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Home > News > Columnists > Colonel (retd) Dr Anil Athale

Are you for the N-deal or Al Qaeda?

May 08, 2006

Colonel (retd) Dr Anil Athale examines the India-United States nuclear deal in a two part analysis:

Part I: Who opposes the nuclear deal?

In the ultimate analysis, the fate of the India-US nuclear deal will be decided by the 'pragmatists' and not by the out-of-sync specialists or jaded Cold warriors.

The nuclear deal and its attendant lifting of technology sanctions on dual use items will enhance Indian military capability. But will this pose any threat to the Americans like their old folly of patronising A Q Khan or one Osama bin Laden?

Here the American lawmakers must see the fact that despite its available capability, India has refrained from developing an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile that could reach the US. Indian nuclear capability is specifically oriented towards deterring China. In case of Pakistan, India has long had a strategy of developing small nukes for battlefield use. (Combat Papers of July/August 1981 under the inspiration of General K Sundarji).

In any case, far too many Indian decision makers and the country's elite have their kith and kin in the US for India to ever think of targeting America with nuclear weapons.

As for the Middle Kingdom, to paraphrase Shakespeare, 'there is something rotten in the state of China.'

It would indeed be in India's and everyone else's interest if the rise of China is peaceful. But there are serious problems that confront that nation. The lack of transparency, freedom, an independent judiciary and the opaque Chinese oligarchy is already generating individual violence.

'Both India and China look down on each other'

China faces daunting internal challenges, possibly severe and also plausible. Under the one party iron rule of Communist Party, there is no individual freedom in China. Even the judiciary is under party control and an individual with a personal grievance has no method of redress.

The news that filters through the Bamboo Curtain often gives a glimpse of violent reactions to various injustices. But the vice-like grip on power of the Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army is such that any organised resistance to the regime is unlikely. The Chinese have been careful to squash any organiSation other than the Communist Party. The severe crackdown on the Guang Falong or Falun Gong is an example.

But individual frustration could lead to acts of terrorism and industrial sabotage. There have already been several such incidents. If these individual revolts against the system turn into an epidemic, it could derail China's economy. The Internet and the rapid spread of information as well as 'external' encouragement could well make it more than a mere pinprick.

In its drive for industrialisation, China has completely ignored safety and environment. It is indeed strange that a would-be superpower suffers from regular mine accidents. In the 'Workers' Paradise', the mine workers have no godfather. The frequent explosions in coal mines raises serious questions about the efficiency of the management and State oversight.

China's scary asymmetry

But an even greater disaster in waiting for China is the utter disregard for the environmental impact of economic development. The recent incident where hazardous chemicals have flowed into a major international river like the Amur is a cause for concern not just for China but even for Russia.

The situation arose due to the fact that in the Chinese system there is no room for checks and balances or rival power centres. This may well give an appearance of efficiency and decisiveness, but in reality result in poor decisions. How China overcomes this is a question mark. Does it democratise? Can it control the process? There are no easy answers.

China has over last two decades succeeded in controlling its population. Its rising living standards are to some extent due to this. To achieve this the Chinese enforced the one child norm. It is well known that in China in general (and in India) in rural areas in particular, there is a marked preference for a male child.

Chinese ogre has giant appetite!

In China's opaque system with widespread use of abortions, it is certain that the male-female ration is skewed badly in favour of males. What impact this would have on crime and the law and order situation in future is unknown to even the best of social scientists since this is a indeed a unique case.

With the enforcement of a 'one child' norm, a large part of the Chinese population would be the only child of its parents. From universal experience of families, it is seen than a single child is often obstinate, demanding and selfish. Imagine a country where 500 million citizens have this psychological background. A nation is after all a collection of individuals. What will a future China look like? Will such a nation be able to live in peace with the rest of the world or would it be aggressive and domineering?

To be fair, India is attempting to put its relations with China on an even keel and is unlikely to be an appendage of America's China policy. But by its very existence it will be an uncertain 'X-factor' that China will have to consider in any of its future confrontation with the US on issues ranging from Taiwan to oil in the Sea of Japan. A militarily strong India is in US interests.

Adhere to NPT with nuke deal: China to India, US

In the case of Pakistan, members of the US Congress are well aware that the greatest nightmare facing the US is the possibility of Islamist terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons.

Given the history of A Q Khan network, the Taliban link and lure of Pan Islam, nukes when used against the US will have a 'made in Pakistan' tag on them. The danger is not of nuclear weapons falling into jihadi hands, but much greater, of the whole Pakistan State being taken over by jihadis.

There are limits to what General Musharraf can deliver and doubts about how long he will last.

Interestingly, thanks to people to people contact, cricket and role of Indian Muslims, India is no longer the enemy number one in Pakistan: that honour goes to the US.

The India-Pakistan peace process

This is not an exaggeration. US diplomats in Islamabad will testify that in the recent cartoon row students from English medium schools and government colleges threw stones at the American embassy.

Fifteen years ago, on July 17, 1991, while on a visit to the US, I had given extracts of Pakistani textbooks and drawn attention of Sandy Charles, Director Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, to the 'Islamisation' that is taking place in Pakistan and its long term repercussions.

That generation of Pakistanis fed on the Zia-ul Haq designed curriculum is today come of age. Pessimistically, it is not question of whether but when the jihadis take over that country. In that situation, it is only India that can de-fang Pakistan.

India has sold its nuclear soul to the US

Despite the convoluted logic of a Harvard professor of Sanskrit language, the fact remains that India is a pluralistic civilisation with basic ethos rooted in not merely individual freedom but individual divinity.

India had an empire in South East Asia that was a result of export of culture, not soldiers. In its 5,000 years of unbroken history, India has never invaded a foreign land. More than 71 per cent Indians regard the US (though not necessarily its president) as a friend. The India-US nuclear accord will only cement a relationship based on shared values. The US Congress will do well to ignore out of date experts, the non proliferation ayatollahs and the British.

The failure of the US Congress to accept the deal will only delay the ultimate outcome. Have we not wasted enough time in being estranged?

A recent statement by Ayaman al Zawahari, the number two man in Al Qaeda, has condemned the India-US nuclear nuclear deal. United States Congressmen ought to be asked, 'Are you for the agreement or with Al Qaeda?'

The India US nuclear tango

A former joint director of War History at the defence ministry, Colonel Athale has edited and contributed to a book Nuclear Menace the Satyagraha Approach (Initiative for Peace and Disarmament, May 1996), which laid down the contours of the Indian approach to the nuclear question.


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Number of User Comments: 5




Sub: For the N-deal of course

It is a well known fact that as time passes by, the threat to our beloved country\'s sovereignity is becoming more pronounced due to our ...


Posted by Arun





Sub: A deal which is in Indas favor

I cant tell you after reading both sides of the story. But I would hope that India di not give up its ability to develop ...


Posted by sg





Sub: For N-Deal

Dear Dr. Athale, You said it correctly that India has always sent its culture not soldiers. Previously, I was always surprised at India's stand of ...


Posted by Harish Dunakhe





Sub: For N-deal or A; Qaeda

There is not much difference in approach of Both America and Al Qaeda. Having the mighty power American have brought distruction to many a parts ...


Posted by imtiyaz Dar





Sub: Highlight the business value

Seems like India could press upon the financial value of the nuclear deal with the US. India is definitely doing an excellent job of highlighting ...


Posted by Mahesh Sub




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