INDIA'S NUCLEAR GAMBLE

 

Documents

INDIA'S NUCLEAR GAMBLE: UNDERLYING  MOTIVATIONS AND THE OPTIONS FOR FUTURE Dr Syed M Inayatullah Andrabi

India's nuclear explosions on 11th May, 1998, were, as is universally
agreed, neither  triggered  by a security threat, nor  were they
indispensably  needed to practically test India's progress in  its on-going
nuclear programme. They were also not a  declaration of India having the
nuclear capability;  the earlier Pokhran blasts in 1974 had demonstrated
that. If the purpose was to inaugurate a new nuclear policy,  BJP had
talked about during elections, that too could have been done by issuing an
official statement to that effect. Taking the high-profile route of staging
a nuclear exhibition at Pokhran was, however, an exercise motivated by a
desire on part of BJP, to achieve certain vital social-political
objectives. In this paper we discuss these objectives in detail, after
which we make a critical evaluation of whether or  not BJP has succeeded
in achieving these. We then turn to an analytical appraisal of the
situation as it obtains now in the South Asian sub-continent, and in the
light of this we make a forward-looking attempt and explore the options, if
any. As to the achievement of desired objectives, we believe, BJP has a
mixed bag of failure and success, but its failures decisively outweigh its
successes. Regarding the post-blasts situation, we hold that an extremely
volatile situation  exists in the sub-continent now, and we argue that
there are no simple options. Pakistan bomb might have been the only
possible, and may be the most suitable option in the given situation, but
it definitely does not solve the problem created by Indian blasts. Although
Pak blasts are not our direct concern  here; we are only indirectly
concerned with them in relation to the India's, yet it may be said in the
passing that Pak blasts in their own right have achieved some vital
objectives, but they are not by themselves an effective option when it
comes to secure the objective of peace and stability in South Asia. We
reject the theory that since the bombs on two sides have created a balance
of terror, it will automatically lead to stabilise the situation in the
sub-continent.

1) Motivations Underlying India's Blasts:  Four main motivating
considerations seem to have been behind BJP's decision to opt for  Pokhran
explosions. These are:

a) Party Consolidation: One of the main considerations on part of BJP
behind its decision of blasts was to consolidate its existing support base,
and extend it further. The noteworthy points in this regard are:

  • In historical terms BJP is gradually occupying the political space
    vacated by Congress. Like the latter, it wants to be seen as a party of
    stability and governance. In fact, these have been the planks on which BJP
    came to power recently. This also has to be borne in mind, that stability
    has come to mean much more in recent times for India's big business,
    dependent as it has become on foreign capital. It may be for this reason
    that although BJP has always represented their interest, during the recent
    elections the support of big business to it was overwhelming and visible.
    As an instance one may note, that the special supplement carried by all the
    major Indian newspapers on 25th December, 1997 to greet AB Vajpyee on his
    74th birthday, was financed by big business houses. With all the high
    expectations  of its core constituency, BJP-led coalition  was day by day
    emerging, thanks to its coalition partners, particularly Ms Jayalalitha of
    the Tamil party AIADMK, the weakest and the most unstable  political
    formation,  ever to have ruled at the centre. To undo this image, BJP had
    to take some sensational step, so that it can be seen as a government that
    works, decides, takes initiatives and lays down the agenda for its
    opposition.

  • Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) is the real mind, and BJP the executive
    arm governing India. This is very much according to RSS ideology, as its
    leader MS Golwalkar  laid down in his Bunch Of Thoughts(p25) "Brahmin is
    the Head, King the Hands, Vaishya the Thighs, and Shudra the Feet."The
    decision to explode nuclear devices was taken by RSS. As reported by Praful
    Bidwai(Times of India 17th May 1998),  the RSS, according to its general
    secretary Mr Sudarshan, had thought of exploding the nuclear device even
    during the 13-day tenure of BJP rule in 1996.

  • BJP thrives on a belligerent, a jingoistic 'national' mood, created by
    raising emotional issues. Instead of taking up Temple issue, where the
    opposition is substantial, this time, it chose to take up such an emotional
    issue where it thought the opposition to be minimal. It knew, its nuclear
    explosions will be greeted by a consensus. Initially it will be around
    explosions, but subsequently that temporary consensus will be converted by
    the BJP's huge organisational machinery into a relatively permanent one----
    around BJP and its worldview.

    b) Nation-building:  Another important objective----wider than the earlier
    one----was what can be called 'nation-building'. We have to do some
    explaining first, as to what is meant by 'nation-building' here, only after
    that one can appreciate its being one of the main motivating considerations
    behind BJP's decision of nuclear  explosions. However, let us note at the
    outset, that (a) and (b) are closely interlocked with each other. BJP
    wanted to build-up a pan Indian nation (now fragmented into communities),
    with itself attempting to assume an umbrella character by growing from a
    mere Hindu party into an Indian national party. Chronologically, it follows
    the Ayodhya mission of early nineties, which aimed at explicitly defining
    the cultural content of Indian nationalism, making Ayodhya and the Ram
    temple the civilizational focus of Indian nation-state,  created in 1947.
    Therefore, before assuming the mantle of a national party,  Indian nation
    and nationalism have already been given an explicit and elaborate definition.

