoral. And they feel an Indian programme would heighten tensions.

dharmathma (Mon May 18 1998 8:20 IST)
professor : All Indians should feel proud for conducting nuclear tests and making India strong by taking care of the security. My question is: Why did people not prevent the division of the country on the basis of religion? We got independence from the so-called foreign rulers and colonialists but the same principle was not applied to the Muslim rulers who are equally foreign invaders in every respect. What double standards. On the contrary, the Muslim invaders snatched away Indian land and are committing terrorism against India ungratefully. BJP is trying to unite the country and all the people. Communists, with their borrowed ideology and serving their masters in Moscow and now particularly in Beijing, are dividing the country on the basis of class and many other factors. This I am telling as a leftist sympathiser. Now I am completely disillusioned.

They are simply anti-national. If they are secular why did they not prevent the partition of the country on the basis of religion. In fact they supported the partition!!! They supported emergency and they join hands with Muslim fundamentalist parties!!! India is not safe in the hands of the Janata Dal or the Communists. India is completely safe with the Govt in the BJP hands. They have great leaders like Advani, Vajpayee and Sushma Swaraj. The party leaders in the left, including Mulayam and Laloo, have village-level thinking and mentality. Particularly Surjeet Singh. If he is a secularist (atheist in the case of CPI-M) why is he keeping the beard and turban? The leftist leaders needs international and global thinking and understanding. The US is happy with the former UF govt because India will be weak and divided under their govt, which is fine with US. The US is unhappy and against the BJP govt because the US knows that under BJP leadership and govt India will become strong. So we all support the BJP govt. It is good for India.

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:44 IST)
Dharmatma: The irony of the BJP decision is that it will promote threats to our unity, not reduce them. It could likely prompt the Chinese to encourage separatism in the north east and revise their stand on Kashmir which has been sympathetic to us and not Pakistan over the past 15 years. It could cause Pakistan to increase its support to the Kashmiri militants and to increase subversion such as in the Bombay blasts as well the recent one in Coimbatore. The US could rake up Kashmir in the UN and human rights more generally. The effects of this could very well be to encourage every crackpot-separatist in India who will now expect Pak-Chinese-US help. Is this better for our unity?

sundaram (Mon May 18 1998 8:31 IST)
Mr.K.B : For my information: Are you leftist? Or Communist? China claims Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman Islands, part of Indonesia, Malayasia, and some more parts of India! Don't say they are satisfied after the 62 war.

Whatnow (Mon May 18 1998 8:30 IST)
Mr Bajpai, are you aware what Teddy Roosevelt said " Speak softly but carry a big stick"?
What is the guarantee that in future anybody will not attack India?. Worse, not attack but blackmail India?

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:51 IST)
Sundaram, Whatnow: I am left liberal and I am proud of it. But the point is not my ideology or yours but the strategic logic of what the government has done and its vision of security. To repeat, in 1962 China basically wanted the Aksai Chin to connect Xinjiang and Tibet. They have got it and we will have to negotiate it or some part of it back. Nuclear weapons won't help. Arunachal Pradesh is basically a bargaining chip for them and they have frequently suggested a deal which would give them Aksai Chin and would give us Arunachal. Beyond this why should China attack one billion poor, fractious Indians?
Whatnow: India does carry a big stick... It had a bomb in the basement and it had conventional military forces which in many respects are superior to anything that the Chinese have or will have for the next 10 years. We should be watchful of the Chinese, but why increase tensions?

sans (Mon May 18 1998 8:48 IST)
Professor Sahib, can you clearly and precisely state what is your analysis in point form about the fall-out of the nuke testing on India - Politically - Militarily - Economically. Otherwise like all chats I've seen so far on the net, we will keep grappling on shifting sands.

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:54 IST)
Sans: Politically we are going to be isolated for some time. Economically, the sanctions are going to hurt, but they won't kill us. On the other hand two bad monsoons after eight good ones and a run on the rupee... Militarily, there is no gain, no loss, except we should expect Kashmir, north east and internal subversion to get worse.

Prasad (Mon May 18 1998 8:52 IST)
I don't agree with the Prof that China's stand on Kashmir has been favourable to us.. Why then did it cede areas of Kashmir held by it to Pakistan ????

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 8:57 IST)
Prasad: For 15 years China has said that it supports a bilateral deal on Kashmir between India and Pakistan and that it supports the UN security council resolution on Kashmir -- this is closer to our position than Pakistan's. Of course they have the ceded bits of territory that Pakistan gave them in 1960s and that is unacceptable to us, but no Indian government has made a big deal out of it.

sans (Mon May 18 1998 8:44 IST)
Professor sahib, you contradict yourself. In one breath you say that China is following a path of nuclear co-operation and disarmament with the US. In the next breath you say that China has trained its missiles AT THE US and NOT India. Policy makers in the US must be dumber than I thought.

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 9:1 IST)
Sans: It is not a contradiction. The Chinese want to protect themselves from the US in a military crisis but will co-operate on non-proliferation when it suits them. Similarly, the US and the erstwhile Soviets pointed missiles at each other but co-operated for arms control and nuclear non-proliferation. What is the contradiction?

Mr Kanti Bajpai (Mon May 18 1998 9:5 IST)
To conclude, India does not need the bomb and didn't need to test. The fall out from the test will not destroy India or its economy or its unity but it won't accomplish much either. It could giver us a false sense of security increase a feeling of jingoism and betrays a tradition of independent thinking on nuclear matters. There could be no more profound mimicking of the west and its ways than to replicate its follies in respect of deterrence and highly militarised form of security. So much for SWADESHI. Thanks for your questions and let's talk again on Rediff.

Questions Kanti Bajpai didn't answer