India’s nuclear security imperiled by Manmohan Govt

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh so desperately desired a Washington visit to retrieve what little remains of his, originally slight, reputation, that he quite literally invited himself to America, forcing Obama to extend an official invitation for sometime in September this year. The nuclear deal was Manmohan S’s political apogee which “ächievement” he may wish to embellish by this time furthering Obama’s Prague agenda. Early in his first term, Obama, it may be recalled, called for nuclear disarmament in Prague — expression of which sentiment was enough to win him the Nobel Prize for Peace, especially as he articulated no plan other than calling for strengthening of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty and for nuclear summits every two years!

An important aspect of beefing up the NPT is getting India (Pakistan and Israel) to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and for the negotiations to get underway for a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. The FMCT talks are, however, being stalled by Pakistan at the UN Committee on Disarmament in Geneva. Islamabad’s case is that an FMCT is fine as long as all the fissile material produced by all the nuclear weapons states up to the present is accounted for and brought within the ambit of the draft-FMCT. It will require nuclear weapons states verifiably to state exactly how much fissmat is there in their respective national stockpiles before the negotiations begin — which, of course, is opposed by NPT-5 because it will reveal the potential or real size of their nuclear weapons arsenals.

The fact is Pakistan’s stand helps India, affording it the time (as it does Pakistan) to produce weapon-grade plutonium at as breakneck a speed as is allowed by national facilities to ensure it doesn’t get caught short by the time an FMCT eventually surfaces, some years down the line. Being deadly serious about its nuclear security, Pakistan is working the two Chinese-transferred dedicated military plutonium producing reactors at Khushab and the one at Chashma at full tilt. India on the other hand is its usual complacent self. It has only the 100 MW Dhruva in Trombay and, with the 49 MW Cirus decativated courtesy Manmohan’s nuclear deal with the US, the second 100 MW WgPu unit in the atomic research centre in Vizag (Vishakhapatnam) going on stream only sometime next year (2014) — nearly two decades after PV Narasimha Rao had approved the building of a second such Pu reactor, India will be limping way behind even Pakistan in terms of stockpiling weapons-usable plutonium.

In this context, common sense would suggest that New Delhi’s policy ought to be slyly to encourage Pakistan to continue stifling any possibility of an FMCT emerging out of the Geneva forum with frequent use of its veto, while pushing the eight CANDU reactors outside the IAEA safeguards net into full low burn-up mode to output WgPu, and speeding up the commissioning of the Vizag reactor in order to beef up the extant holdings to a sufficient level to reach near fissmat parity with China.

And it has to resist the kind of near-idiotic stance adopted by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in Geneva when he seemed to want FMCT talks urgently to get underway, which’s plainly not in India’s national interest. It has to be borne in mind that India’s fissmat goldings, other than meeting the manifold increases in weapons strength for unforeseen contingencies in the future, will have to be large enough to accommodate open-ended, iterative, N-testing that will have to be ordered later, if not sooner, by the Indian Govt, though sooner would be preferable.

In this context of a paucity of Indian fissmat, it is ridiculous of Mathai (speaking for the Manmohan regime) to if not openly side with Pakistan than at least to not conspicuously come down on the side of the P-5 driving this treaty. But this last is precisely what Mathai did, saying “There is an agreed mandate for the commencement of the negotiations” and India does not favour amending it. This may win brownie points with Washington but hurt India centrally.

There may be a nefarious game that Manmohan seeks to play when in Washington. Following up on his Govt’s position on FMCT, he may agree to India signing the CTBT, without ratifying it — the sort of solution Bill Clinton had suggested to Narasimha Rao in the Nineties. It will mean India having to adhere to the main plank of the CTBT which is not to test again, especially because there’s no provision of ratification as such in the Indian system, only for a no-confidence motion. Any damn fool PM can sign any wretched treaty and compromise the country’s security and victimize Indian national interests by doing so. It will be like the July 8, 2008 Parliamentary drama all over again with crores being gifted to MPs and the likes of Mulayam Singh once again citing the so-called “Father of the atom bomb” — APJ Abdul Kalam, which parentage an honour-bound rocket engineer with minimal knowledge of the Bomb such as one believed Kalam was, ought to have rejected but didn’t, and using this to again side with the Manmohan Govt to once and for all cripple the Indian nuclear arsenal. It will win Manmohan S Obama’s and America’s eternal gratitude but will be a parting kick he delivers to the country ere he betakes himself to the Rajya Sabha or, more permanently and profitably, to a sinecure at an elite university in the West. An economics chair at Harvard or Oxbridge for Manmoahn, did you say?

It is the preparatory work for such a game-plan that may be proposed to the visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry and which the latter may be asked to flesh out from the American side by his opposite number, Salman Khurshid, when they meet for the “strategic dialogue” in New Delhi on June 24, 2013.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, disarmament, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, nonproliferation, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan nuclear forces, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US.. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to India’s nuclear security imperiled by Manmohan Govt

  1. RK Anuj says:

    The desperate political canvassing, by proxy, of a certain party that has lowered political discourse( this no longer being a strategic blog site, having shamefully even shed the pretensions to one) to using filthy language and unsubstantiated allegations against their more articulate adversaries, the lack of any logical argument being compensated by loud mouthed obscenities, against one and all.


    I think Indiaa should stick to his earlier stand that not to sign the CTBT.America will try hard no make India to sign the treaty.That could be double game of USA.By reducing India’s nuclear capability on the other hand give aide to Pakistan.That would be disaster situation for India.China is closely monitoring the situation and will hit hard at proper time

  3. Pingback: India’s nuclear security imperiled by Manmohan-Govt

  4. Garg says:

    India will win by sticking to conventional weapons. India will never win a nuclear race with China. India must stop pretending that nuclear weapons will give it an edge over China.

    CTBT is NOT such a big issue. India can sign CTBT and NPT. The gains will be huge for India, as Indian industry needs technologies to get competitive. Signing will boost international investment into India creating favorable conditions for development of the country.

    You must remember that economic development is needed for a strong military.

    • Signing CTBT is a very big issue, because it’ll bar India from nuclear testing again, which national interest cannot afford. Credible nuclear weapons — the outcome of resumed thermonuclear testing — are still the arbiters of international relations, which fact should always be borne in mind.

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