    India is and has been  a land of  diverse cultures and communities. A
    monolithic Indian nation, or Hindu community have never before existed in
    real terms nor do they now. These are politically motivated concepts that
    can be traced to recent political history of Indian sub-continent.
    Professor Rommila Thapar, Emiritus Professor of History at the Jawahar Lal
    Nehru University, New Delhi, writes: "The need for postulating a Hindu
    community became a requirement for political mobilisation in the nineteenth
    century, when representation by a religious community became a key to power
    and where such representation gave access to economic resources. …Since it
    was easy to recognise other communities on the basis of religion, such as
    Muslims and Christians, an effort was made to consolidate a parallel  Hindu
    community. This involved a change from earlier segmented identities to one
    which encompassed caste and region and identified itself  by religion
    which had to be refashioned so as to provide the ideology which would bind
    the group"(Journal Of Asian Studies 23:2,1989) The conceptualization  was
    done in the last century, and in this century, practically a homogenous
    'nation' was carved out by  MK Gandhi. Since society follows its own
    natural logic, as does the physical world, imposing a single nation-hood to
    a multi-nation conflict-ridden society as that of India's, obviously did
    not work. The Gandhian patchwork somehow  lasted only as long as Gandhi's
    legacy the Indian National Congress did. Congress gave stable governments
    to India, thus creating an illusion that a well-knit nation was inhabiting
    the land of India. With the demise of congress, the age-old Indian reality
    has once again surfaced. India is undergoing a tremendous social tumult of
    far reaching political implications. The fact of Coalition governments  at
    the Centre is only the tip  of iceberg, and hence visible to everyone. The
    deeper social reality is  far more exciting, and is getting a due attention
    from academics and social scientists world over. They are bringing up
    various dimensions and areas  of this social change. To be brief, we need
    to note four points in this connection:

    (i)There is an immense social awakening taking place among the 'low-caste'
    groups, particularly Dalits. Politically consequential, this change is very
    serious, embedded as it is in the very structure of society.

    (ii) There is a visible growth of Community Identities. Politically it is
    reflected by a steady growth of regional parties and an increase in their
    share of popular vote. In 1980 'national parties' together got 85% of the
    popular vote; in 1996 it came down to 69%, and in 1998 it went further down
    to 67.98%. Conversely, regional parties improved their share of vote from a
    mere 8% in 1980 to 21% in 1996, and in 1998 the figure went up to
    29.64%(this includes the share of 'Registered Unrecognised'  parties as well).
    Prominent Indian political scientists have taken serious note of the fact
    that the question of identity has come to occupy the forefront of Indian
    politics. Professor CP Bhambri, for example, has noted the "process of
    growing social cleavage and vivisection around the question of identities"
    , and the fact that political parties are becoming the representatives of
    social groups.(Poineer, New Delhi, 7June, 1996).

    (iii)Partly as a consequence of (i) and (ii), and partly as part of the
    overall social tumult, Indian politics is increasingly becoming violent.
    This is because the recently empowered social groups, like Other backward
    Classes(OBC's), i.e. deprived caste groups, Dalits etc.etc. are determined
    to dislodge the traditionally ruling castes, and to take hold of the levers
    of power, and , as analysts say, they are in a sort of hurry as if to jump
    the  queue to achieve their goals. India's elections speak of its live
    democracy, but they also camaflouge the fact that this democratic exercise
    is conducted under the shadow of huge armed force, far more than  the
    normal police usually employed elsewhere in the world  to ensure law and
    order. Leaving aside the places where the legitimacy of Indian state is
    challenged, like for example, the North East, heavy deployment of armed
    personnel is made in states like UP and Bihar, where no such problem
    exists, and  every state government demands more and more central troops
    from the centre because the local police and administration acts in the
    interest of  one caste group or the other. Professor CP Bhambri in an
    article in The Hindustan Times(March7, 1998), has termed this situation as
    an "alarming political development".

    (iv) The increasing growth of community identities means the fragmentation
    of Indian 'nation', and the force to push this process further, is in-built
    in the situation. As Professor Francis R Frankel, Director Centre Of
    advanced study On India, University of  Pennsylvania, says, the leaders of
    regional(for that matter all 'sub-national' forces) parties "perceive the
    politics of fragmentation as the best way to leverage their own control
    over small vote banks into positions of autonomous power at the state and
    at the national level"(Seminar 459,November1997).

    The situation described very briefly in  (i)-(iv) above, has been a source
    of extreme discomfort to India's established ruling elites. BJP and
    Congress, two main parties representing the entrenched Brahmin power, have
    been looking at these developments with grave concern. It is, after all,
    these Brahmin elites, who in the last century conceptualized the notion
    'India', and a homogeneous 'nation', co-terminus with the physical
    boundaries of the then British India. Leaving aside the Muslim defiance,
    Gandhi could manage to carve out a huge single 'nation' at the expense of
    the political and cultural autonomy of so many distinct communities
    inhabiting India. In the powerful, rather revengeful emergence of community
    identities, Brahmin elites are seeing the reversal of the whole process.
    What was done is being undone. It is in this context that BJP's exercise of
    nation building has to be seen. It was not just nuclear testing, as was,
    for example, in China and France last year; the so-called scientific
    exercise was turned into full-fledged popular movement. In a polity where
    issues and concerns were increasingly becoming localised, BJP came up with
    something 'national', something common which most of India's population
    could identify itself with. To carve out a nation once again from the
    fragmented pieces, BJP combined all the essential ingredients that had gone
    into the formation of national movement led by Gandhi, and as a result of
    which a 'nation' was carved out with Gandhi as its father. Now BJP is
    repeating the exercise with the same objectives in mind. Its main objective
    is to emerge as a nationally hegemonic power. Gandhi 'struggled', defied
    imperialism to 'secure the soul of a wounded civilization', to establish
    the golden age of 'Ram Rajya' which was disrupted by Muslims(these are
    integral ingredients of Indian nationalism); so does BJP now. Standing up
    against the US sanctions, defying imperialism, it is leading a 'struggle'
    for the glory of a 'great nation' that stands wounded in Kashmir and
    elsewhere by the Muslim Pakistan,. Like the earlier one, the current
    'struggle' although led by Hindus,and for the glory of Bharat Mata,
    includes all the 'sons of soil': If Abul Kalam Azad held high position in
    the earlier  struggle, so is Dr. Abdul Kalam holding now.

    c) Power  Ambition: After the collapse of the Soviet-Union, and the
    cosequent irrelevance of Non-aligned Movement, India has been facing an
    identity crisis in international forums. It wants to emerge as a global
    power, but its regional preoccupations keep it confined to the
    sub-continent. As analysts point out, compared to China, India has
    cultivated very little regional good will, be it vis-à-vis Pakistan,
    Bangladesh, Nepal, or any other state in the region. With such a poor
    regional standing, India's aspirations for a wider/global role remain
    unfulfilled. Now India thought, by becoming a Nuclear Weapon State, it may
    achieve the great power status, and also, it may take on the
    'third-world-leadership' role on such issues as Nuclear disarmament and
    challenging the exclusive right of Nuclear Club states to have Nuclear
    weapons.
    d) Imposing Military Solution: Pokhran blasts, and the subsequent
    utterances by such responsible BJP leaders as LK Advani, left nobody in
    doubt that India was planning a military solution of Kashmir

    2) What did BJP Achieve?

