OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday said that nuclear weapons became a “strategic compulsion” for India, “born out of the failure to persuade the world to abolish them”. “But the commitment to comprehensive, universal nuclear disarmament remains our profound conviction which we intend to carry forward,” Gandhi said inaugurating an international conference to mark the centenary of launch of Satyagraha by Mahatma Gandhi. Sonia’s tirade against Nuclear Weapons did not stop at that as she went on to call Nuclear Weapons the currency of power. Getting misty eyed and nostalgic Sonia went on to then recall her late husband Rajiv Gandhi’s blueprint for a comprehensive Universal Nuclear Disarmament presented in 1988 to the United Nations.

The centenary launch of the Satyagraha which saw International participants from Nelson Mandela to Kenneth Kounda marked a new low in the history of what remains of the Indian National Congress with the brazen way in which the present day Congress appropriated the legacy of Gandhi’s Satyagraha and reduced it to a Congress party event. The absence of Opposition leaders, including those of the BJP, at an international meet to mark the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha today saw the Congress being faced with uncomfortable questions.  While there were no immideate reactions from the BJP to Sonia’s remarks on nuclear weapons the Congress came in for plenty of criticism from the BJP with the main opposition party accusing the Government for misusing official machinery to aid in the organization of what was essentially reduced to a party affair.

Perhaps Sonia Gandhi views the strategic compulsion of Indian Nuclear Weapons in much the same vein as the strategic compulsion of the Congress Party clinging onto a Nehru-Gandhi figurehead even if it were an imported one at that. But unfortunately the strategic interests of the nation far outweigh the political compulsions of one party or the idiosyncracies of its President. Offstumped examines the implications behind Sonia Gandhi’s flippant remarks to examine if India’s Strategic Nuclear Program ought to be a Compulsion or a Rational Intention.

Sonia Gandhi nee Maino, the Italian born daughter in law of Indira Gandhi would do well with a refresher on May 18th 1974 when her Mother in Law and then Indian Prime Minister authorized the first Indian Atomic test very much aware of the beneficial military and political fallout from the test to justify its priority and expense. For the next decade or so through the 1981 India Pakistan tensions on the sale of F-16s by the U.S. to Pakistan, Indira Gandhi managed the strategic ambiguity of developing a deterrent while at the same time stopping short of calling the atomic test a weapons test. In 1983 told the world that India did not have the bomb while pressing ahead with the first home built reactor. While not quite going as far as Sonia Gandhi in calling the Nuclear Program a strategic compulsion Indira Gandhi alluded to it as a developmental necessity and not a military one at that.

It took over a decade after Indira Gandhi’s death for India to finally to shed its strategic ambiguity with Pokharan-II round of tests conducted by the Vajpayee lead BJP, NDA Government. The then Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes created a furore in diplomatic circles by justifying the tests saying they were aimed at China rather than Pakistan. Vajpayee however in the face of International Sanctions and growing anxiety announced a no first use policy. Since then so called Indian Nuclear Doctrine has been shrouded again in confusion on why it exists and if it is a deterrent at all and if so against what. The recent Indo-US Nuclear Deal had set off another wave of debate on India’s strategic nuclear program and the impact of the deal on it. With remarks such as these by Sonia Gandhi  the debate on India’s Nuclear Weapons has come a full circle.

and what Offstumped had in July 2006 http://www.bloggernews.net/2006/07/pakistan-builds-new-nuclear-reactor.html described as India’s lack of a credible deterrent against Pakistan’s Salami Tactics. While the scenario described by Offstumped was hypothetical Sonia Gandhi’s remarks pose a real question. What purpose does the Nuclear Doctrine serve if at the highest levels (in the case of a Congress Government it cant get any higher than the Congress President) the Nuclear Weapons Program is viewed upon as a compulsion rather than well reasoned intention. Now that Sonia Gandhi has let the cat out of the bag, adding this reluctant embrace of the Nuclear Weapons Program to the No First Use Policy and the continued delay in testing Agni-II leads one to question if the Nuclear Deterrent was a deterrent at all and if so to who. With this flippant remark Sonia Gandhi has betrayed what Offstumped had all along suspected of the Manmohan Singh Government.

This UPA Government starting from the Havana Handshake and the setting up of the glorified anti-terrorism call center called the India Pakistan Joint Terrorism Institutional Mechanism has essentially neutered its approach to dealing with a Musharraf Pakistan. This taken with the recent Business Standard Analysis that Nitin had commented http://acorn.nationalinterest.in/?p=2231 goes to show how India had given up the advantage voluntarily. With Sonia Gandhi further diluting the Indian deterrent we have all but to wait for the Manmohan Singh Government to start the process of De-Militarisation of the Indian Sub-Contient in the name of Social Justice and Equity for our Neighbours.

Offstumped Bottomline: By calling the Indian Nuclear Weapons Program a Strategic Compulsion Sonia Gandhi has committed a blunder.

By betraying her lack of appreciation of Indian Strategic Interests Sonia Gandhi has alerted us to the danger of letting the Congress Party’s Strategic Compulsion in having Sonia as its President get in the way of Indian National Security and Indian Strategic Interests.

It is time Manmohan Singh and Sonia were called to stand up and explain why India needs Nuclear Weapons.

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