India's Pursuit of Nuclear Disarmament: Efforts Must Continue

Manpreet Sethi, Research Officer, IDSA


India is now a nuclear weapon state, irrespective of whether the Western nuclear powers recognise it as such or not, shackled as they are by the narrow confines of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) definition of a nuclear weapon state. In May 1998, after conducting the five nuclear tests that took the world as much as the Indians by surprise, Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee made it a point to proclaim the nuclear weapon status of the country. However, in the same breath he also reiterated the Indian commitment to nuclear disarmament and thereby sought to dispel the fears being voiced that India would now abandon its campaign for nuclear disarmament.

One year after the dramatic change in India's nuclear status, one needs to objectively analyse the country's stake in the attainment of nuclear disarmament. There are many who had earlier dismissed the Indian pursuit of this objective as a case of sour grapes--that since India did not possess nuclear weapons, it wished to see their elimination from the face of the earth so that none could have their advantage. However, now that India has acquired a nuclear weapon capability, it needs to be examined as to why it would still be in India's larger interests to continue its drive for the establishment of a nuclear weapon free world (NWFW).

This paper is broadly divided into three sections. The first part analyses the two basic rationales behind India's acquisition of nuclear weapons--a sense of diminishing security in the regional neighbourhood; and, lack of progress towards universal nuclear disarmament at the international level. The article then attempts to describe India's long standing relationship with nuclear disarmament and underlines as to how the two above mentioned conditions have left their imprint on this relationship over the last few years. Finally, the last portion of the article endeavours to list out the reasons that make it imperative for India to continue to press on for nuclear disarmament, not only because it is the only correct path to ensuring every individual's right to a secure and stable life, but more importantly because, even at a more realistic level in terms of national security, nuclear disarmament would still be in India's interest.

The Rationale Behind Nuclearisation

The basic reason that forced India to foreclose its long held nuclear option in favour of weapons acquisition was the need to address certain legitimate and real security concerns emanating from the neighbourhood. For India, the conduct of the nuclear tests was not an exercise for acquiring prestige and status.1 Rather, the explosions were required to meet certain security imperatives since strategic uncertainties in the region were on the rise. In a very broad and somewhat simplistic sense, it could be stated that India's threat perceptions basically revolve around its two neighbours, China and Pakistan, with both of which India has not yet completely settled its territorial disputes.

Given this backdrop, India has watched with some trepidiation as China's power and international clout have been growing dramatically over the last two decades. The merger of Hong Kong and Macao has only served to further enhance China's status. China continues to modernise its conventional, nuclear and missile forces. It has not yet included itself in any arms control arrangement, maintaining the viewpoint that first the US and Russia must come down several notches to its level before Beijing could participate in any such exercise. Besides, recent US policy towards China has tended to undermine the establishment of a more equitable polycentric equilibrium in Asia, an objective that has been keenly sought by India. Overlooking Chinese nuclear and missile proliferation to other states in the region, the USA has rather chosen Beijing as an ally in its mission of imposing a non proliferation order in Asia and in managing the security parameters within this region. Faced with such a situation of growing adverse asymmetry, for India the establishment of nuclear deterrence became important.

Pakistan, on the other side poses another security threat. The nation has long existed as a hostile neighbour, having initiated three wars with India over the last 50 years. For more than a decade now it has been waging a proxy war, causing a heavy drain on the resources--human and material--of the Indian Army. Even more troubling is the reality of a Sino-Pak nexus as has been unfolding over the last several years.

The deterioration in the surrounding security environment has at the same time been accompanied by a total lack of progress on the front of nuclear disarmament. For a country that had campaigned long and hard for this objective, it was becoming increasingly frustrating to see all initiatives in this direction being blocked by the other nuclear weapon states (NWS). At the same time, these states, and more particularly, the USA, were succeeding in their attempts at persuading or intimidating other regional powers (such as Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, etc.) that had long been critics of the NPT and had held back their endorsement of the treaty, into accepting the regimen of the existing non proliferation order.

