Alternatives, Strategies and Actions to Keep Space for Peace

10-12 May 2002

Statement from J. Sri Raman, from the Movement Against Nuclear Weapons, Chennai, India At the GN Conference, Berkeley, Ca.

From the land of Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, I bring you the warm greetings of an embattled peace movement. I convey to you the ardent wishes of the
peace-loving people of India for the success of this historic conference and the global struggle for the total elimination of nuclear weapons on this earth and in space.

In my presentation, I would like to answer just two immediately obvious questions on behalf of India's peace movement. First, why is this movement concerned with the issue of space for peace? True, India has officially declared itself a nuclear-weapon state but stakes no claim to the status of a space power or a major space player. Why are we then joining the world campaign for weapons-free space? Second, and linked with the first question, is how the Indian peace movement hopes to help in this struggle.

The answer to the first question lies in our movement's perspective on the form that the issue of space for peace has assumed today. On the National Missile Defense and Theater Missile Defense programs of the George Bush Administration of the USA. Our movement recognizes the new 'Star Wars' and 'defense' programs for the gross misnomers they are. The NMD-TMD programs, as we and millions of earthlings see them, are aimed not at defence but at dominance. And at the conquest of not space, but this world seen as composed of so many areas of conflicts, as the TMD programs

The Indian peace movement is all the more concerned for the resoundingly acquiescent response of India's current rulers to these programs. The movement has chosen to make opposition to the NMD and the TMD part of its main business especially because New Delhi has chosen to approve of the programs tacitly and hinted at its readiness to be the regional partner of the Bush Administration in this regard.

There should be nothing really surprising about this. A strategic partnership with the world's sole surviving superpower is an ambition that India's rulers have hardly concealed ever since they buried India's traditional policy of support for nuclear
disarmament with five nuclear-weapon tests at the desert site of Pokharan on May 11 and 13, 1998. As our movement observes today the fourth anniversary of the tests that marked a sad turning-point, we recall the repeated reassertions of the ambition by the Indian nuclear militarists over the years. On the very morrow of Pokharan, its proud authors were knocking at the door of the 'nuclear club' and making it loud and clear that they wanted to be part of the USA-led camp of nuclear powers. The ambition may no longer appear as ridiculously absurd as it did then.

For, the idea of this partnership has not exactly been discouraged by the world's largest  nuclear power that is also the avowed leader of the nuclear non-proliferation campaign. The paradox if its dual distinction is matched by the irony of the rapidly transformed response of the US rulers to Pokharan and what has followed it. Not only were the sanctions imposed on India (and Pakistan) following Pokharan (and the Chagai tests of Pakistan) lifted when considerations of a 'multinational coalition' against 'global terrorism' took precedence over nuances of non-proliferation. The US spokespersons have certified that India's nuclear designs did not go beyond 'minimum nuclear deterrence'. Notably, they have done so after New Delhi came out with a Draft Nuclear Doctrine in August 1999, which envisaged a far-from-minimal triadic nuclear force capable of taking on nuclear-weapon states, presumably including China and Pakistan, and non-nuclear-weapon states allied with nuclear powers.

After the application for the membership of the 'nuclear club', the most noteworthy overture from the Indian government came in the form, first, of a studious silence over the NMD-TMP programs (which had provoked protests worldwide),  followed by worse. Official Indian leaders were leaving visiting US officials including Colin Powell in little doubt about New Delhi's interest in TMD programs directed against China, in particular.

Hopes about an Indo-US strategic partnership reached their peak, however, in the aftermath of the infamous September 11. The Indian government's response to the grisly tragedy was one of barely concealed glee at the opportunity it appeared to offer for achieving the ardently desired partnership. It hastened to talk of the possibility of an Indo-US 'axis against terrorism' (equated, for all practical purposes, with its 'Islamic' brand). It articulated hopes for a better US understanding of India's case on Kashmir in the new context. The hopes were carried to a hysterical pitch when the USA launched an all-out war on Afghanistan. Enemies of peace in India backed the establishment's claim that this paved the way for a military solution of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan without the involvement of the Kashmiri people.

Their hope of the Afghan war proving an embarrassment for Gen. Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan and an end to Pak-US friendship has been belied. Quite the contrary has been the result of the developments. This has not, however, stopped New Delhi from continuing its efforts toward an Indo-US partnership of a kind that can spell an alarming aggravation of tensions in the region. One of its latest overtures to the Bush Administration, at the expense of its long-held principles and policies, has been in the form a deafening silence over the leaked Nuclear Posture Review of the USA which has led to indignant protests from the developing as well as the developed countries. India, for decades a leader of the global campaign for nuclear disarmament, has been tongue-tied in the face of a publicized US threat of first strikes against seven countries, spelling a grave fallout for their many neighbours, crossing the nuclear threshold that had limited the dangers of a nuclear holocaust so long, and declaring the end of the doctrine that dictated the nuclear arms' use as deterrents alone.

What all this has meant, internationally, is a situation where international treaties are being reduced to mere scraps of paper. Witness the unceremonious abandonment by the Bush Administration of the ABM Treaty. Or the way signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are among the countries targeted under the 'contingency plans' contemplated in the NPR. The NPT Review of last year had yielded the recommendation, among others, that the signatory
states be persuaded not to give a prominent place to nuclear weapons in their respective defence plans. Witness the way the post-September 11scenario has already made this appear an absurd proposition.

Regionally, all these developments have meant a grave deterioration of the security situation. India has massed a hundred thousand troops on its borders with Pakistan, and put them and its missiles on high alert, with Gen. Musharraf's Pakistan following suit. The General has threatened retaliatory nuclear strikes if there is a danger of Pakistan "being wiped off the world map", and New Delhi has responded by leaking
reports about its completion of nuclear command-and.-control arrangements. As some experts have pointed out, the South Asian subcontinent today possibly represents the most dangerous nuclear flashpoint, with two neighbours with long-unresolved disputes acquiring nuclear weapons and with boasting of remarkably low standards of safety in several sectors including transport and electricity.

Inside India, in turn, this has entailed a tragic deterioration in relations between religious communities, with the rulers promoting Hindu majoritarianism and making a target of the Muslim minority, in particular. The situation is analogous to the promotion of anti-immigrant racism in the post-September 11 West.  The riots in the border-site of Gujarat, where a kind of ethnic cleansing has been allowed by callously calculating authorities for nearly three months now, are an illustration of the ferocity of the forces that the Indian peace movement is faced with.

The why of the movement's opposition to the current edition of the Star Wars lead to the how of it. We oppose it, above all, through a public awareness campaign about its implications for humanity and through actions such as the one we staged last year in Chennai, India, in  response to a call of the Global Network. We oppose it also through our anti-war campaign, which includes an exposure of the cynical attempts by India's current rulers who, despite their affected ultra-nationalism, are dying to become loyal followers of the Bush dispensation in the international arena. Our campaign also takes the important form of one for India-Pak friendship at the people-to-people level and normalization at the state level. And, within India facing a real danger of fascism (in the sense of militarism thriving on hate and lies), we seek to further the larger cause of peace by fighting forces that seek to divide our people on lines drawn by their propaganda alone.

The Indian peace movement appeals for support from its allies and friends everywhere, especially the brave soldiers of peace in the USA and the West, in its difficult but not daunting tasks. We, in turn, pledge our solidarity in spirit and action with the global struggle for elimination of nuclear and other weapons trained on humanity in space and on our good earth.


Home Page