Short note on post-1998 Nuclear Issues

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Regional security problems have been articulated as some of the key determinants of the nuclear tests. In the case of Indian nuclear policy, both Indian and Western analysts have sought to highlight the threats from Pakistan and China.

The growing nuclear capability of China and the close links that China has with Pakistan in the nuclear area have been a matter of concern to India. In case of Pakistan, the Indian nuclear capability has been identified as the key source of threat to Pakistan. India has a strong conventional military base that is recognized to be for superior to Pakistan.

Pakistan has failed to gain any military advantage in the past conflicts with India. Kashmir has been highlighted as the critical element in the bilateral dispute. Here too, Pakistan strategy has shifted from conventional warfare to low intensity conflict. Pakistan looks at nuclear option as an important deterrent against India.

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Global Issues

The post-Cold War era has brought about a change in the perception of security threats to Indian and Pakistan. These can be identified as non-military pressures like trade, intellectual property rights, environment and technology control as threats to national security.

Non-strategic pulls and pushes by foreign nations that affect the nation economy should be looked upon as a security threats and not as an isolated trade related activity. Trade embargoes, technology control regimes and diplomatic pressures to sign various treaties were growing in recent times. This has had an adverse impact on the South Asian economy.

Restrictions on nuclear and related dual-use technology had begun with the NPT in 1968. The Nuclear Suppliers Group formed after the Indian test of 1974 had placed restrictions on the transfer of nuclear related technology and material to such nuclear capable states like India. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) instituted in 1987 had placed restrictions on the transfer dual-use technology related to missiles.

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It was under this regime that the Russians were forced to cancel the technology transfer agreement on the cryogenic engines for the ISRO programme. In 1995 came the Wassanaar Arrangement that further prohibited the transfer of dual-use technology.

The CTBT and the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty further strengthened the Non-proliferation regime. Besides these international arrangements, bilateral restrictions of the United States in form of nonproliferation legislations have also affected India. Both India and Pakistan, as have some of the other nuclear (technologically) capable states, have been at the receiving end of this regime that has been sponsored by the developed world.

Over the years these restrictions had come to symbolize the core of the developed World’s status quoits agenda. The first symbolic defiance of this restraint came in form of the 1974 nuclear test at Pokhran. The May 1998 tests of India and Pakistan represent this defiant independence at an age when the nonproliferation regime has become more stringent over the years.

The Indian nuclear tests were a demonstration of capabilities technological and political. The former in the context of the ability to develop in the face of restrictions; the latter was the demonstration of the political will to take on the developed world. The Pakistani tests were also a demonstration of their defiance of the pressures instituted by the developed world in form of the threat of sanctions. It is this reassertion of the ability to take independent decisions in the face of anticipated sanctions that makes the nuclear tests a symbol of the a resurgent Third World.

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