    (i)As regards its party consolidation and expansion, BJP seems to have made
    some gains. Aijaz Ahmad, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary
    studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, highlights the
    domestic fall out of these explosions, and referring to BJP's Ayodhya
    campaign, Ahmad says: "If that spectacle paved the way for the BJP to
    emerge as an All-India party and eventually the ruling party, these nuclear
    fireworks help it cut across the Hindu/secular divide and reach out to
    claim the mantle of Indian nationalism as such. This will unite very broad
    sections of the Indian middle classes-and not only the middle
    classes-whatever the immediate behaviour of stock market might be…. This
    effect is not going to wear off in days, or weeks, or months. Only a
    sustained counter-offensive can prevent it from still being there 20 years
    from now."(Frontline May23,1998)

    (ii)As far as nation building is concerned, success in this domain will
    crucially depend upon BJP's position as a party. If BJP grows stronger, it
    may afford to give concessions and accommodate, to a manageable level, the
    aspirations of rising social forces, in which case it may be able to
    contain and manage the conflict situation in India. However, things are not
    that rosy. We need to note following points:

  • The initial euphoria and a feeling of pride that was generated soon after
    the blasts, could not survive Pakistan's counter blast. The rejoicing folks
    had a feeling of futility: Before blasts we(India &Pakistan) were equal,
    after blasts we are again equal, what has been gained from the exercise,
    they asked. In political and strategic communities, the feeling was,
    however,  not just of futility, but of regret: Nuclear bomb has equalised
    two unequals.The unity between broad sections of Indian middle classes,
    that Aijaz Ahmad talks about above, cannot survive a feeling of
    demoralisation, generated after Pak blasts.

  • BJP's militarist and extremist approach to social and political issues,
    as demonstrated by its Pokhran decision also, is most ill suited to the
    nation-building exercise in the context of Indian situation. India presents
    a unique conflict situation, as such it is most suited to moderation.
    Gandhi did not believe in non-violence( it is he who authorised armed
    aggression on Kashmir), but it was his considered approach because of its
    success chances, and he did succeed, albeit temporarily, in neutralizing
    conflict.

  • Although, immediately after Pokhran blasts, it looked, as if  BJP had
    provided a strong stimulus uniting all the communities and sections of
    India, yet it was clear to the keen  India-watchers even then, and is more
    so now, that fissures in Indian 'nation' are too deep and real to be
    cemented by such emotional stimuli. The process of various communities
    asserting their distinct identity, demanding their rights, and determinedly
    trying to change their historical situation, is simply irreversible.

    (iii)As regards the big power ambition, and that of third world leadership,
    India is facing a stunning failure. Never before did India face such an
    international isolation as it is facing now. US admonitions, genuine or
    otherwise, are not important; what is immensely important, is the attitude
    of 'developing' countries. None of them including India's close neighbours,
    Iran, Bangladesh and Nepal, who sent top visiting missions to India after
    blasts, supported India's high moral claims, such as, India battling
    single-handedly to challenge the unequal global nuclear order. Pakistan was
    also wise enough not to invoke this logic as a reason  for its nuclear
    test. It may be recalled, that at the CTBT debate also, India's moral
    pretensions had not carried much conviction  with the world community. But
    as of now, India's moral sermonizing has completely backfired: its lustful
    power ambition and hypocricy, both, stand exposed. What Praful Bidwai has
    very succinctly remarked, seems to have been the universal understanding
    world over: "It just won't do to pretend that India is the Boy on the
    Burning Deck single-handedly battling the unequal global nuclear order.
    India has not challenged that discriminatory order; it merely wants to join
    it -- on the discriminators' side".( Times of India, 19 June,1998) .

    (iv) India has also failed to impose a military solution of Kashmir on
    Pakistan. This is not to say, that the dangers of a devastating war are
    over; there is an extremely volatile situation now existing, as we will
    discuss later. But what needs to be noted here is that if India had sought,
    and it did seek, as an objective behind blasts, to terrify Pakistan and
    coerce it into some shameful compromise and surrender of its genuine
    claims, it has miserably failed on that count.   

    3)An Appraisal of the Existing Situation
    Because of the so many unsettled issues, there has been all along a tense
    politico-military atmosphere in the Indian subcontinent not to talk of
    three actual wars, fought between India and Pakistan. Now, the possession
    of  nuclear bombs, both by India and Pakistan has created a definite
    possibility of , what in the strategic jargon is called 'Mutually Assured
    Destruction'(MAD). Mad, it is said, creates a deterrence, thus preventing
    the concerned parties  from attacking each other. Since most of  the
    strategic doctrines, including MAD, were developed in the particular
    geo-strategic context of  'Cold War', they need not have the same universal
    application with the same results everywhere. In case of India and
    Pakistan, the balance of terror that has been created, is not going to
    bring peace and stability. There are two reasons for it. one,
    geo-strategic; the other, historical-political. The latter is very
    important, as far as the true understanding of situation is concerned, and
    we will discuss it fully. This is also needed, because, unfortunately it is
    almost missing from the public debate on the subject. But first turning to
    the former, it is said that Pakistan and India, unlike US and the former
    Soviet Union, are situated very close to each other, sharing  a long common
    border. The flight time of missiles, loaded with a nuclear warhead, is so
    meager, that there is no possibility of prevention, only that of
    retaliation. In case of 'Cold War', however, at no point 'was lagtime less
    than 30 minutes. There were, besides, scores of early-warning systems, hot
    lines, permissive active links, crisis defusing devices. There are none
    between India and Pakistan'.(Praful Bidwai ' A Deadly Deterrence' The Times
    of India, 19th June 1998). Even a 'No First Strike' agreement between India
    and Pakistan cannot solve the problem because, as Col. Gouhar Ayub, the
    Pakistan Foreign Minister said, it will be difficult to determine who
    struck first.