However, while preaching non proliferation, the NWS themselves were practising otherwise. Their nuclear policies and strategic doctrines were beginning to reflect a growing reliance on nuclear weapons, making the possibility of their renouncing these weapons of mass destruction (WMD) even more remote. Rather, over the last half decade or so, the chances of the attainment of an NWFW were beginning to progressively recede, as is evident from a brief look at the following facts.

l With the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995, the NWS have come to rest easy and refuse to consider movement towards nuclear disarmament, a legal obligation under the NPT, as a matter of grave urgency.

l In a similar vein, their contempt for the unanimous 1996 World Court advisory opinion detailing a legal obligation upon the NWS to attain nuclear disarmament is clearly apparent.

l All the NWS, except China, continue to insist upon their right to first use of nuclear weapons. A recent proposal by Germany calling for the United States and its other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) allies to publicly renounce its policy of first use was met with cold disapproval and outright rejection.

l More recently, the USA has also made it clear that it would not shy away from the use of nuclear weapons if it felt that its own security or that of any of its allies was threatened by an attack of biological or chemical weapons.

l For these reasons, the USA, as also its nuclear capable allies within NATO continue to keep thousands of nuclear warheads on hair trigger alert.

l In the face of such US policy pronouncements, for Russia too its nuclear arsenal has acquired a renewed significance. Russia feels threatened by:

-- The expansion of NATO

-- US decision to deploy a national ballistic missile defence system

-- US plans to militarily dominate space in the coming century

-- A bold expansion of the US military budget

-- The US Stockpile Stewardship Programme designed to ensure nuclear superiority

-- Increasing American inclination to take unilateral military action such as the December 1998 bombing of Iraq and a military offensive against Kosovo in April 1999.

From the above, it is abundantly clear that nations that have long possessed nuclear weapons are in no mood to give up their monopoly over them. On the contrary, they have exhibited a tendency of attaching more and more credence to them in the face of perceived new threats. In such a scenario, perhaps every nation must have the right to consider its own security imperatives and take any action that it may deem necessary. Nuclear proliferation could then become an inevitable outcome of such national security reviews because when one state has nuclear weapons, any other state that perceives their possession as a direct threat to its own security has no option but to safeguard its own security by developing a nuclear deterrent. Therefore, the very existence of nuclear weapons creates the conditions and motivations for nuclear proliferation. The casualty in the process then, happens to be nuclear disarmament, mired as it continues to remain in a "pie in the sky" kind of idealism. However, it is imperative to realise that the only sane way out of this proliferation maze is universal nuclear disarmament. If no state has nuclear weapons, no other state would feel threatened enough to build a matching nuclear deterrent. And, it is to drive home this logic that India must play a crucial role. Yes, even more so after its nuclearisation.

India and Nuclear Disarmament: A Change in Mood

India's relationship with nuclear disarmament goes back a long way. Ever since independence , Indian governments have not let go of any opportunity, whatever be the forum, to press upon the international community the urgent need for universal and time bound nuclear disarmament. In fact, even before India attained independence, Jawaharlal Nehru had stated in 1940, "Both because of our adherence to the principle of non-violence and from practical considerations arising from our understanding of world events, we believe that complete disarmament of all nation states should be aimed at, as in fact an urgent necessity, if the world is not to be reduced to barbarism".2

In 1945, when the bombs were first dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mahatma Gandhi was shocked beyond words. He later said that the bomb would bring moral devastation on those who developed and used it. He vowed to fight for the outlawing of nuclear weapons. While he could not personally conduct this crusade, every Indian government has upheld nuclear disarmament as a moral imperative since the very nature of destruction emanating from the use of nuclear weapons was against the very spirit of humanity. Even when India was not in possession of the lethal weapon, it did not consider an NWFW as an international abstraction, but as an international necessity in whose attainment every nation, big or small, with or without nuclear weapons, had an equal stake. At an anti-nuclear Arms Convention held in New Delhi in 1962, the then Indian president voiced this sentiment when he said, "The non-aligned and neutral people are as much involved in this as those who are knowingly engaged in the criminal conspiracy of creating weapons and conditions that would spell their own annihilation no less than that of others."3 Its unique conceptualisation of nuclear disarmament bestowed on India a moral obligation to pursue the objective within the United Nations and outside it, through appeals, proposals and action plans for over 50 years.4

