Monday, June 27, 2022
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The Reckless: Smiling Buddha

Mool Raj

The Smiling Buddha — code name for India’s first successful nuclear bomb test on 18 May 1974 — ironical and yet caustic, since Buddha would have never endorsed such an act. Buddha may have frowned and scowled over the Indian nuclear initiative but smile, he would never have. The so-called “peaceful nuclear explosion” is itself ironical; how can a nuclear explosion be termed peaceful! The Indian nuclear initiative — Smiling Buddha — did spark an urge within Pakistan to indulge itself in a similar nuclear pursuit, not only to secure itself against Indian hegemonic designs but also to save itself from India’s will, threat and wrath in any future conflict.
An unbiased and unequivocal analysis of the history of South Asia reveals that India is responsible for instigating a relentless, unbridled and intemperate arms race in South Asia; India developed its nuclear programme and Pakistan followed; India developed sophisticated ballistic missiles, Pakistan responded by developing its own missile programme; when India conducted Pokhran-II tests, Pakistan duly responded by conducting its own nuclear blasts; India gave vent to its Cold Start doctrine, Pakistan followed suit by developing tactical nuclear missiles; and now that India is developing its ballistic missile defence (BMD) cum shield, Pakistan is sure to respond either by developing programmes which compromise the missile shield or thus ending up developing its own missile shield. It is a never-ending race — a security dilemma and a nightmare at the same time which imperil the complete region. In a nutshell, it is a zero-sum game which promotes instability in the region. Pakistan’s nuclear programme is more of a force multiplier for its conventional forces and act as a force equaliser in reaction to India’s hegemonic designs. This force equaliser is against a much bigger and militarily superior adversary which has anarchical and chaotic designs to achieve Akhand Bharat; an ever-longing desire based on Chanakya’s philosophy which is very much endorsed by the current BJP-led Hindutva fascist regime.
The civil nuclear deal between US and India does give a qualitative and quantitative edge to India, which may have been realised by the US analysts and would have been quite conclusive had the equation only involved India and China. Yet there is another equation which involves India and Pakistan and in this regard fulcrum has shifted towards India. To add another dimension and adding flare to arms race, India procured S-400, thus building on its BMD. Where the tensions usually remain high between the two archrivals, BMD has added another angle to the already existent arms race since the threat perception in Pakistan is heightened considering the security interdependence between the two. Paradoxically, BMD provides a false sense of security to the Indians and Indian policymakers may opt for recklessness than foresightedness when dealing with its time-tested adversary.
India’s nuclear aspirations albeit nuclear dependence can be judged from the fact that there are 22 nuclear reactors in operation and an additional 21 are under construction. Similarly, the country is rich in uranium reserves, with Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Meghalaya recording the largest reserves of radioactive material, out of a total of 11 states. However, it is quite alarming, distasteful and irresponsible that India has emerged as a hotspot for illegal nuclear trade — possibly a vital lifeline for state and non-state actors having the potential to make actual bombs and if not, dirty bombs having enough potential to create and cause considerable damage and affect regional peace and stability. Although being downplayed by US and its closest allies, it is an existing security challenge for the world community since there is no independent nuclear regulatory authority in India. Despite being signatory of Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its 2005 amendment, India has failed to secure its nuclear material; may it be uranium or plutonium. India steadfastly ranks low in the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Nuclear Security Index. Where much hype is created in US policymaking circles, regarding security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets and they falling in the wrong hands, no one dare talk about India’s poor nuclear security regime.
The saga of theft or loss of nuclear material by India is not a recent phenomenon and exists since 1965. Seven plutonium tubes were lost during a joint expedition of CIA and Indian IB operatives to install an eavesdropping device, to spy on China, at Nanda Devi peak (Himalayas). As luck would have it, the mission was not successful, yet the team was ‘successful’ in losing the seven plutonium tubes — enough to make a bomb about half the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, as quoted by Shamik Bag — which were to be used as fuel cells for the generator of eavesdropping device.Similarly, the first reported theft and smuggling of uranium came to the fore, when reported in 1994 and then an ‘efficient’ track record is maintained throughout the ensuing decades till to-date. The period between 1964 to 1994 is actually a ‘missing link’ and would remain so and may be termed the golden years since, if there was any theft or loss of any nuclear material, it has never come to light. And yet no one dare talk about involvement of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in black diamonds which first came to notice in 1992. According to news reports, the illegal practice to irradiate diamonds into black stones had admittedly been going on at BARC for over 20 years — the golden years albeit the ‘missing link’ — and no one was punished or penalised. One is forced to acknowledge India’s ‘impressive’ track record of theft and loss of nuclear material and does speak volumes of its ‘efficient’ nuclear security regime and its hyper-responsible measures.The above illustration shows only those incidents which have been reported and apprehensions have been made. It gives rise to significant doubt and apprehension that how much uranium or plutonium has been stolen and was neither detected nor reported; how much of that undetected and unreported nuclear material ended up with terrorists or non-state actors; and whether there is a dirty bomb or nuclear bomb in the making from that undetected and unreported nuclear material. The facts regarding India’s nuclear regime are horrendous; India does not have an independent nuclear regulatory authority, absence of any stringent security measures, repetition of nuclear theft and smuggling cases, non-adherence to CPPNM, non-adherence to IAEA advice, and consistent low performance on Nuclear Security Index.
The synopsis of Report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, in December 2009 highlighted: “So long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain, it defies credibility that they will not one day be used, by accident, miscalculation or design. And any such use would be catastrophic. It is sheer luck that the world has escaped such catastrophe until now.” As evident from track record of Indian nuclear safety, India has failed to secure its nuclear materials. Indubiously India has spurred the arms race in South Asia and is mainly responsible for regional instability, but the solemn question for world community is: “Is India a responsible nuclear state?”

(The writer is a educationist,hails from Village Bhagota,District Doda,J&K.Mail ID:[email protected]>)

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