    Now coming to historical-political reason, it turns out that a unique
    situation exists in the South Asian sub-continent, which makes such
    doctrines as peace through deterrence, inapplicable here, thus giving rise
    to an extremely volatile situation. This uniqueness of situation must be
    taken a serious note of. Some political analysts have noted it, but their
    identification of it is mainly with reference to the symptoms, rather than
    basic causes. For they identify uniqueness in such things as: India and
    Pakistan going to three wars,  not having been able to resolve a single
    dispute, Kashmir remaining there for fifty years, so on and so forth. We
    need to, however, understand the uniqueness of Indo-Pak situation in terms
    of causes. This we will do by looking at the situation in its historical
    context, and arrive at certain conclusions. However, to set the tone of
    discussion here, let us state the conclusions right at the outset, and then
    proceed to the discussion:

  • India's ruling elites(BJP and non-BJP) have never willingly accepted the
    very existence of Pakistan, and hence;

  • Dismantling of Pakistan continues to be on the political agenda of Indian
    state, and;

  • Nuclear parity does not make a difference to this situation, if it does
    not aggravate it further, because;

  • This attitude towards Pakistan is based, not on strategic logic, but
    stems from a fanatic mind-set of the ruling elites, and, therefore;

  • No simple options exist to really change this situation, and;

  • One has to look beyond simple solutions, and find out effective options,
    howsoever, complex or long-term they may be.

    One has to understand the nature and historical origin of the present day
    Indian ruling elites, in order to have a proper understanding of the
    post-British South Asian political reality. By present day ruling elites,
    we mean India's power establishment, dominated by 'Upper' castes, mostly by
    Brahmins. In this class, we do not include the new social forces, who have
    been getting mobilised and empowered in the recent years and becoming
    autonomous power entities (not dependent on the traditional power
    establishment). Earlier in this paper, we have mentioned about this
    phenomenon, but this has to be noted that this is still a process, though
    highly consequential and meaningful, and the traditional power continues to
    be entrenched in all walks of life---politics, media, bureaucracy,
    industry, art and literature etc.etc.

    The historical origin of present day Indian ruling elites can be traced
    back to the arrival, establishment and subsequent consolidation of the
    British in the Indian sub-continent. It was at this point in history that,
    as Girilal Jain, the late Chief Editor of The Times of India, says 'a
    fundamental shift' took place in the power balance between Muslims and
    non-Muslims. Muslims ruled the land; their power was entrenched, and since
    the British displaced them, breaking Muslim power became their prime task.
    It is for this reason that the consolidation of the British Empire, took
    place at the expense of Muslim power, a fact admitted by even official
    Indian historians like MJ Akbar. At the outset there was no Hindu community
    as such, those whom we call Hindus now, were identified by there caste,
    region, language, occupation etc.etc. It was the relatively powerful class
    of Brahmins(commonly referred to as Neo-Hindus in History books), who after
    taking to Western education and culture, developed hegemonic ambitions, and
    themselves being a small minority, went on conceptualizing the notion of a
    pan-Indian Hindu Community, and a uniform Indian nation. Nationalist
    movements, in general, originate from educated, middle class, and then they
    seek to, rather, impose their own vision of 'nation'---its past and future
    on the general people (the natural sentiment in general people is that of
    patriotism---a love-sentiment---not of nationalism---a basically
    hate-sentiment. The latter exploits the former for its
    own--class/sectarian-- ends, making it exclusionist). Indian Nationalist
    movement also originated from a few, being no different from other such
    movements in this respect. But what sets the Indian movement apart, is the
    historical fact that "Nationalism as political movement, national identity,
    and nationalist ideology,  as Professor Achin Vanaik, in his book 'The
    Painful Transition: Bourgeois Democracy in India'(London:Verso.1990),
    writes, did not develop in the wake of religious decline. A Hindu religious
    'renaissance' was central to the emergence of all three". This is contrary
    to what happened in the cradle of nationalism, Europe: here the  dawn of
    nationalism followed the dusk of religious modes of thought. In the course
    of a thorough process of secularization, when the religious authority
    declined, not only at the political level, but at the social and family
    levels as well, the Nation-state emerged as an independent secular centre
    of loyalty for the people. In India, things moved differently. Here a
    religious-civilizational tradition (also referred to as neo-Hindu
    tradition), to act as an ideology  binding different communities with
    segmental identities, into a single 'Hindu' community, was constructed
    first, and in this, as Professor Romilla Thapar argues( see Achin Vanaik's
    book cited above), Brahmanical beliefs and rituals came to constitute the
    core of the tradition; from this tradition derived the Indian Nationalist
    ideology, which because of its source of inspiration, sought to recreate a
    future in the image of a 'golden Hindu past'(in Gandhi's words 'Golden age
    of Ramarajya') that had existed in ancient times, but was disrupted by
    Muslims. From the Nationalist ideology sprang the political movement led by
    Gandhi.

