Indian Elites and Media in Pokhran Tests

The Pokhran test in India was a shocking news for everyone in India. The power of nuclear bomb was unknown for the peoples before the test. Everything about Pokhran test is described in this article.

Effect of Pokhran Test in population and media

Pokhran II tests saw a clear divide in the Indian media. The vernacular media generally appreciated the government's courage. But it is generally looked down upon by the sophisticated elites in the country who are just one to two per cent of the populace. They just trust the elite English media and some known free lance writers who have a mania of peace, liberalization and pseudo secularism. They concentrate on peace even at the risk of national humiliation. They talk of world at large and are afraid of the action that might be taken by P-5 or the eight Euro powers or the minorities in the country or the reactions in the o% rich Muslim Countries—least to say about' sanctions by the States and Japan clubbed with Chinese hegemony that they call neighboring big brother. Still there are some elites in the Media who favored the tests. Shekhar Gupta Chief Editor of Indian Express wrote on May 13, 1998. "It is unlikely that any nation will have a kind word to say about us in the days to come. As the world's sixth nuclear power we have to learn to take that in our stride and counter the criticism by offering a new deal on the international arms control regime from our new position of strength acquired at such risk and cost." But he warned that "the intention behind the tests can only be to sec that India is embraced back on the world's centre-stage as a strong power rather than be consigned to the sidelines as some nuclear rogue." He was unhappy that we were, even after this great achievement 'shouting the same old universal disarmament slogans'. "Why do we Indians have the habit of whirring just when we should have been savoring a remarkable achievement? The US reaction so far has been a lot milder than you would have expected and the G-8's is a pleasant surprise. Even Clinton had to lace his admonitions with fulsome praise... We not only have the bomb, but apparently the entire spectrum of products in the nuke supermarket... And yet' we nurse this sense of slight persecution. The world is against us, the big powers are victimizing us. The same old story" Our scientists have conducted such flawless tests, we say, and yet they won't accept us as a member of the nuclear club. Who they are, he said. "Only to a self pitying, inferiority-complexes Indian mind steeped in Nehruvian hypocrisy would a Third World bomb sound like a sexy new idea." He further advised the BJP leadership! to assure the people that "it is a natural step in India's progression towards genuine nuclear and world power status and not a surrender." Shefali Misra, another journalist had both admiration and dispraise. She didn't believe that Indian security demanded it and that by not doing so India 'had paid a heavy price.' She thought that national pride is good, up to a point but in India it is getting out of hand. The writer's view is rather ambiguous when she remarked that demonstrating scientific ability is a good thing. "So it is as support for the government's ability to stand up to sanctimonious and hypocritical world .censure. As the gloating of a country for showing the world who's who it is unhealthy." On the one hand the writer did not appreciate the editorial remark of Financial Express that asserted that "it was futile to expect a country of India's size and 'prickliness' to be cowed down by the threat of sanctions" on the other the government was "complimented for the way it has handled the tests and their fallout so far." The writers like Shefali are not balanced themselves. They are rather academic. Neerja Chaudhry was rather more realistic when she remarked that barring Chandra Shekhar, no one opposed the tests in Parliament but was rather assertive that "Vajpayee needs the country's fullest support at this hour. Not one opposition leader condemned the Pakistani tests during the nuclear debate. There was only a stray expression of regret." "A more unified voice must be projected from India", she said.

Military Power of India by nuclear weapons

J. N. Dixit, the well known writer, thinks that our internal divisions and self-torturing doubts are more dangerous to security than external pressures or sanctions. He feels that "the acquisition of these weapons does not mean India has resoled from its humanistic traditions. It has only acquired a preemptive capacity to safeguard its interests in an unjust world order." There may be some negative economic impact but "India's territorial integrity cannot be ensured free of cost. The will to survive with dignity and self-reliance requires a tightening of belts. The consequences will in no way be unmanageable except for those who think economic well-being can be achieved without ensuring national security... Of course it will be costly, but our technological capacities need not be doubted." The statement of P. R. Chari, Co-director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi was proximate to ground realities when he said that "India has moved ahead from its traditional position of 'Keeping the nuclear option open' to one of displaying its long dormant capability to weaponise its nuclear option." According to him it became necessary because of nuclear threat from China and Pakistan as also from the nuclear weapons equipped navies of the other four nuclear powers sailing around the Indian Ocean. For the delivery capabilities The Jaguars, MiG-27, Mirage 2000, Su-30s, Prithvi, intermediate range ballistic missiles like Agni are already in the country's arsenal. It would also require intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (over 6000 miles) to cover China. We will have to equip our air crafts and submarines too with the nukes. The expenditure of course would be mind boggling. But it would be far less than what China had to incur as we have already developed most of our missiles. Chari advises the government to reach an agreement with the nuclear powers to ensure its real security issues that "arise from a host of problems related to internal and, non military threats to its security like terrorism and insurgency, proliferation of small arms, drugs smuggling and large scale migrations." (as from Bangladesh and from Afghanistan in Kashmir and other states); Rajinder Puri is well known for his left leanings and anti US stand. Conspicuously enough he has sympathized with Kashmiri terrorists and has criticized The Indian Army for terrorizing them. Still he thinks that the five nuclear powers that are also the permanent members of UN Security Council have ruled the world; as they liked during the last five decades. Puri feels that "The United Nation itself appears more like a power of The Big Five led by America than a genuine forum of world opinion." He considers the Pokhran Test a momentous decision and gives example of De Gaulle the President of France and China's Mao Zedong who accomplished the tests against world opinion. The writer appreciated the NAM powers and UN Secretary General supporting India. Still he called India, his own country, a banana republic. He just wondered where India will use these bombs when even USA could not use them in Korea or Vietnam. His view is that instead of seeking recognition from the Big Five India should speak for the rest of the world to pursue total nuclear disarmament and just world order. Although rather a fancy, his view is that India should evolve a national consensus to build the economy despite international sanctions. All the black money in India and abroad must be productively invested in the country through imaginative measures... India will have to cease being a soft state is worth appreciating. But he has not suggest^ how to procure this black money. He has rather gone a little astray as he hasn't explained his views on humiliation vis-a-vis economic development as J.N. Dixit has.

