ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Winnable Nuclear War?

Rhetoric and Reality

The shrill rhetoric emanating from responsible quarters about using 'any and every weapon' to win the war against terrorism appears to be blind and deaf to the consequences of such an engagement. One way of getting out of the present quagmire is for India and Pakistan to first bilaterally put into practice the expressed desire of both India and Pakistan to persuade all nuclear weapon states to initiate steps for reducing the nuclear danger. This was the core of the UN resolution passed at the India's initiative with full support of Pakistan in 1998 and adopted by the UN General Assembly in October 2000.

The December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament and all other terrorist acts, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, are indeed absolutely unpardonable. The trail of death and injury left behind by such mindless acts and the fear and hatred that has deeply scarred the psyche of those affected directly and indirectly in various ways are all matters to be treated with utmost concern. The perpetrators of these heinous acts, including their mentors wherever they are, deserve exemplary punishment. The travails, tribulations and privations that the people of the region are forced to undergo under these trying conditions also require to be understood with greater empathy and wider understanding. In the prevailing situation, the strategy for rooting out terrorism should be formulated with special care. Counter-terrorism cannot end terrorism. If terrorism is defined as the indiscriminate and wanton killing of innocent and unarmed non-combatants, every effort should be made to protect the lives and rights of unarmed civilians while conducting operations to bring terrorists to justice. Unfortunately, some of the shrill rhetoric emanating from responsible quarters does not seem to have taken note of these factors. Also many seem to forget that a nuclear weapon is the most potent terrorist weapon in existence. Its use under any circumstance would be nothing but a heinous crime against humanity. Therefore, any talk of a winnable nuclear war is preposterous.

The strident statements being made by several leaders of the ruling alliance, including the parliament affairs minister, Pramod Mahajan, have been quite alarming. Reacting to this belligerent mood in the ruling circles, the strategic editor of The Hindu, Raja Mohan, could not but make a note of it in his column on December 31, 2001. According to him: “Coercive diplomacy has never been a characteristic feature of India’s foreign policy. But by threatening an all out war with Pakistan that could escalate to the nuclear level, India has entered the uncharted waters of nuclear brinkmanship.” Earlier The Times of India (December 27, 2001) had reported that: “Mahajan told an anti-terrorism rally organised by the ruling BJP party that if circumstances `pushed India’ towards a war with Pakistan, New Delhi would make sure the threat of terrorism was completely stamped out”. The report quoted Mahajan as saying: “If at all the war happens the intensity will be so strong that there will be no need for a future war with Pakistan. And the results will be there for everyone to see.” Surely, this was a statement that could not have been taken lightly. However, K Subrahmanyam, India’s leading strategic expert, chose to disagree with Raja Mohan’s view. In his column in The Times of India (January 02, 2002), he said: “On no issue has there been so much disinformation than on the alleged possibility of nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan”. Alas, no sooner had this opinion appeared in print, none other than the Indian prime minister came forward to contradict Subrahmanyam.

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