    Two vital points follow from the above discussion:

    First, Muslims are the 'Other' in the Indian Nationalist thought, because
    in the historical narrative that has gone into the genesis of Nationalist
    ideology-the definitions of  'nation' and national identity, Muslims are
    regarded as the outsiders who in the first place enslaved the 'nation', and
    from whom the real independence had to be achieved. This is a fact,
    whatever the reasons. Hardly there is a disagreement on this in the
    academic community. Some say, for example, Professor Barbara Metcalf,
    Professor of History at the University of California, that It is the
    British who did it: they projected themselves as good, enlightened rulers
    as compared to their predecessors, the Muslim rulers, shown to be
    oppressive and intolerant. Thus "Muslims served as a foil against which the
    British defined themselves"(Metcalf "Presidential Address: Too Little Too
    Much: Reflections on Muslims in the History of India" Journal Of Asian
    studies 54:4, Nov 1995). Others blame Orientalists, as MJ Akbar says " It
    was the western scholar who helped revive, through his research, memories
    of a golden past…Muslims became the fashionable whipping boys as the evil
    which had interfered with the evolution of the golden Hindu age"( see
    Akbar's Nehru-The Making Of India, p37). But whatever the reasons,
    whosoever projected Muslims as the 'demonized Other', is now more of
    academic importance; what is really important and has tremendous practical
    implications is that, this historical 'perception' fitted well in the
    Indian Nationalist thought, and continues to be an essential element of it.

    Second, Indian nationalism is not merely an instance of a wider phenomenon
    of nationalism, it is basically a typical case of nation-worship. As such
    fanaticism and irrationalism are its inherent characteristics. This is an
    important truth about the evolution of the political entity, India, as it
    exists now, and once this is grasped, one can understand why the authors of
    Nationalist ideology, conceived of  the geographical entity---India(the
    whole British India) in terms of 'Mother goddess', and why they demanded of
    the innocent people to die for the goddess. Vivekanand, one of the
    architects of the Neo-Hindu tradition,  while addressing a public gathering
    in Lahore in 1897 said: "for the next fifty years that alone should be our
    keynote, our mother India. Let all other vain gods vanish for the time from
    our minds. This is the only God". Almost one hundred years later, in 1993,
    the then President of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, expressed the same
    sentiment when he asked the people in western Indian city of Pune 'to
    worship India as a God'. He also reminded the people of a similar appeal
    made by Vivekanada, a hundred years before.

    A nationalist mind-set sees the world divided between 'we' and 'they'. 'We'
    seeks to redeem its lost honour and glory by subduing 'they'. As noted
    above, in the Indian Nationalist thought, 'we' referred to the territorial
    Indian 'nation', theoretically homogenised in the mould of neo-Hindu
    tradition, whereas 'they', meant mainly the Muslims. Nowhere is this truth
    so clearly borne out than by the attitude of Indian National movement led
    by Gandhi i.e. the Congress, towards the question of Muslims in the
    sub-continent. Muslims were the largest single community in India, and on
    the face of it, it sounds completely illogical, why there should have been
    so bitter a dispute about Muslims demanding their own sovereign state.
    India, as we said in the beginning, was a vast sub-continent of so many
    diverse communities, all of whom were perfectly entitled to think of their
    post-colonial future. Globally also, empires were giving way to sovereign
    nation-states. Indian communities, not to talk of the Muslim community,
    which had a global character, had every right to plan their future
    according their culture, values, traditions and socio-economic condition.
    They had a more natural case for thinking on independent lines, because
    never in history had they lived with each other; all of them had lived
    individually under kings and emperors, under a politically unified centre
    or otherwise. As Allama Iqbal had rightly pointed out in his 1930 Allahabad
    address, these communities were "intensely jealous" of their collective
    existence. A true democratic reasoning would dictate that these communities
    should have conceded due space to each other, and then engaged in
    constructive cooperation in the overall pursuit of freedom from British
    rule. That this did not actually happen, suggests an underlying reason
    behind it: Indian Nationalist ideology, of which the Congress was a
    political offshoot, did not recognise the existence of any distinct
    communities in India, so the question of sovereign community rights did not
    arise. For Muslims the implications of this were far more serious: as a
    distinct religio-political community, Muslims were not a part of 'we' that
    constituted the 'nation' seeking freedom through the 'national' movement,
    the Congress;  they were the'other'. To be viewed otherwise, that is, a
    part of 'we', Muslims had not to be a distinct community, just a part of
    the homogenous Indian/Hindu (the distinction is irrelevant, because it
    means in any case territorial) 'nation'. If in the early phase of
    'national' resurgence, when Muslims came to be identified as the real evil,
    and hence the 'other', the Calcutta press used to refer to Muslims as
    'yavana jati' meaning barbarians, it was Gandhi who called Muslims as
    brothers, but (and the single 'but' tells the whole story) only after
    persistently denying them their distinct community identity. The message
    was simple: Muslims are not barbarians, but then they don't have to be
    Muslims. Jinnah-Gandhi correspondence brings out very clearly Gandhi's
    rigidity on not recognizing the distinct identity of Muslims. Even after
    very detailed exchanges with the Leader of the Muslim League, Quaidi-Azam
    MA Jinnah, when Gandhi agrees to the details of the Lahore Resolution, he
    remains adamant on his opposition to the fundamental principle underlying
    the resolution i.e. Muslims constituting a separate nation.