The moral tone set by Gandhi and Nehru has largely directed the Indian posture on nuclear disarmament for a good part of India's independent history. From the 1950s, when Nehru had pioneered proposals for worldwide nuclear disarmament, including the ideas of a nuclear test ban treaty and a freeze on the production of fissile material, to the 1982 "Programme of Action on Disarmament" and later, the 1988 Rajiv Gandhi "Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non violent World Order", and then the 1993 resolution for securing an early global ban on the production of fissile material, India's official nuclear policy has remained guided by the desire to attain a state of universal nuclear disarmament.

However, the debate on nuclear disarmament within India cannot be described as having grown into a monolith. Rather, voices of dissent to the official position had begun to be heard as far back as the early 1960s after India's defeat at the hands of the Chinese and then the demonstration of Chinese nuclear capability. Both these developments gave rise to a pro bomb lobby, though its reach remained limited. Over the next two decades, both sides, pro bomb and anti bomb, shared the room for manoeuvrability as the official Indian position remained one of nuclear ambiguity. The sense of idealism and the principled approach was adequately balanced by the belief that national security considerations demanded the availability of all options.

More recently though, and especially over the last half a decade or so, the mood within India on the question of nuclear disarmament has undergone a perceptible change. In a specially commissioned Kroc Institute poll in 1995, the survey examined public opinion on India's nuclear options. It was discovered that 57 per cent of the respondents wanted India to keep its nuclear options open; 33 per cent favoured an acquisition of an overt nuclear weapons capability; and, only 8 per cent supported the renunciation of a nuclear option for India.5 The results of this survey, however need to be qualified by stating that the last option which garnered such meagre support specifically pertained to the case of a unilateral renunciation of nuclear weapons by India and therefore, cannot be taken as a true reflection on the need for universal nuclear disarmament that India has constantly urged.

Unilateral disarmament is virtually a non option (as is also evident from the limited public support), given India's security imperatives. A need to safeguard national security has pushed India into dealing with the problem of the continuing existence of nuclear weapons by arming itself with a viable deterrent. Renunciation of this weapon now must entail a collective decision on the part of all NWS. Unilateral nuclear disarmament is not going to present itself as a viable policy choice for any of the NWS, including India. Therefore, India has emphasised the need for universal nuclear disarmament as the only long term solution to dealing with the nuclear issue. Unfortunately though, developments within the region and elsewhere and a lack of support for consistent Indian efforts in this direction have naturally taken their toll on the debate on the need for India to press for nuclear disarmament. Three main reasons can be identified for a subtle shift in thinking on the subject within the ranks of experts on the subject in India.

The first factor that can be highlighted for having resulted in a proliferation of nuclear hawks pertains to the spread of cynicism on the subject, especially in the face of no seriousness on the part of the NWS to make any progress in this direction. Rather, developments such as the manner in which the non nuclear weapon states (NNWS) parties to the NPT were bulldozed into granting it an indefinite and unconditional extension in 1995, and more recently, the 1997 Presidential Decision Directive of the US government that authorises the use of nuclear weapons against threats from chemical and biological weapons etc. have only served to reinforce the cynicism. Similar developments can be detected in other NWS also which seem to be granting nuclear weapons an enduring role in the post-Cold War era. For instance, NATO is embracing the US doctrine by expanding its nuclear strategy to include the use of British Trident submarines and US free fall bombs deployed in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey against WMD attacks by what it perceives as "rogue" states.

