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'For us, the big thing is China'

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August 03, 2006
As India's ambassador to the United Nations Committee on Disarmament in Geneva in August 1996, Arundhati Ghose stood up to the United States and other world powers while vetoing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

One of the nation's finest diplomats, Ghose, now retired from the Indian Foreign Service, explains why China and Pakistan should be seen as one unit when it comes to the nuclear threat.

An exclusive interview with Deputy Managing Editor Ramananda Sengupta.

Part I of the Arundhati Gose Interview: 'India dislikes being told what to do'

What are your views on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty -- FMCT -- which the Americans are now talking about as part of the India-US nuclear agreement?

What has happened is that the US has put forward its draft (to the United Nations Committee on Disarmament) in Geneva. It is a draft without verification.

How we can have a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty without verification is very peculiar. Must we trust people saying that 'Oh, I've got so much fissile material and now we've stopped?' It must be verified. How do you know for sure?

If Pakistan says 'We have a moratorium', we have got to be able to believe that. If China says, 'Yes, we've stopped producing fissile material, and we've got 50 tons', we should have the confidence to believe that.

But wasn't the main problem that verification was seen as intrusive, as impinging on sovereignty?

Well, that can be worked out. The intrusiveness of the Additional Protocol on the nuclear side, the intrusiveness of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the intrusiveness of the biological weapons regime which we were negotiating and the Americans walked out of, we don't have to follow the same pattern.

We can have a different form, like in the old days before the CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention). So some means could have been found, and that has to be negotiated. But the Americans don't want verification at all. They also suggested two or three things, one is that the Security Council be brought back, and they have said this will come into force only when the five Permanent members (of the UN Security Council) the P-5, ratify it.

It won't control the P-5. And everybody else will be controlled from the day they join. But the political pressure will become so huge if the P5 are the guarantors. You have the NPT syndrome again. So you need to be able to negotiate out of that syndrome.

The bill on the India-US nuclear deal talks about working towards the FMCT.

An FMCT. Everybody seems to think that. In fact, I have even heard a politician saying that we will now have to sign the FMCT. There is no FMCT. We have agreed, under the (previous) NDA government, to negotiate. Earlier we were saying you negotiate, we will sit and watch. And we may join or we may not join. And we were being ornery after the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

We said that if you want, we will sit and watch. We are not walking out, we are not walking in. but then, after the 1998 tests, the government took a decision to participate in the FMCT. It never took off.

So is the nuclear deal a sort of a backdoor entry for India into the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, which we have officially not signed?

This is a front-door entry. What has happened over the last 10 years, I'd say, we have been a making a difference between the non-proliferation regime and the NPT. We have been saying they are two different things. The non-proliferationwallahs have been saying you are cherry picking. You cannot say we like this of the NPT and we don't like that.

NPT is the cornerstone. We said forget it. Non-proliferation means we are against proliferation of nuclear weapons, technology. Therefore we have our WMD (weapons of mass destruction) act etc etc. We are not going to sign the NPT under any circumstances, but we are willing to follow the objectives of the NPT, which if fact forms the non-proliferation regime.

So it is not by the back door. It is the front door. People don't seem to make out this difference, that there is no way we would have signed the NPT because the NPT is a kind of world order which we do not approve of. Apart from being discriminatory. In fact, we had gone to the UN, suggesting a treaty on non-proliferation, to control China. Because China had just started explosions, in 1964.

So in 1964, (then minister for external affairs) Swaran Singh took it up at the UN, saying we want an item on the agenda the next year on disarmament. We spelt out the five or six things that we felt were relevant, including security assurances for non nuclear weapons states, stopping testing, stopping of proliferation. (George) Perkovich (vice-president, Global Security and Economic Development at the Carnegie Institute in Washington, DC) has written very well on this. He has said that 'India had the mandate and the principle, and logic on her side. But the US had power.'

So the US and USSR (the former Soviet Union) changed it into a control regime rather than a regime for disarmament, which would have controlled the weapons states including China.

For us, the big thing is China. Not Pakistan. Because on the nuclear side, Sino-Pak is one unit. As far as China's nuclear policy is concerned, I do not think the Pakistanis have the wherewithal or the strength to do anything against Chinese advice or without Chinese support. It is because of Chinese policy that Pakistan is nuclear. So we have to look at it as one unit. If the fissile material of Pakistan is to be controlled, you have to control China.

We heard the Pakistani foreign minister saying recently that he was having problems because we do not have foreign minister.

That is rubbish. On a personal level, he probably feels 'Oh God, I don't have a job.' He might get kicked out by his president. These are two States talking to each other. We have a high commissioner in each other's countries, we have foreign secretaries. If you take it to the political level, we have a minister of state here, and you have the prime minister. We have a foreign minister, who happens to be the prime minister.

We are not in this business of speaking Punjabi and picking up the telephone and socialising. That's absolute rubbish. We are not chums. I am sorry, a bit of prejudice will come out in this. We are two sovereign States talking to each other because we have problems. We don't like them, they don't like us.

So it is pointless to talk about all this people to people business. People to people is everywhere. Between the people of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka [Images]. Between the people of West Bengal and Bangladesh. So what are they talking about, this people to people?

We are two sovereign States, they have their concerns, we have our concerns. If Kasuri or the government of Pakistan wishes to speak, there are different levels at which it can do so with our State. And they are all in place.

So it's not really an issue?

No, it is an attitude, and we pick it up and say, 'Oh, we don't have a foreign minister.' So what? You could have had a disaster as a foreign minister. Here, for whatever reasons, Manmohan Singh [Images] has kept it for himself. Nehru, throughout his entire career, he was also the foreign minister.

A Chinese scholar at MIT asserts that we could open ourselves to collateral damage by branding ourselves with China, in the sense that if China explodes tomorrow, we could burn too. Is the India-China comparison really valid?

Well, it's a little superficial. They are both Asians, they are both big countries, and they are both highly populated. And they are old countries. But we were a colony, they had some colonial impact. Besides, they don't club us like that. They club us in comparison.

But if the foreign investors pulled out of China, they might pull out of India too.

No. What they are doing is they are pulling out of China and coming here. Or were. In certain parts of the economy, where we are stronger, they were coming here from there. Now we are becoming higher cost. So now they are moving away from us to even lower cost nations, like Bangladesh, Philippines.

But the good side of this comparison is that it makes India have a target before itself, for achievement. But that is only in the economic field. In the social field, they are a disaster.

Next: India has the potential to be a global power

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