    It is amidst this ideological tussle, that India and Pakistan emerged as
    two states in 1947. The issues that had so far become a bone of contention
    between Congress and the Muslim League, did not settle here; just what
    happened, was, that Indian National movement converted itself into Indian
    National state, and the distinct identity of Muslims became more pronounced
    and institutionalised in the form of Pakistan.  At this juncture one would
    expect either of the two scenarios to develop: Now that Pakistan was a
    reality , the Indian national movement would, taking a pragmatic approach ,
    reconcile to the fact as well as the creed of Pakistan as a sovereign
    geo-political entity, or  else, the ideological battle would continue, now
    onwards with state-power not just party-power, as was the case earlier, at
    its back. None of the two materialized. Instead, what followed, was a
    one-sided onslaught. India continued, whereas, the Pakistan side gave up
    the battle, thinking, perhaps, their achievement of Pakistan, had
    automatically clinched all the contentious issues, and their
    neighbour(India) was now convinced of their genuine case. This, however,
    was not true. Indian National state was equally vehement, if not more,  in
    its opposition to a distinct political existence of Muslims in the what
    they thought as the territorial jurisdiction of their Mother Goddess,
    India, and this was quite manifest. Its first evidence was India's negative
    characterization of Pakistan's emergence: instead of  positively looking at
    it as the emergence of a new state resulting from the post-colonial
    reorganisation of the Indian sub-continent, it treated it as severance and
    secession of a small portion from the parent entity resulting into
    'Partition of the Country', the most pathetic phrase in Indian political
    vocabulary. As its natural implication, Indian leaders counted days for the
    'ceded' part to return in repentance. Evidences to this effect have been
    documented by various scholars.  They have talked of the various economic
    pressures, Indian leaders put on the new born state, to force it to
    return.(see, for example, Kalim Siddiqui 'Conflict, Crisis and War in
    Pakistan', London:Macmillan, 1972;Khalid Bin Sayeed 'Pakistan the Formative
    Phase', London:OUP 1968). With this view of Pakistan---a case of
    secession--, the new Indian state could maintain it opposition to
    'Two-Nation Theory', making it an official policy now. If in the phase of
    National movement, the leadership had only words, ideas, and manipulative
    methods available to it, after the  new state it could make use of  full
    state power to not only oppose but practically defeat the 'Two-Nation
    Theory'. Invading Kashmir on 27th October, 1947, and forcibly annexing it
    was meant to put a question mark on the foundational principle of Pakistan.
    What happened in latter days only confirmed India's fanatic nationalist
    beliefs, and, therefore, its unwillingness to accept the reality of
    Pakistan. India's pivotal role in the birth of Bangladesh was meant to
    celebrate the demise of  Two-Nation theory. Mrs Indra Gandhi, the then
    Prime Minister of India, openly declared 'today we have invalidated the
    Two-Nation theory'. Mr AB Vajpayee, then a member of Parliament and now
    India's Prime Minister, stood up in the parliament, and in a jubilant mood
    proceeded towards Mrs Gandhi, as if to hug her, and praising her for the
    extra-ordinary courage called her 'Durga', the name of eight armed Hindu
    Goddess. When we talk of India's opposition to 'Two-Nation Theory', we are
    not talking about a scholarly disagreement on a principle or theory; the
    significance of India's opposition to it does not lie there. Where it
    precisely lies, is in its practical meaning: What did opposing 'Two-Nation
    theory' amount to, in practical terms? In practical terms it meant
    challenging the basis of Pakistan, even after it had come into being. And
    when Mrs Gandhi made the statement in 1971, it meant that India not only
    opposed it, but worked for almost 25 long years to defeat it. We already
    heard Vajpyee, let us go to the other end of spectrum now. Here it is Mr
    Pran Chopra, known as a liberal-secular intellectual, as opposed to Vajpyee
    of BJP. On the demise of East Pakistan he had to say this "In a very real
    sense the liberation of Bangladesh has been a second liberation for India.
    It carries a step further the independence she won 25 years ago." (Pran
    Chopra 'India's Second Liberation' Vikas.1973). This means that the 'Mother
    Goddess' had to be liberated, not essentially from  the British rule, but
    from Islam, the Muslim political power---ghost or reality of it. A part of
    the territory, East Bengal, had been 'lost' to Islam on the basis of Muslim
    nationhood, now it has been reclaimed, and in the process of reclamation it
    is the second step, first one being that of 1947. Similar was the message
    from Babri mosque demolition: liberating the 'Mother Goddess', India from
    the ghost of Muslim political power, because the 'nation' can redeem honour
    and glory, only by comprehensively liberating itself from its 'Other'.       

    So far, We looked at the genesis of Indian Nationalist ideology, and how
    the Hindu resurgence preceded and inspired it. We looked at the Indian
    National movement, and how it dealt with the Muslim political agenda. We
    looked at the initial phases of the Indian National state, and what it did
    to force Pakistan to revert back. We looked at the latter stages, and how
    Mrs Gandhi engaged in a full-fledged war, in order to defeat 'Two-Nation
    Theory'. Then we looked at the historic destruction of the Babri Mosque,
    and how it defined once again, in the most explicit terms, the place of
    Islam and Muslims for the Indian state. What is the conclusion now, we may
    ask? It is:

    Conclusion-1: Indian state cannot afford to tolerate sovereign political
    presence of Muslims in the region, or for that matter, of any other
    community lumped together, in the Indian Nationalist thought, as part of
    the Indian 'Nation'. This is because of its official policy of opposing
    'Two-Nation Theory'.

    The Indian ambitions on one side, on the other, however, is the world of
    facts and realities. Indian National movement opposed, but Pakistan emerged
    in 1947. India could annex Kashmir, even create political proxies there,
    but it fails to control Kashmir. The people of Kashmir could never become a
    part of Indian 'Nation', as was intended, but they always considered
    themselves to be a part of the wider fraternity, the Muslim Ummah
    (Community). East Pakistan could be converted to Bangladesh, but the Muslim
    loyalties of people in Bangladesh remain intact, as borne out, among other
    things, by Taslima Nasreen episode: Islamic bonds, linking Bangladeshi
    Muslims to Quran, occupy a far higher place than mere territorial-national
    ones, linking them to their fellow Bangladeshi, Tasleema Nasreen. Even the
    state of Bangladesh has not become its subservient ally, as was envisaged
    by India in the first place. On the vital Kashmir question, Bangladesh
    refused to toe Indian line. In fact, India, On so many occasions,
    officially accused Bangladeshi intelligence agencies of 'active
    collaboration with their Pakistani counterparts'in supporting the on-going
    armed movement in Kashmir, and also harbouring important figures from
    North-East seeking freedom from India. Sought to be forced into desperate
    submission, particularly after the Babri mosque demolition and the
    subsequent India-wide riots, Indian Muslims are  refusing to budge, and are
    finding new ways and methods to assert their distinct community identity
    and political existence. As mentioned at the beginning, because of various
    other communities asserting their distinct identities, the Neo-Hindu
    concept of  the 'homogenous Indian Nation' stands shattered.