Criticizes of Media in the Achievement of Indian Military Power

There is no dearth of B.IP bashers in the media who consider it their duty to criticize the achievements of the country if they are attained by BJP—a communalist party, as they call it. They just forget that it was sent by the largest number of people in the country to the Parliament to govern according to their views. Praful Bidwai, Yubraj Ghimre, Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, consulting editor, Economic Times and many others belong to this category rather headed by Kuldip Nayar, once editor of Indian Express who leads many others with candles to the border every year to show their solidarity with pakistani brethren who do not respond to this gesture. Well, to assert his point the devil can quote the scriptures. So does Nayar calling himself a conscientious objector when he quotes Mahatma Gandhi who said about Hiroshima bomb that? "It will not be destroyed by counter-bombs even as violence cannot be by counter-violence" He feels that "whatever was built in the last decade to improve relations with Islamabad and Beijing has been destroyed by the blasts." Like the leftists he also considers it as BJP's hidden agenda and feels that "the party and the RSS are trying the country into a right wing state which is not acceptable to the country". He further contends "With the Babri demolition it harmed India's image of a pluralistic society. This time they have detonated the bomb and pushed the country into an arms race." Ghimire fell in line with Nayar contending that the tests have little to do with national interest. They, according to him, are the manifestation of the BJP's sectarian agenda. He concludes that if the Prime Minister "lets India's nuclear tests be packaged as the Sangh Parivar's shining achievement, Pokhran. Will become another Ayodhya; an issue that will divide the nation." Praful Bidwai was a bit more unsophisticated in his utterance that "by testing, India has mocked at disarmament, and shot itself in the leg—or is it the head"? Of course he is correct when he lays emphasis on friendship and cooperation with the world's biggest nuclear power. His disaffection is quite evident when he declares "The BJP jingoism has degraded security, left us defenseless against Big Power coercion and exposed our people to the heat of sanctions." Aiyars criticisms are a well calculated one. His arguments have a force of conviction too. He feels that the blasts 'led to a proliferation of hype and myths. He feels that the seven contentions of the pro blast bobby that the tests make India a full member of the nuclear club, that India's security has increased, that the US is a super power that controls global finance, that India need not worry at all about economic sanctions since the West desperately needs the Indian market that India has a principled objection to the nuclear apartheid implicit in the Nonproliferation Treaty, that the BJP is now bound to win the next elections and that now the world will give us more respect for we have proved we are a nuclear power are all myths. He systematically puts counter arguments and advises the government to sign the CTBT otherwise the economic costs will become substantial. He also feels, quite unconvincing of course, that we Should cut the strength of our armed forces by 2,00,000 in view of our deterrent capacity. In another article he argues that after bombing Hiroshima the superpowers never fought a Third World War. Of course because of cold war "the US and Soviet Union spent billions acquiring the capacity to kill each other thousands of times over. This merely meant spending gargantuan sums on a war that nobody dared fight." He further rightly asserts that attack capacity is a delusion of grandeur, since nuclear war is unsinkable. He contends that the bombs big or small are only for deterrence not war. But because of our tests the nuclear weapons of many more countries will now be targeted at India and if there is a nuclear war and "if all Indian cities are destroyed, it will be no consolation that Pakistani cities will be destroyed five times over." These contentions of Aiyar are just hypothetical—away from ground realities.