These developments stand out in sharp contrast to the pledge undertaken by the NWS at the time of NPT extension in 1995 that they would not use nuclear weapons against NNWS parties to the treaty. This promise was repeated by all the five NWS in the joint UN Security Council Resolution 984 (1995) which was unanimously adopted on April 11, 1995. Obviously, the undertaking was only a ploy for securing international support for the extension of the NPT and has since been forgotten. However, such actions of the NWS have only served to make the other states that do not possess nuclear weapons reconsider their approach to nuclear disarmament and to view it rather cynically in the wake of the ongoing trends.

A second factor that has diluted the Indian consensus on nuclear disarmament has been a growing feeling about the unfeasibility of the concept. Nuclear proliferation experts in the NWS have long taken shelter in the difficulties of the establishment of an NWFW on the grounds that it would be practically impossible to achieve such a state. To dismantle tens of thousands of weapons, to account for every gram of fissile material and to place it under verifiable safeguards, to verify each other's cuts, to decommission idle military nuclear facilities, etc. are indeed activities that would stretch scientific and engineering capacities. Besides, verification of compliance with a treaty stipulating the complete destruction of nuclear arsenals is deemed to be an impossible mission and even if existing nuclear weapons were to be destroyed, the knowledge of bomb making would continue to exist. Therefore, it is considered that there can be no foolproof guarantee against the remaking of nuclear weapons. This approach has best been articulated in a US government document of 1995 which stated: "Since it is impossible to uninvent nuclear weapons or to prevent clandestine manufacture of some numbers of them, nuclear weapons seem destined to be the centrepiece of US strategic deterrence for the foreseeable future."6 Skepticism over the feasibility of the proposition of nuclear disarmament has naturally affected Indian sensibilities on the issue as well, giving rise to a set of people who have begun to question as to why India must strive for such a utopian ideal.

Yet another reason for the change could be detected in the slow takeover of idealism by realpolitik in the Indian polity. Pragmatism in foreign policy is a current international trend and India too has not been left unaffected. Nehruvian idealism has slowly been giving way to greater realism in external relations and foreign policy making. In this scheme of things then, the ideal of nuclear disarmament has taken a beating from other, more real issues of deteriorating regional security environs that are thought to be impinging upon national security. Therefore, the security dimension of nuclear policy has assumed greater sway with a consequent de-emphasis on disarmament. Also, India has seen support for its initiatives dwindling from among the ranks of the non aligned nations, further reinforcing its feeling of the impracticality of nuclear disarmament.

Why is Nuclear Disarmament Necessary for India?

Notwithstanding the above, there is still need to examine as to why India stands to gain by persevering in its pursuit of nuclear disarmament, however distant the goal may appear at present. India has long campaigned for it on the grounds of morality and humanitarianism. While this logic shall hold eternally, in the present world of realpolitik, it would be worthwhile to first argue the case for nuclear disarmament on the grounds of national security.

Nuclear Disarmament and National Security

It has been mentioned in the first section of this paper that the decision to have an overt nuclear capability was prompted by a need to enhance national security. Whether the objective has truly been met or not is still being debated. However, the point that this article wishes to make is that the national security of India would not in any way be jeopardised if universal nuclear disarmament were to come by. On the other hand, it will be enhanced. The existence of nuclear weapons complicates India's security calculus. And this would have been even more so if others had continued to possess nuclear weapons and India had remained non-nuclear.

The fact that India's national security is not adversely affected by universal nuclear disarmament can be substantiated in the case of both the major threats that India perceives. As regards Pakistan, there are enough utterances from both Pakistani and Indian military experts that acknowledge the superiority of India's strength based on conventional weaponry as compared to Pakistan. Rather it could be argued that the induction of an overt nuclear capability has somewhat upset the equation. This is even more so in the case of India's ability to tackle Pakistan aided insurgency and terrorism on Indian soil. A nuclear capable Pakistan limits India's retaliatory option because any escalation could carry within it the risk of spiralling into a nuclear confrontation. Consequently, Pakistan has the chance of getting away with low intensity subversion since the induction of nuclear weapons on both sides has somewhat wrested the Indian military initiative. Therefore, if nuclear weapons were to be removed from the military strategies of both nations, Indian national security would benefit from the inevitable conventional superiority of its military power with sufficient assets to increase the gap in our favour.