    The above world of realities weighed against Conclusion-1, brings out one
    more important conclusion:

    Conclusion-2: In its fanatic bid to deny an autonomous space to other
    political entities, and establish national hegemony in the region, Indian
    state has been engaged in a relentless, but unsuccessful  war,  though,
    occasionally, wining some battles here and there.

    This later conclusion enables us to identify yet another important element,
    namely desperation-desperation on part of India's present ruling elites of
    not having achieved any of the desired goals, particularly that of
    'National' hegemony through the 'National' state.  The feeling of
    desperation gets further exacerbated when, as outside political watchers
    realize so do the ruling elites themselves, that, because of the objective
    factors, success is moving farther from them with each passing day. But
    equally on the other hand, the elites are determined to move on. These are
    the two facets of the present Indian situation, and BJP's nuclear bomb
    combines both: determination as reflected by the decision to go nuclear;
    desperation as indicated by the statements by responsible leaders, soon
    after the explosions. They referred to 'worsening situation in Kashmir',
    'India being perceived week, and, therefore, enemies getting emboldened',
    'national unity in danger' etc.etc.

    The two conclusions above have direct implications for assessing the
    political-security situation in the indo-Pak sub-continent. This situation
    is very grave because of the inherent conflict arising out of fanatic
    beliefs, unfulfilled ambitions, and unsatisfied political-cultural agendas.
    In fact a unique situation obtains in this region. Cold war comparisons
    hardly hold here: former Soviet Union and US were two satisfied powers. In
    Potsdam and Yalta Conferences, the two had agreed on their respective
    spheres of influence, and formalized it through treaties; the United
    Nations itself was created to manage the post war political-security
    agenda. So this was a typical case of fully agreed-upon disagreement. Such
    is not the case between India and Pakistan. India does not, in the first
    place, treat Pakistan as a fellow sovereign state, how can be their any
    agreements---either to agree or disagree? What else can explain a complete
    deadlock over Kashmir for the past fifty years? Not to talk of Indo-Pak
    bilateral matters, an effective regional co-operative mechanism has also
    not developed so far. SAARC is a dead entity, and the reason is that India
    instead of recognizing Pakistan as a fellow partner, and conceding it its
    own due space, concentrates all its effort on isolating it, and making it
    irrelevant in the regional power equation. The strategic community globally
    agrees, that this preoccupation of India with Pakistan, costs the former
    its wider/global role.(the point was discussed in detail in our 'Kashmir
    Conflict: What motivates India's Activism', Leeds:1996)  This thinking is
    emerging in India too, and it had formed the intellectual basis for the
    so-called Gujral Doctrine, which, not to talk of others, Gujral himself
    could not translate into action. The reason being what was mentioned above:
    India's present ruling elites are a band of nation-worshippers, and as such
    they prefer emotional fulfillment to the strategic gain. What is,
    otherwise, India's rationale in putting huge resources in fighting  a war
    in Kashmir which it is convinced, it can never win?

    4)Any Options?
    So we have a unique situation in the Indo-Pak sub-continent, and India's
    nuclear bomb must be viewed in this context. This should be the basic
    premise, on which options can be worked out. Bomb for a bomb, may not be an effective option in this situation. It can be the only possible option but
    that does not mean it will be effective as well. Its effectiveness mainly
    lies in its power to deter, but how if India is not deterred? We should
    repeat, that we are not talking here about the routine case of inter-state
    conflict, where conflicts are meaningfully addressed and solutions
    attempted on the objective basis of costs and benefits. If war costs more
    than the benefits it brings, it is avoided, and naturally nuclear
    deterrence works in such cases, as it did at the height of Cuban Missile
    Crisis, when US having an overwhelming nuclear superiority over the Soviet
    Union, was restrained by the thought, that even a single Soviet nuclear
    missile could destroy a US city.  In the Indo-Pak sub-continent we have a
    unique case of one state (India) not recognizing the very existence of the
    other (Pakistan).We noted above, that right from 1947, Indian state has
    been engaged in a unilateral onslaught to undermine Pakistan, in order to
    'prove' its 'case', and Kashmir was grabbed in the first place precisely
    for this purpose. Now, when Kashmir issue has got revived since the past
    nine years, and Pakistan has started an open advocacy of this cause, it has
    recreated in essence the whole pre-47 ideological-political scenario,
    bringing Pakistan actively on the other side of the fence by converting the
    unilateral onslaught into bilateral battle. This is , after all, the
    tremendous symbolic significance, Kashmir issue has. In the preceding
    sections we went into some detail to explain, what it is, that the Indian
    Nationalist mind is made up of. It should not be, therefore, difficult to
    realize that the more Pakistan insists on the resolution of Kashmir, the
    more intolerably painful it becomes for the Indian nationalist mind, not
    just because of Kashmir per se, but more because of the fact that the
    nationalist mind sees in this insistence a deliberate, clear and powerful
    assertion by Pakistan, not only of its distinct, as was the case with
    Muslim League before1947, but also of its sovereign nationhood. This
    assertion is intolerable, and any perceived climb down before Pakistan, is
    unthinkable for the Indian Nationalist mind, for in their view it violates
    the spirit of Indian Nationalism, which seeks to build the 'Nation' and
    redeem its lost honour and glory by ridding it from any and every kind of
    Muslim power and influence. Indian nationalists will find the raison d'être
    of their created 'nation-state', hit by any step that amounts to accepting
    parity, or worse, superiority of Pakistan. With this mindset, Indian ruling
    elites can go to any extent to assert their 'national' hegemony, and using
    the nuclear muscle can not be ruled out. Soon after the blasts on May 11,
    when Mr Advani went about issuing war threats to Pakistan, it reflected the
    regime's impatience to use the 'toy' as early as possible. They haven't
    dropped the idea forever; Pakistani bomb has made them bring down the tone,
    and retreat on the war threats temporarily.  The simple conclusion that
    could be drawn from an earlier one that India has been wining some small
    battles, but losing the greater war, is that India has yet to dismantle
    Pakistan, and in doing so using a nuclear bomb is not off its agenda. One
    may ask that, given the nuclear capability on the other side i.e. Pakistan,
    this may prove a costly affair for India in terms of men and material. One
    answer to this, perhaps, will be, that strategic calculations do not
    determine the decisions motivated by fanatic beliefs and hatred. Another
    no-non-sense answer is that, we are discussing the present situation and
    finding it unique and dangerous mainly with reference to India's present
    ruling elites, historically the creation of Indian Nationalist Thought and
    the Movement. Numerically, these elites, being 'Upper  Castes' and mostly
    Brahmins constitute a very small minority of the Indian population, and in
    any disaster such as a nuclear war they stand to lose least; the
    'untouchables' and other 'low castes' will be the main victims. Leading
    Dalit('untouchable' community) intellectual and the editor of monthly Dalit
    Voice Mr VT Rajshekhar, recently wrote: "No doubt, the 'Hindu bomb' and the
    proposed war on Kashmir are destructive activities. The country and its
    SC/ST/BCs will not gain anything out of it. They may not gain but certainly
    they stand to lose a lot. Those who will die in this war will be our
    people. But the Nazis are not bothered about any amount of death and
    destruction because the very Hindu philosophy is based on hate. What will
    the Hindu Nazis gain by the 'Hindu bomb', war and violence? They stand to
    gain the whole world. The propaganda they will gain out of this bomb, hate,
    war, and violence is that they will succeed in giving a new cultural
    identity(emphasis author's) to India. The new identity will be that they
    will see to it that the country is called 'Hindu India' though in fact
    India is not Hindu."(Dalit Voice, Banglore, India. July 1-15, 1998)

