The country over the past many decades has witnessed some very strong leaders, leaders who are known for the ability to take strong decisions for development and security of the country. One of these leaders was Hon’ble Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who against all odds took many strong decisions which have led to India being a strong, powerful nation that it is today.
Back in 1998, when the NDA alliance had formed the government for the first time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee made the decision to conduct nuclear tests India. The decision was huge, in light of the prevailing international scenario. Vajpayee nevertheless sought to make India a nuclear country, well prepared with its defence in the occasion of any hostilities.
In the post-Cold war world and pre-9/11 global scenario the world was, for the first time in a long period, was leaning towards peace-making. In a situation wherein the nations were collectively pushing for nuclear non-proliferation, India, a developing country conducting nuclear tests was a drastic occurrence.
There were innumerable consequences to consider, and if plainly thought along the terms of the cost benefit analysis, the decision wouldn’t have seemingly made sense. Threats from the neighbors and sanctions from USA were to be considered which could have been catastrophic. In addition to this, there was also the previous move in 1995 to consider, in which Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s decision to conduct nuclear tests was foiled by the Clinton administration picking up preparations and exerting immense pressure to halt the tests.
However, India under Vajpayee didn’t pay heed to the possible consequences. The country would have been on the way to becoming an elite super power and moreover, surrounded by hostile neighbors, nuclear self efficiency would done wonders for the country’s defensive preparedness. Keeping the same in mind, India decided to go ahead with the tests.
The aftermath was as accepted. With the exception of Congress, Indians had all praised and lauded Vajpayee for his bold decision. International community on the other hand, was less than pleased. Not only was USA embarrassed at having failed to detect the preparations, but also had issued a strong statement condemning the tests. Thereafter, the country had imposed several sanctions on India which included cutting off all assistance to India except humanitarian aid, banning the export of certain defence material and technologies, ending American credit and credit guarantees to India, and requiring the US to oppose lending by international financial institutions to India. In response to this, the Indian government announced that it had already allowed for some economic response and was willing to take the consequences.
In terms of nuclear decision, another argument could be made about India’s Great power aspirations. Despite a large economy, flourishing culture, respectable military capability and grand heritage India felt that without nuclear option it would never command the respect that it desire in International arena. India had argued that it is no accident that all five permanent members of Security Council were Nuclear Weapons State. Thus, if India wanted to be counted as Great Power, it had to opt for the nuclear option. The 1998 Pokhran tests can be seen as India’s attempt to gain International recognition; it can be seen in the context of seeking attention of the World power. BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s reference to the tests as an escape from ‘Nuclear apartheid’ further boosts this argument. As it turned out, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was right about it.
USA had also attempted to hold talks regarding the rollback of India’s nuclear program and signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This was unsuccessful as India refuted the pressure and focused on nations’ security interest.
Same backlash was faced from Japan, Canada, China and Pakistan. Only the United Kingdom, France and Russia restrained from issuing a condemning statement.
Eventually, the sanctions imposed by the international community were lifted over the next couple of years so in the long run, the benefit achieved was tremendous. India’s relations with US actually improved thereafter and moreover, India had gained a respectable place in the International community, as an elite nuclear armed nation. However, at that point of time amidst the uncertainty, the risks were manifold.
What followed from that point of time was the international community understanding the need for India strengthening its defence amidst any circumstance and respecting the same. 20 years later now, there is no better reinforcement to this fact than the international community’s reaction to the abrogation of article 370 in the constitution.
Article 370 granted a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir which had increasingly led to difficulties as far as the status of citizens and supremacy of the Indian constitution was concerned. In a bold decision, the NDA government under PM Modi scrapped off the article and rendered J&K’s situation as that of any other ordinary state and its residents, as any other ordinary Indian citizens.
J&K has essentially been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. The state under Maharaja Hari Singh had formally acceded to India after independence, but the presence of a large Muslim population had encouraged Pakistan to stake a claim. Regardless of the fact that India was a secular country, ensuring that the state did not have any religion and gave equal recognition to all the religions, Pakistan still felt the need to interfere unnecessarily. Further complicating the situation is the fact that at the time of independence, the Jammu and Kashmir issue was taken to the UN, giving it the tag of an “international issue”.
Moreover, the international community regards Kashmir as one of the most probable nuclear flashpoints and thus the matter has been approached with great caution.
However, the thoughts were completely unfounded. Not only did the international community refuse to condemn India’s decision on article 370, but also lauded and appreciated the move. The world super powers including USA, Russia, EU, Sri Lanka, even Muslim majority nations like UAE, Maldives, Afghanistan have sided with India and most of the states have maintained the issue of article 370 to be ‘internal’ to India, taken under the power and authority of the Constitution and also struck off any possibility of International interventions.
Pakistan has been rendered to the position of a blithering idiot, and in light of the international indifference has imposed ‘economic sanctions’ on India, sanctions that are affecting Pakistan greater deal more than India.
Thus, as evident from the international community’s response, the objective of nuclearisation in 1998, which sought to project a powerful image of India, has been met now. India is regarded an elite country, and whatever measures it takes to strengthen its internal and external security is its internal matter. The country has made it clear that matters regarding the sovereignty shall not be subject to adjudication by the international community. Strong countries such as India do not need the approval of the international community as far as defence is concerned and after 1998 decision by Atal Bihari Vajpayee the world super powers have understood this.