As regards China, a straight comparison poses a bit of a problem, though it may still safely be said that a non-nuclear China would not enjoy any substantial advantage in terms of its conventional strength vis a vis an India without nuclear weapons. To start with, no nuclear coercion/blackmail would be possible if there were no weapons. To a large extent, this also needs to be understood in terms of the scope of any likely war that might need to be fought with China and in terms of the space in which it would essentially be fought. It is now an accepted fact that the days of a total war are gone. Any war that two neighbours might fight in the future would essentially be a limited one, restrained in scope, spread and period. China particularly is an advocate of the concept of "limited, local war". In this context, if it were to fight a conventional war with India in order to redeem the areas that it lays claims to in the north-east and further up in the disputed Himalayan reaches, then the terrain in which the hostilities would occur would provide an inherent advantage to India. Our lines of communication in the area are shorter and more secure. This advantage could be further buttressed by maintaining a technological edge in Indian weapon systems, besides raising a few more infantry divisions, if necessary, and simultaneously ensuring effective operational logistic support to the soldiers at the front. Therefore, in the absence of its nuclear teeth, a conventional Chinese bite could be sustained and adequately addressed by India. Rather it is the presence of nuclear weapons that tilt the military balance substantially in favour of China, not only because of its larger nuclear arsenal and deployed tactical weapons, but also because it has better delivery vehicles that are stationed in Xinkiang and Tibet and could be easily reprogrammed to target India.

Therefore, a nuclear free India can more than match its nuclear free neighbours to defend its national security and sovereignty, if ever threatened. On the other hand, if nuclear weapons continue to find a place in military calculations in South Asia, then the mutual deterrence that would be established will always subject the populations of the three countries to living in the shadow of fear that every difference or dispute could rapidly escalate into a nuclear war. It must be remembered that the three nuclear weapon states share contiguous land borders and that too disputed ones, which are prone to everyday frictions. There also exists a certain amount of animosity at the popular level. Breakdown of any stability that might be built on nuclear deterrence is, therefore, more easy, though a terrifying prospect. Nuclear deterrence might work for some time, but then again it might not for all times. Moreover, all the three nations that face pressing economic demands would nevertheless be required to constantly pump in greater investments to update capabilities and make a credible show of commitment in order to keep deterrence alive. Any let up would automatically weaken deterrent capability and is just not going to be affordable. In such a situation, the only sane alternative is for India to campaign for universal nuclear disarmament so that its neighbours too renounce their nuclear weapons.

In fact, in a nuclear weapon-free environment, India would also gain the further advantage of having a safer neighbourhood, free from the risk of a nuclear war brought on by an accidental, unauthorised or miscalculated use of nuclear weapons. While driving in chaotic traffic conditions, one must be responsible for not only one's own driving (which is easy) but also remain constantly alert to driving mistakes that others could make (which is infinitely more difficult) and which could endanger one's own security and existence. By the same logic, if nuclear weapons are available with others in the region, India must not only be able to develop and sustain an effective command and control system for its own weapons, but also hope that others too have foolproof measures in place. For example, it was known that China did not have electronic locking devices of the PAL (Permissive Action Links) type till at least 1987 and may still rely more on human control by the Communist Party rather than a fool proof system. Pakistan in any case does not have PAL technology.

Besides obviating the threat or actuality of their deliberate use, elimination of nuclear arsenals would also eliminate any possibility of their inadvertant use through an accident or a miscalculation. This is even more crucial given that India, Pakistan and China lie in close vicinity to one another. Radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion cannot be limited in space and the chance of some adverse effects on the nation that inflicts the misadventure on another cannot be completely rooted out. Given such facts, it seems logical that a NWFW would ensure a safer regional security environment for India. This would be further enhanced if India could pursue confidence building measures with both the neighbours to generate a greater transparency and friendship within the region.