    So the options for peace and stability should be worked out on the basis of
    this presumption  that a Pakistani bomb is not enough to deter India from
    using its nuclear arsenal. One would suggest then, as a possible way of
    defusing tension, that Pakistan should give up its advocacy of Kashmir, so
    that there do not remain any causes of tension in the region, and a
    war-situation does not develop. This, however, is neither right nor
    correct. A few points can be made in this regard:

    First, Kashmir is a real issue by itself, Pakistan's advocacy does not make
    or unmake it. It will continue to be a source of tension, even if no one
    supports it. Second, when it comes to Kashmir, Pakistan has hardly a
    choice: its advocacy of Kashmir has a very direct bearing on its claim of
    independent, sovereign nationhood. In choosing between supporting and not
    supporting Kashmir, Pakistan has essentially to choose between political
    independence and subservience vis-à-vis India. If it chooses subservience,
    there hardly remains any meaning in its initial decision to have opted for
    a sovereign state on the basis of the distinct identity of its people.
    Third, Kashmir is basically not a cause but a consequence of the hegemonic
    'national' vision and mission of Indian Nationalists, which, in the most
    real terms, is the root cause of all tension and misery in the
    post-colonial South Asia. Once this root problem is addressed, a major
    headway towards a peaceful and stable South Asia would have been made.

    The search for peace should start by first recognising the crystal-clear
    fact of  India being inhabited by various Communities, who in their own
    right are nations, and in the absence of a supra-national creed, principle,
    ideology(as for example Islam in case of Muslim communities with diverse
    socio-cultural backgrounds), these communities cannot be lumped together,
    as they have been, into some sort of an imagined 'nation'. As Allama Iqbal,
    in his 1930 address, had rightly emphasized, without recognising this fact
    "the principle of European democracy cannot be applied to India". In India,
    democracy is limited to elections; the power distribution is most
    undemocratic and inequitable.  Securing a right balance of power within
    India through an equitable distribution of power between communities should
    be seriously considered as an option to quell the threat emanating from the
    Pokhran blasts. No doubt an indirect one, yet it may prove to be the only
    effective option in the long run, because this will address the basic
    causes behind this mindless weaponisation, which are the  peculiar
    Nationalist mind-set, and the present power-structure, that being unjust is
    inherently instable, and can only thrive on militarist agendas. Hopefully,
    things are already moving in this direction as we mentioned in the
    beginning. The emerging social forces in India are struggling to change
    their miserable plight and build a better future. Their movement is
    inspired mainly by their objective conditions of living, rather than by
    imagined fanatic notions. They do not share the Nationalist view of a
    monolithic pan-Indian Nation. Their nation is their own community, and they
    do not treat Muslims as the historical 'evil force which had interfered
    with the evolution of Golden Hindu age'; in fact they hardly have any
    golden ages to remember, being oppressed from centuries together. They can
    have their own conflicts with Muslims, but a distinct political existence
    of Muslims as such, is not an aberration for them, as is for the Indian
    Nationalists.

    I will conclude, once again, by quoting from Allama Iqbal's 1930 address,
    in which apart from proposing the idea of Pakistan,  he had also suggested
    "the creation of autonomous states based on the unity of language, race,
    history, religion and identity of economic interests" as "the only possible
    way to secure a stable constitutional structure in India". This should also
    serve to underscore the point that Allama had not proposed the idea of
    Pakistan alone in his Allahabad address, as is generally made to believe,
    and conceded the major portion of the Sub-continent to Indian Nationalists;
    he had given a deep thought to India's objective situation, and he honestly
    believed that all the Indian Communities had "a right to free development"
    according to their own "cultural traditions". In their insistence on
    unitary visions of Indian 'nation' and unitary electorates, Allama very
    clearly saw through the Indian Nationalists' game "to secure permanent
    communal dominance in the whole of India."


Dr Syed Inayatullah Andrabi is an intellectual-activist from Srinagar, the capital of occupied Kashmir. He has been actively campaigning for the liberation of Kashmir from India for several years. Dr Andrabi, facing massive hunts from Indian police had been working underground in Kashmir for several years and has written extensively on the issues underlying the bloody conflict in Kashmir in the wider framework of the political destiny of Muslims in South Asia. For the past several months Dr Andrabi has been living in exile.

The Centre for Kashmir Affairs, London, U.K

Back to Documents Index

Home
Send Mail to the Author

This site is maintained by Gharib Hanif (hanif@gharib.demon.co.uk). Comments and suggestions always welcome.