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Nuclear Programme as Second Rate Science: The Case of India-Pakistan

By Rameez Raja

Science has changed the world, mostly the western countries, with the emergence of great scientists like Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Edison, Marry Curie, Louis Pasteur, Niels Bohr, Bell, Faraday, Copernicus, etc. These scientists played an important role in bringing the world together to fight against diseases, natural calamities, and poverty as well as made our life easier and comfortable with the invention of modern technologies that we use in day-to-day life. However, the modern technology has also been used as a source of evil and destruction. Such technologies have been developed with the potential of destroying the entire world within a short span of time. The reference here is to weapons of mass destruction, particularly nukes. Einstein, who is known for his unique contribution to science, is the same person, who signed a letter on 2 August, 1939, written by Leo Szilard in consultation with two Hungarian physicists, Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner. The letter was sent to the US president Roosevelt and it mentioned that the atom bomb should be made before Germany does. However, after the nuclear destruction of Japan in 1945, Einstein realized that signing a letter to Roosevelt was a big mistake.

The development of weapons of mass destruction, particularly the invention of nukes, is regarded as second rate science. The development of nukes by India and Pakistan, thus, falls within the category of second rate science. Since independence, both states have failed in developing a proper sense of statehood and nationhood. The animosity and bigotry against each other has prompted these countries to channelize their resources into wrong directions, particularly manufacturing of nukes in the name of ‘National Security’. Nuclear science was perceived by both states as the only way to convince their large populations about their achievements in the scientific world. But the majority of people in these countries happen to live below the poverty line.

Who supports nuclear bomb? It has been estimated that mostly the middle class are its advocates in both the states. The government is proud of the scientists who played an active part in development of nuclear arsenal in both the states. The bomb lobbies comprise mostly the scientists, bureaucrats, politicians, journalists, retired army officers, chief of army staff, and the optimists. The bomb lobbies are few but are very powerful in both states. The Indian population is proud of its nuclear capability. However, we must remember that the opinion poll after India conducted nuclear tests in summer 1998 was carried out in urban areas rather than in rural areas. Simultaneously, in Pakistan, most people, except some academic scholars, are proud of Pakistan’s nuclear capability because its nuclear programme is Indo-centric.

The peaceful utilization of nuclear energy has not been achieved fully in South Asia because scientists failed to develop nuclear energy in peaceful ways. Moreover, both states embittered the international community, namely Canada, the US, and the UK, which supplied fuel to the nuclear reactors for developing electricity in underdeveloped countries like India and Pakistan. Pakistan under Z. A. Bhutto took advantage of the US financial assistance to accelerate its nuclear weapons programme clandestinely after 1972. Simultaneously, India passed nuclear budget in the name of peaceful use of nuclear energy and manufactured nuclear arsenal in 1980s under Rajiv Gandhi. However, it was India which blasted the Pokhran deserts in May 1974 with its first nuclear test and declared it a peaceful nuclear explosion – codenamed ‘Smiling Buddha’. However, the nuclear explosion was military in character.

After achieving the nuclear capability in summer 1998, both states still refrained from signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Moreover, the Fissile Missile Cut-off Treaty did not win the hearts of two states. It is estimated that both states are busy in nuclear arms race and are making efforts to build a missile defense system. Already, India has the capability of nuclear submarines like Arihant, while Pakistan is going to build six nuclear submarines in Karachi, with the support of China, among the total of twelve. India’s ambition to achieve maximum power from nuclear energy had been put forward by the UPA government. The Indo-US nuclear deal was signed between Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and the US President, George W. Bush in 2005. Moreover, India got the waiver from the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) for nuclear commerce in 2008. However, twelve states like China, Austria, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Brazil, New Zealand, Ireland and even Russia are reluctant to vote for India’s NSG waiver for nuclear commerce because it is outside of the NPT (Syed, 17 November 2016). The pessimists argued that India will use this waiver for building nuclear arsenal as it has already embittered international community because its nuclear doctrine is talking about ‘credible minimum deterrence’ rather than ‘minimum credible deterrence’. Moreover, India wants to compare with China’s nuclear arsenal and believes that nuclear weapons are a symbol of power in order to sustain its status at the international as well as the regional level.  After the summer 1998 nuclear tests, Bal Thackeray famously declared that the bombs had proved that ‘we are not eunuchs anymore’.

