An East Delhi Citizen's Blog

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Why our bomb was a strategic blunder

Indian genius can be put to better use
I am motivated to write this post because of this great post in Pak Tea House blog by Pervez Hoodbhoy.
I am not going to quote chapter and verse from the post, except to say that if you read the whole article and substitute the word “India” for “Pakistan” in the first couple of paragrpahs in the article, it will still make a lot of sense.

I was probably among the one percent people in the country who did not agree that we needed to set off crackers under the Rajasthan deserts to make a point. 

I am not a peacenik; I think those that hold cadlelight vigils every year at the Wagah border are out of touch with reality. My point that time and now is simply this:
A deterrent ceases to be a deterrent when both sides have it.
Ten years back, we had clear superiority in conventional arms over Pakistan. We did not need the nuclear deterrence. Especially since, all our intelligence reports must have already told us that Pakistan also has the necessary bomb-making kit in a SKD condition. Our explosion made us “high” on “swabhimaan” for a few days; but, more worryingly conceded the moral high ground to Pakistan where they could always claim that, “we did not do it first”.

So, from a deterrence based on conventional arms superiority we moved to a nuclear parity. For what? To what purpose?
Another example of identity politics gone haywire. And, it was done in the time of my favourite prime minister
Of course, we are different from Pakistan. Our exports are far more voluminous, have much more technology content  and as a whole we rank a lot higher than Pakistan in technological and scientific progress.  But, it must be asked whether any of this progress could not have been achieved without pandering to empty identity politics. A bomb does not spawn technological advancement.

I would like to end by quoting Mr. Hoodbhoy from the article:
“Eleven years ago a few Pakistanis and Indians had argued that the bomb would bring no security, no peace. They were condemned as traitors and sellouts by their fellow citizens. But each passing year shows just how right we were.”


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12 thoughts on “Why our bomb was a strategic blunder

  1. dr mishra on said:

    I am a Wagah candle holding peacenik, a doctor who hates nuclear bombs BUT-you only know you have a bomb when you test it.

    • @Dr Misra,
      international diplomacy with an underlying nuclear threat is practiced only by North Koreans.
      Secondly, having a nuclear bomb and posturing on that basis against China is foolhardy. They have thousands of warheads- for a long time, we did not even have delivery systems.
      Third, our testing -especially for the 2nd time (many people actually even say the test was a failure) just allowed the Pakistanis to come out of the closet.
      Now, nuclear parity between India and Pakistan has just ensured that our conventional arms superiority has been nullified. So, strategically, who is the gainer?

  2. neel123 on said:

    Pakistan achieved its nuclear capabilities long before the 1998 explosions, thanks to direct Chinese assistance and indirect US connivance.

    After achieving that status, Pakistan was issuing regular warning of such capabilities.

    It hardly matters whether you have actually tested, what matters is that you have the capability, Israel being the example.

    Indian testing only forced Pakistan to come out in the open and be subjected to international sanctions along with India.

    Hoodbhoy’s opinion aside, one must understand that China is India’s threat number one, and India must do all it can to have a credible nuclear detrrent against China, which would need many more tests in future.

    • anindyac on said:

      I agree that Pakistan had the capability, and so did India (from 1974 actually). My only point was that our second explosion, allowed Pakistan a way out of the closet. Which is a strategic mistake.
      “It hardly matters whether yo have actually tested… Israel being the example.” Precisely, just the point.
      India needs to worry about China; yes. But, building a nuclear deterrence may not be the best way. After all,Taiwan has survived these many years without being nuclear armed. Building diplomatic muscle and positioning oneself in the “China-counterpoint” basket will probably get us better security.

      • neel123 on said:

        Twenty or fifty years, is only a drop in the bucket of history !

        Strategic decisions are made by learning from history and taking into account future possibilities, where the capibilites, and not intentions of the enemy count.

        Pakistan is only one element of India’s future security environment, which is expected to get more and more hostile, as earth’s resources deplete.

        Diplomacy works, only when backed up by military muscle.

        • anindyac on said:

          I guess so. But the test just announced our capabilities formally; we had the capabilities anyway and the world “knew” it too. So, the test just scored points with the domestic constituency. How did it advance our strategic aim? I am not against defending the country or indeed being a country that no one bullies around. But, there are ways of doing so; like you said so in your previous message: just look at Israel.

          • neel123 on said:

            Israel has a very special relation with the US and might have access to classified data, that ended the need to test any nukes.

            If you look into the history of testing, reliability of nukes are established only after years of testing, and you do not build nuclear deterrent based on unreliable nukes.

            This is precisely what the big powers are trying to get India into, a nation without proven nukes.

            • anindyac on said:

              You are assuming that Israel gets its bomb technology from US?I have not heard this before,claimed in any credible forum. Can you cite a source?

            • anindyac on said:

              These links talk about how Pakistan basically stole its nuclear technology; how is this germane to the debate? It is not disputed that Pakistan was in possession of bomb-making technology; whether they bought it or developed it, is besides the point. Please explain and point to credible mainstream sources in support of your claim that Israel managed to build a nuclear deterrence by getting access to classified data from the US. My point is that if it was possible for Israel to build a nuclear deterrence without conducting a single test, then it would be possible for us as well.

              And, in any case, we have 2 tests under our belt. That should be enough, don’t you think, rather than “more tests will be needed” that you propound? The key is “delivery” of the nuclear warheads; with precision and over a distance. Those tests are continuing.

  3. pakistanfront on said:

    If you observe the talking tone of your Indian Masters, before and after Pakistan test its first Nuclear Device. You will feel no difficulty to understand the facts.

    As far as hoodboy/cowboy is concern, He is liberalists/secularists, thus a traitor for us. And so, we do not have to listen what he saying.


    • anindyac on said:

      Hi Saj,
      Such is the lot of the secular liberal voices everywhere, isn’t it 🙂 ? To be branded traitors, I mean!

      What Indian Masters? I am my own master, as a proud citizen of the sovereign republic of India. I am sure Mr Hoodbhoy is a proud citizen of his own country as well. You are of course at liberty to not listen to him or me.
      Best of luck

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