Nuclear Disarmament and National Development

Sheer economics too prompts India to strive for nuclear disarmament. While it is often argued that nuclear weapons present themselves as low cost security enhancers, the fact cannot be overlooked that the paraphernalia around them that is required to sustain their operability is not cheap by any measure. Therefore, even if the cost of the nuclear weapon itself may not be very high, the cost of the system as a whole can be exorbitant. The USA, after arguing that nuclear weapons were a cheaper option, ended up spending $4 trillion on the weapon stockpiles, delivery vehicles and a command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) system.7 Out of this total expenditure, only 10 per cent went towards the cost of the weapons themselves, the rest was spent on delivery systems and C3I. China claimed that it would have a modest programme but it has spent over $100 billion.8

It needs to be realised that nuclear weapons are for defence and deterrence. They do not form a part of warfighting strategy which must necessarily remain confined to conventional weaponry. Therefore, even when nuclear weapons are available, a high level of conventional capability is still needed to raise the nuclear threshold. Consequently, the cost of nuclear weaponisation is always in addition to the existing expenditures on sustaining and modernising the conventional capabilities of a nation. A logical deduction from the above therefore, is that the cost of national defence can only go up and not come down with the induction of a nuclear weaponisation programme. The costs of building delivery capabilities and putting C3I systems in place would pose an additional exorbitant burden. As far back as in 1968, Indira Gandhi had said, "The choice before us involves not only the question of making a few atomic bombs, but of engaging in an arms race with sophisticated nuclear warheads and an effective missile delivery system. Such a course, I do not think would strengthen national security. On the other hand, it may well endanger our internal security by imposing a very heavy economic burden which would be in addition to the present expenditure on defence."9

It cannot denied that no cost is too high when national security is at stake; however if nuclear disarmament can be achieved and it is seen as not upsetting India's security equations with its perceived threats, then a case can be made for nuclear disarmament actually freeing funds for other developmental activities. In fact, apart from releasing funds at the national level, nuclear disarmament would also do the same at the international level too. Naturally, in the short term, the exercises of dismantling nuclear weapons, making provisions for their interim storage and their eventual destruction would need more money,10 but in the long term, money that earlier went into building, updating and sustaining elaborate nuclear projects would become available and could be channelled into more productive activities.

Nuclear Disarmament and International Security

A third most obvious benefit of universal nuclear disarmament would be a safer world, free from the spectre of a nuclear war or nuclear terrorism. In an almost unique conceptualisation of nuclear disarmament, India has traditionally viewed nuclear weapons as a universal threat to the entire human race. Therefore, its pursuit of an NWFW has been driven by the need to save mankind against all kinds of potential threats. In fact, Nehru considered the question of disarmament as being more important "than any other problem, internal and external, national or international, because it is a national problem, apart from being an international one."11 Perhaps no other nation has attached such a connotation to nuclear disarmament, and consequently, none has pursued the goal as fervently either. Therefore, if an NWFW were to be established, it would free future generations from having to live in the shadow of nuclear annihilation either through a full scale nuclear war or through the use of such weapons by some irrational terrorists. A retired US general too has described the use of nuclear weapons as an "outmoded idea". He upholds that "conventional retaliation would be far more proportionate, less damaging to neighbouring states and less horrific for innocent civilians."12

Apart from this, a nuclear free world would provide India the additional advantage of bringing about the demise of an iniquitous world order that the country has long been fighting against. India has always campaigned against the discriminatory non-proliferation order that the NWS have sought to impose on the international community through the NPT and its safeguards regime. The distribution of unequal rights and obligations under these mechanisms has, therefore, never been accepted by India. Universal nuclear disarmament would remove nuclear apartheid.

Nuclear Disarmament: A Legal Obligation

Yet another reason why India must not abandon its pursuit of nuclear disarmament is because it is a legal obligation upon its shoulders as a NWS to strive for the elusive goal. Though the NPT does not grant it recognition as a NWS, the fact of the matter is that India, as also Pakistan, do possess nuclear weapons and, therefore, are NWS. Striving for the goal of nuclear disarmament would also mean respecting the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) passed in 1996 which had categorically stated, "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict international control."13 Therefore, India is legally obligated to respect the decision of the ICJ to the best of its abilities and it must continue to perform its role as a law abiding member of the international comity of nations.

