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May 30, 1998


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The Rediff Interview/ J N Dixit

'By its tests, Pakistan has certainly achieved a certain macro level parity with India'

Former foreign secretary J N Dixit discusses the nuclear crisis in South Asia with Senior Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

How do you assess the situation in South Asia after Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests this week?

Pakistan's nuclear tests did not surprise me. If Pakistan had tested the nukes unexpectedly, one would have had to adjust to an anticipated reality. As a matter of fact, Pakistan has been gearing up its nuclear progamme since 1987. In my opinion by its tests, Pakistan has certainly achieved a certain macro level parity with India. It has changed the strategic balance in South Asia.

Today, if you consider parts of the erstwhile Soviet Union, there are four countries which are nuclear powers in Asia.

So the world has a new strategic environment after India and Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests. Of course, there will be some heightening of tension over Kashmir. There will be the emergence of a mutual deterrent capacity. But I think in the long run it will stabilise Indo-Pak relations. I am sure the tests by Pakistan will help in overcoming the complexes which Pakistan and India have over each other.

Was it necessary for India to conduct nuclear tests when the world is talking about disarmament in the 21st century?

I feel we were considerably delayed. I think we should have become a nuclear power before 1969. We had the basic nuclear capability. The Americans had informally suggested to us that China was testing its nuclear bombs. They also told us informally that if we want to make the bomb, they would support us. But this was way back in 1963. We were principled then and we said we would never acquire the weapons for mass destruction.

Had we done it before, in 1968, all this delay and pain would have not occurred. I think there are dual standards followed by the developed countries. They want permanent inequality between them and the rest of the world.

Apart from that we have been surrounded by two countries which have nuclear capabilities and with whom our relations have not been good. So I feel the position on nuclear testing was inevitable. One has to understand the reason why successive governments in India kept saying we should keep our nuclear options open. Because it is a fact that at some point of time, all our governments wanted to test the nukes.

Moreover, I think these tests were necessary because by the end of 1999, the CTBT will come into force. And those who do not sign it will be subject to UN action then.

What was the motivation for Pakistan's nuclear tests?

There were reports that they were already preparing for it after they tested the Ghauri on April 6. According to reports they had already made the preparations. Partially, our intelligence sources must have known their plans. I personally have no criticism of Pakistan. I am happy they have done it and declared themselves a nuclear state. The world will not have an opinion that India is an obstructionist country. That argument will become redundant.

What is the point in nuclear tests when India and Pakistan have signed a treaty not to attack each other's nuclear sites?

In the beginning, I told you the purpose is mutual deterrence, not mutual attack. So, there is no need for further elaboration. It is irrational to believe that they will be used against the people. The fact is that the developed world has used the possession of nuclear capacity since 1946 as a currency of power. After these tests, the southern hemisphere has becoming symmetrical with the northern hemisphere. I feel both these countries have bought a certain symmetry in the world.

Don't you think it would have been better had India improved its economic position rather than strengthening itself in terms of defence?

Agreed we must be strong economically. But there is no point in growing strong economically and weak militarily if Pakistan is desperate for Kashmir. Where does your economic strength go if you do not have military strength? Another point is that no amount of economic strength can be a substitute for political and military strength which is important for you to remain independent and resistant to external influences. That is the nature of international relations.

I am not saying that it is morally right. But the nature of international relations requires that you must be strong militarily considering the challenges which you face. And the same is true from Pakistan's view point. So, it is okay.

In your opinion, what challenges lie ahead for Indian diplomats all over the world? And specifically, those serving in China, Pakistan and the US.

First is to convince the world that by going nuclear we do not have aggressive and hegemonistic intentions. Secondly, we must give specific messages to Pakistan and China that we have taken this step taking into account their military strength. But it does not mean we want a confrontationist approach with either of them. And thirdly, we should convey to the world that we have acquired this capacity and that now we are ready for international discipline and then move forward to non-proliferation.

Another important thing is that India must be sober and not jingoistic. You must not fly off the handle as some of them have been doing after the tests. It is wrong.

Are you referring to the statements by Home Minister L K Advani that Pakistan should consider the geostrategic situation after India tested the blasts?

Yes, they should be responsible in issuing statements. The other day, Madan Lal Khurana, the parliamentary affairs minister, said to Pakistan, "Aap sirf waqt aur jaga bata do hum aa jayenge (Give me the day and time if you want a fourth war)." This is sheer irrational, stupid bravado. I don't think this befits a country like India.

Why did the NAM foreign ministers not criticise India's tests?

This is an expression of an undercurrent feeling. They feel the developed countries were discriminating against the developing countries which was not acceptable to them. In other words, it means that the world order cannot be discriminated on the basis of a nuclear weapon state and a non-nuclear weapon state. Also, the situation of nuclear weapon states on a selective basis is not acceptable. Perhaps, there may be a subconscious pride that a developing country has tested a nuclear weapon. Two developing countries have proved to the world that they are capable of nuclear tests.

What about France and Russia? Why do you think they have not come out very harshly against India's tests?

Their reaction is negative. But they understand India's compulsions. They also know know that India is a market and there is economic involvement. So, blanket sanctions are not valid. If one country goes on making weapons and the others should not is simply not logical.

J N Dixit interview, continued

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