This write-up has a message for both societies – India and Pakistan – which believe that their scientists have done a remarkable job with the development of nukes. However, the reality is very different. The scientists (bomb lobbies) have actually embittered their own people because they hardly do anything for the actual development of South Asia. The real development includes developments in original scientific research, high technology, the country’s general scientific progress, rather than developing a weapon of evil which can kill each and every living creature. It is estimated by the World Bank that in India only 34 percent has access to toilets and in Pakistan only 48 percent has access to facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and feces. In terms of human development, India and Pakistan are far behind most of the nations, with the ranks of 130 and 147 respectively among 188 nations (as calculated by UN Human Development Index). The rivalry is so bad that both states are spending huge amounts of money for nuclear arsenals and less for eradication of poverty.

Both the states seldom organize seminars about the nuclear disaster, and do not create awareness about how to save life if the nuclear war breaks out or in case of a nuclear accident. Moreover, M. V. Ramana argued that India did not share information with public about nuclear wastage. It is estimated that nuclear wastage has radioactive impacts for about ten years. The Atomic Nuclear Act of 1962 and Official Secrets Act of 1923 in India have given enough powers to Department of Atomic Energy not to disclose information of nuclear matters with public and punish those persons involved in sharing state’s nuclear information with foreigners. There are few cases in which India have punished those people involved in exposing the technical and safety failures to public. Moreover, money spending on nuclear weapons and even on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy is not clear. Ramana states that “the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Ministry of Statistics and the Programme Implementation of India whose function is to monitor expenditure and criticize cost revenues do not seem to have access to expenses relating to nuclear facilities” (Ramana, 2009). It is actually the DAE that has overall control of India’s nuclear policy.

Both India and Pakistan lack civilian and democratic accountability of nukes. In India, the bomb lobbies keep the people in the dark about nuclear safety and boast of it being ‘safe’.  (Ramana, 2009). It is interesting to note that nuclear reactors or plants are established near the cities. This is the main reason why India’s Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) was criticized by the villagers with the help of anti-nuclear activists and civil society that protested about its operation. Unfortunately those who protested against the KKNPP were declared anti-national and were put behind bars. The protesters’ life has been undermined in the name of the national security.

The eradication of poverty in both states needs greater attention than the development of nukes. The majority of population in both states is below poverty line and they do not need nukes for security. Rather, they require the basic necessities of life. The bomb lobbies are the only faction of the society that get benefit in supporting nuclear arsenal because of the status, prestige, power, and money factor. It is nuclear science, the second rate one, that provides a shield to the bomb lobbies to erode the resources in the wrong direction in order to manufacture nukes. Unfortunately the anti-nuclear activists and civil society in both states are weak due to articulation of wrong belief of nuclear deterrence by the vested interests, including the middle class who supported the sedition laws in India to punish any transgression. However, the civil society/anti-nuclear activists should attack the mindset of the people regarding their belief in the power of nuclear bombs before we see the worst future of nuclear annihilation in the region, be it a nuclear war or nuclear accident. The peaceful use of nuclear energy, too, is also dangerous to life in terms of nuclear wastage and leakages from nuclear reactors. Both states will suffer serious casualities from any nuclear accident because of the low disaster management programmes. The reverence of both states to nuclear science will then be costly.

Syed, Baqir Sajjid. “Setback for India as Consensus Eludes NSG Meeting.” Accessed on 17/11/2016.
Ramana, M. V., 2009, “India’s Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrets”, in Itty Abraham, (Ed.), South Asian Cultures of the Bomb: Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 41-67.

Rameez Raja
is a Ph. D. scholar at the Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He specializes in India’s nuclear policy. Email ID:


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