The views of the minority cadre of journalists are not far from what one expected. Amrita Abraham feels that the first casualty of the BJP's assertive nuclear policy is democracy. She asserts that for 50 years the political leadership recognized that the nuclear path is inherently anti-democratic. She just forgets that three nuclear powers are the oldest democracies of the world. The minority bias has been more explicit when she writes that the government is "led by a party for whom national security has acquired the mythical aspects of the Ram Janmabhoomi and in whose political strategy the international community is fast occupying the position hitherto given to India's minorities." She continues going astray bringing Jan Sangh into picture and harps on the compulsions of the government—rather BJP. She, of course, is correct that. Commercial competition between the industrial countries makes a coherent sanction's regime next to impossible still the US and others can do enough to slow down trade and investment (that too has been proved wrong). Her anguish has been demonstrated in the end when she says "Far more damage than the world can do just now will be done at home' by nationalist drum-beating to drown out critics of government policy." The article was written on May 15, 1998. There is no evidence whatsoever to prove that the critics have been drowned out. On the contrary they Kave had been quite vociferous. Mushirul Hasan harps on a bit different tune. Like the left, and people like Nayar, he mixes up the issues of socio economic problems with national security when he says "Why in the name of nationalism and patriotism, do governments and sections of the media lose sight of the more pressing socio-economic problems." As if patriotism and nationalism are alien concepts in a democratic country. Like Amrita Abraham he writes i4We have managed to create a pluralist and democratic society. That is why we command world wide respect." He most probably forgets that we do not command respect from the 51 member Organization of Islamic Conference. He is right in praising the unity of European nations but when he feels in context of Pakistan, China and Bangladesh that we should "bury the 'past and start on a clean slate" he himself says "this is easier said than done". He is also not in favor of a national consensus when he writes that "those who dissent from the so called national consensus must be allowed to speak and write. They are, after all the only people who also stand for democracy and secularism. It is an unforgivable sin to question their credentials of their loyalty to the country." He seems rather a bit guilty conscious of a community which is bigger in population in India than what it is in Pakistan. When he proposes that "people of India and Pakistan must be reminded of their strong ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic bonds" he just gives way to the feelings of nationalist Muslims in this country and the view of all the governments in India during the last five decades. But he too knows well that it has not been responded by our neighbors who just believe in jihad as their foothold in the sub-continent. Talking all these things the minority journalists just go astray from the main theme and harp on the subjects important to them—their safe position in this country, not the safety of the country.

Views of Nationalist Shenoy and Jay Dubashi about nuclear Policy

Before winding up the discussion it would rather be fruitful to consider the positive views of T.V.R. Shenoy and Jay Dubashi who is known for their nationalist views candidly expressed vis-a-vis all this negative sailing of the self styled secular media elite. Shenoy refers to the fact that Sakyamuni's (Buddha) motherland had reached a parity of sorts with the mightiest nations. He was of the opinion that perfect peace would never come until all the nations of the earth were equally mighty. Representatives of two Buddhist nations Dalai Lama and Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka have expressed similar views about Pokhran Test. According to Shenoy Indo-American tassels over nuclear policy began in Nehru's day. 'India', he says 'could have made an atomic bomb as far back as 1956, an option disowned by the then Congress Government.' Still American sanctions were placed in 1957. The oldest and longest ruling party did not change its mind set during Indo-Chinese War and the border conflict with Pakistan in 1965. Although Indira Gandhi took the plunge in 1974 "it was a decision made in a vacuum, an empty gesture without any reference to India's ultimate security needs." All know that Dr. Homi Bhabha was the father of India's atomic energy and it was expected that Bharat Ratna should have been conferred upon him. But the then rulers considered scientists their stooges and came the insulting rebuff that "the father of India's atomic energy programme wasn't 'big enough'." The writer concludes that although congressmen believe that Pokhran II was the result of forty years of nurturing Indian science yet it is equally true that for 40 years none had the guts 'to take the process to its logical conclusion'. "So give the scientists their due, but spare a crumb of credit for the current ministry too," says Shenoy.

All know that there has been a great hullabaloo about sanctions. Jay Dubhashi feels that India is not 'a banana republic that starts trembling at the first sight of a few fingers being raised in Washington or Tokyo. He asserts that we have not broken any laws. There is no international law against nuclear tests "And there is also no law which says that a have not should not jump the queue to join, the haves." It is just an exaggerated view that Indian economy would fail in the absence of foreign aid and in case multinationals withdraw. Some have a wrong notion that without foreign funds we are doomed to the Hindu rate of growth. "There is a large measure of built-in self reliance in the Indian economy". The foreign element is marginal. It is almost zero in the important sector like agriculture, about 10 per cent in industry and only 2 to 3 percent in services. Indian economy is basically a formation of Indian farmers, scientists, engineers, businessmen and Indian workers. It is unlike East Asian countries that depended on foreigners who brought down their economies. 'India is not going to collapse like a house of cards' if foreigners withdraw. We could build Swadeshi bomb and we do build Swadeshi economy. The sanctions on which much uproar has been made cover only loans and credit by US banks and international agencies. It is near about Rs. 25,000 crore. Seems quite huge but really it is not more that 2 per cent of India's G.D.R Dubashi felt that sanctions do not last long. He was proved correct when the USA congress passed a resolution on 20th of October 1998 allowing the President to withdraw the sanctions for one year. Moreover sanctions do not affect foreign direct investment. They petered away in the case of China where they remained only on paper in due course. Moreover sanctions cut both ways. Stopping $5 billion worth of funds going into India means cutting off 5 billion worth of business for their companies. "They will come round" says Dubashi (as they already have), "for remember India is not a chicken any more. After Pokhran II India is a country to reckon with, whether you like it or not. And India has always been a good country to do business with." Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan is going to change the very face of the country in the times to come.


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