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The Rediff Special/ Arun Gandhi

Who's to blame for India's nuclear ambition?

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No country in the world, least of all India, has the right to develop and possess weapons of mass destruction of any sort. What should concern humanity is not just the proliferation of nuclear weapons but the growth of hi-tech weapons, which makes killing large numbers of people as easy as pressing a button.

With the exponential increase in violence and inhumanity around the world, one must wonder whether we have seen the worst that mankind has to offer in this century, or are we going to witness unimaginable miseries in the next millennium? There is little or no evidence of any repentance or desire for change in any quarter. In fact, the world is determined to plunge ahead with its materialistic pursuits.

Gandhi said materialism and morality have an inverse relationship, the pursuit of one can only be at the expense of the other. Consequently, the question that the India-Pakistan nuclear arms race raises is whether morality and politics also have an inverse relationship. Can politicians be saints or, conversely, can saints be politicians? Someone said that Gandhi was a saint masquerading as a politician. Gandhi amended this statement saying he was just a politician masquerading as a saint.

If Gandhi was, indeed, a politician then he was the last of the genre that could successfully marry politics and morality. Since his departure, politics and morality everywhere, including India, have gone in different directions. If politics now means promoting self-interest, and the United States has given the world a lead in selfish politics, then let us take a global look at where the blame for India's nuclear ambitions really lie.

The blame comes home to roost in the United States.

When Gandhi and Malcolm X, at different times and in different places, suffered racial prejudices, they concluded acceptance by the white majority would come only if they aped the whites in every respect. Both worked hard to achieve this goal.

For the same reason, India concluded the only way it can gain respect from Western powers is by accepting their principles of democracy and justice.

For fifty years India remained loyal to its Constitution, interestingly enough based on the Westminster model, which upholds the freedoms and rights that we in the United States cherish. When many nations floundered and failed, India continued to remain a democracy because Indians believe in it.

India respects, for the most part, human rights, justice and the rule of law in spite of its manifold problems relative to the economy of the country. There is destitution, hunger and homelessness, which it has valiantly tried to address over the years. It sought aid from friends in the West but all it got was crumbs, derision and denunciation.

India remains an open society; yet what the West chooses to see is its distress and destitution. When the Western media finds it necessary to show life in India, all they can find are clips of hunger, poverty and starvation. Consequently, the image of India in the minds of an average citizen is one of a country in perpetual distress.

On the other hand China, a country that has brazenly flouted all the principles that the West values, has never been a democracy and has never ensured human rights, justice or fair play, is held in high esteem in the West. China is a closed society with harsh regulations and censorship. What the people outside can see of Chinese life is what the government wants them to see.

There is no respect for human rights, freedom or justice. When China developed the nuclear weapon and tested it, the West made a feeble protest and did not impose economic sanctions. China ignored almost with contempt Western objections and even sold nuclear technology to countries considered inimical to the United States.

In spite of Chinese intransigence it is a member of the international nuclear club, has an important position in the United Nations Security Council and wields with four other nations the power of veto. To add insult to injury, President Clinton, during his recent visit to China, invited them to join the United States to determine the fate of the world in the new millennium. Most importantly, it has also been given the "most favoured nation" status so that the United States can pump in billions of dollars to help China get into the economic mainstream of the world.

The reason is obvious. Industrialists in the US, tired of having to deal with growing labour demands for higher pay and less work, prefer to farm out work to countries where labour can be controlled. India is a democracy with unionised labour while China is a totalitarian state with controlled labour. It does not take a genius to conclude why billions can be poured into China and not into India.

India expected sympathy and help from like-minded friends in much the same way as Gandhi and Malcolm X did. However, just as Gandhi and Malcolm X came to the painful conclusion that their brown skin will never be overlooked by the Whites whatever they do, India has come to the decision that disregarding the West is the only course left to them.

For some years both Gandhi and Malcolm X became exclusionists and rejected Western values. Then both realised that rejection is not the answer. Both came to the conclusion that the oppressor needs to be liberated from their racism as much as the victim needs to be liberated from oppression. This had to be achieved by becoming inclusive and working together -- not by rejecting each other.

India is likely to go through the phase of rejection now but, hopefully, Indians will realise that they can liberate themselves only by helping to liberate their enemies also and not by arming themselves with nuclear weapons.

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