Nuclear Disarmament: An Environmental Imperative

An overt nuclear weapons capability implies additional environmental costs arising from nuclear tests, possibility of accidents, decommissioning of old nuclear warheads, clean-up of nuclear production facilities and the impact of weapons, if ever used. Even if regular nuclear testing is not done, thereby obviating the hazards of radioactive contamination, accidents could still occur during the various activities involved in production of nuclear warheads. Subsequently, the decommissioning of older nuclear warheads and the cleaning up of contaminated nuclear facilities poses an additional environmental challenge. Above all, if ever the weapons happen to be used, the effects on human health and the environment cannot even be quantified. For South Asia, the consequences would be even more immediate and inescapable given the geographical contiguity of the nuclear adversaries. The country launching the first nucear strike would not be able to escape some amount of ruin from the radioactive fallout, even in the unlikely event that the other side does not mount a nuclear retaliation.


From the above arguments, it can be deduced that nuclear disarmament would not be detrimental to India's core interests of national security. Rather, it would bring several other advantages such as economic, environmental and moral. In present day India, when contemporary emphasis is on national strength and when only the moral justification for nuclear disarmament is not enough by itself, this article has sought to highlight that even on a realistic level, nuclear disarmament still remains the need of the hour. In the past, India has used this plank to rally support from among the ranks of the non aligned nations. Disillusionment in these nations on the real motives and intentions of the NWS is still rampant. India could still garner their support if it were to make a renewed commitment and exhibit a visionary approach in a collective march towards universal nuclear disarmament.


1. While nuclear weapons have often been referred to as the "currency of power" and several scholars have pointed out a close relationship between the bomb and great power status, it must be highlighted that in the modern international order, national prestige and status are believed to be derived more from some other attributes of a nation, such as its political stability, economic vibrancy, industrial infrastructure and quality of life of its citizens. Even in the case of Pakistan, its nuclear weapons programme was initiated in the 1970s not so much for acquiring prestige. Rather there were strong security considerations underpinning the decision, especially since it had suffered a military defeat from India in 1971 and its threat perceptions revolved basically around India which it could not hope to match in terms of conventional strength.

2. A confidential note written at Wardha on August 25, 1940, and as quoted in "Non violence and the State", India and Disarmament: An Anthology (New Delhi: Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 1988), p. 11.

3. Rajendra Prasad, "The Case for Unilateral Disarmament", Ibid., p. 139.

4. For a chronological description of Indian initiatives see Manpreet Sethi, "India and Nuclear Disarmament", in Jasjit Singh ed, Nuclear India (New Delhi: Knowledge World, 1998), pp. 78-84.

5. David Cortright and Amitabh Mattoo eds., India and the Bomb: Public Opinion and Nuclear Options (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press,1996), pp. 10-16.

6. "Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence", in Hans M Kristensen, Nuclear Futures: Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and US Nuclear Strategy, BASIC Research Report 98.2, March 1998.

7. "Nuclear Arms, the Budget and the Economy", Draft prepared for discussion in Movement in India for Nuclear Disarmament (MIND).

8. Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik, "India's Nuclear Daze : The Domestic Politics of Nuclearisation", TNI and Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, August 1998.

9. India, Lok Sabha, Debates, April 24, 1968, as quoted in J.P. Jain, Nuclear India, pp. 201-202.

10. For an analysis of the costs of denuclearisation, see Kathleen Bailey ed., Weapons of Mass Destruction: Costs and Benefits (New Delhi : Manohar, 1994)

11. India, Lok Sabha, Debates, November 23, 1960, pp. 1937-40.

12. Kristensen, n. 6.

13. Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, Communique No. 96/23, July 8, 1996, International Court of Justice, The Hague.