Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Politics in South Asia

Published: 2019-06-24 21:26:31
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Nuclear weapon development and armament has been a glaring issue since the 1940s, the onset of World War II when the United States attacked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This opened the flood gates of perceived nuclear threats and as a result proliferation of nuclear tests. Pandoras Box had been opened even for Asian countries. Of great interest is India, its sojourn into this precarious territory was birthed in 1948, a year after attaining independence from Great Britain. Inception of nuclear infrastructure and research was envisioned by a renowned Indian scientist, Homi J Bhaba. Bhaba had been a progeny of British scientist, Lord Ernest Rutherford. He shared this vision with one of Indias magnate, the Tata family, which poured significant amounts of money into this project. This marked the first phase of nuclear tests in India. He further went ahead to convince Indias prime minister at the time, Jawaharlal Nehru to establish a governing body to oversee the development of infrastructure in nuclear science. He argued that it would remedy the festering malady of poverty in India. The prime minister was a strong proponent of non-nuclear armament and considered the injection of funds into militarization a necessary evil.

Indias changed strategy was reflected in the following phases:

The Sino-India war shook this stance. Despite Nehrus efforts to butter up the Chinese with an array of diplomatic gestures, they still attacked India at the Himalayas. This was clear evidence to India that China was a potent enemy and that she needed to protect her territory

Chinas nuclear test at Lop Nor on 16th October 1964, sired Indias greater interest to acquire nuclear weapons. For this reason, many political leaders from BJP agitated for India to reconsider its stance on nuclear abstinence. She therefore turned to the soviet union for a nuclear guarantee. The war with Pakistan also posed as a difficult moment for India as china threw its weight behind Pakistan and threatened to attack the Himalayas again. The United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union-signed the treaty on July 1, 1968, The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force on March 5, 1970. This meant that India had no guarantee from the Soviet Union

As a result, India carried out its first nuclear test in 1984 and only received applause from heavyweight France while the United slapped it with minor sanctions and reduced funding for its militarization project. This did not deter the Indians as they pursued nuclear armament and testing further.

The period of restraint that was informed by Indias concern of how the international arena perceived it and its robust relationship with the Soviet Union that galvanized its security concerns

The disintegration of the Soviet Union meant that India was now vulnerable to its former threats and in addition to that, the United Nations reviewed the NPT in 1995 and the USA proposed an extension which India was vehemently against. 1998 marked a pivotal moment in Indias nuclear journey; it conducted its second nuclear test. This was precipitated by her perception of external threat, its increased capability to manufacture nuclear weapons and change in ideology by her regimes CITATION Gan99 \l 2057 (Ganguly, 1999).

As mentioned earlier, much of Indias nuclear program was fuelled by her discernment of external threat from China and Pakistan. It would therefore suffice that if all three parties extended an olive branch to each other, then the aggressions would subsidize. The stability of the region greatly depends on the non-proliferation agreements that focus on reduction or elimination of deployment of arms.

Pakistan is also a party to the nuclear game, hers was born right after her independence but gained traction in 1972 under Ali Bhutto. India supersedes Pakistan in terms of population, resources and economic prowess. After a humiliating defeat by the Indian forces in 1971 that led to the formation of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), Pakistan has its defence walls up. It aims to thwart any upsurge of Indias nuclear or military muscle. Therefore, Pakistan compensates for its military inferiority with nuclear armament. Her inability to manufacture and test these weapons in the 1960s on hastened its program as she allied with the likes of China, who even provided her with a blueprint of a nuclear bomb. The construction of a Uranium centrifuge under Dr Khan was an appalling moment in the worlds history because it meant that she had the capability to bull fully fledged weapons. However, nuclear activity stalled for a while due to pressure from the United States and the sanctions it had placed on it and India. Pakistans nuclear program is also fuelled by its internal government that faces civil strife especially the Muslim League. She faced tough economic times (ballooning of her external debt and IMF had cut her off) that led to the US lifting sanctions on her in exchange for non-proliferation acts CITATION Ahm99 \l 2057 (Ahmed, 1999).

The US-India relations were especially strained after her nuclear tests in 1998 and the US alienated India through sanctions. Therefore, the signing of the US-Indian Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act was a laborious, long and extensive negotiation. Under this act, the bilateral relationship between these two nations was renewed and liberalized. One of the reasons India warmed up to this act was because of the fall of Soviet Union hence her non-alignment stance in the face of the cold war was not valid anymore. She could also greatly benefit as it enables her to deal commercially in nuclear deals CITATION Pan09 \l 2057 (Pant, 2009).

Much as non-proliferation is a main agenda world over, the most important agents involved had been in the periphery when negotiating these deals. This supports the notion that politics will always come into play when such matters are in light and that economic giants will only want to wield their weight rather than negotiate for better terms of military stability. It is therefore important that all parties, institutions, government agencies as well as scientists are involved in the formulation of strategies that would avert a nuclear standoff.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Ahmed, S. (1999). Pakistans Nuclear Weapons Program: Turning Points and Nuclear Choices. In S. Ahmed, Pakistans Nuclear Weapons Program: Turning Points and Nuclear Choices (pp. 178-204).

Ganguly, S. (1999). Indias Pathway to Pokhran II: The Prospects and Sources of New Delhis Nuclear Weapons Program, International Security. In S. Ganguly.

Pant, H. V. (2009). The US-India Nuclear Pact: Policy, Process and Great Power Politics. In H. V. Pant, The US-India Nuclear Pact: Policy, Process and Great Power Politics (pp. 273-295).


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