Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The explosion of bad news

Douglas Adams says in one of his books, "nothing travels faster than light with the exception of bad news". His conjecture is mostly assumed to be true. Bad news always transfers faster than light.

North Korea (DPRK) did its first nuclear test on 9th october and now, depending on who you believe, is either apologetic or is ready to do a few more test. Iran is just a couple of steps away from conducting the tests, which gives a convenient excuse to the americans to attack that country. According to this IAEA report, nearly 30 more countries are in the race of acquiring nuclear weapons in near future. With Indian nuclear tests on May 12 1998, we have entered the second round of nuclear weaponisation in the world. Those tests were perfect examples of bad news spreading fast and wide.

The nationalists, led by BJP and its sisters went into a wild frenzy after the tests. The congress, after initial doubts, supported the tests. An unprecedented hysteria engulfed almost the entire populace of this country in subsequent weeks. Ironically, the then prime minister AB Vajpayee termed the nuclear blast as a victory of science. He didn't mind that an atom bomb, can serve no purpose other than killing a huge population. And of course, no sensible country will ever use it against its enemy, whatever be the provocation. Again, India's (or Pakistan's) far right religious fundamentalists can hardly be credited as being 'sensible people'. How can the tests be a victory of science, when science education in India remains in such a dismal state? We produce fewer scientific papers than any developed country, and less than half of the developing world. Baring IISc and TIFR, most of our science institution are in a dilapidated state and science education is in a continuous slippery path in past many years. How can it be a victory of science when, if we break statistics down to mere numbers, in every single aspect, we are behind China, Malaysia and even Brazil?

Pre-independence, with people liek CV Raman, JC Bose, Meghnad Saha, and many more, India was rated very high in science. Look, what have we made ourselves into? We have degenerated to such a level that an evil perversion of science, an inversion of knowledge was applauded as a victory of science, and NOBODY protested. Baring of course, those 4000 students in Kolkata and Arundhati Roy. And she was left alone to write the end of imagination, which the tests surely were. Ok, the left parties protested, but the kind of silence that they are practicing after North Korea did similar blasts 8 years later, it puts a big question mark over the Indian left's sincerity? Even Iam not sure whether the cpi(m) is against nuclear weapons in general or just against India acquiring those bombs?

We have to be objective in our decision. Let's forget about who is supporting the bomb, and wh is oppossing it. Let's look at the objective merits against the case for atom bomb. One of the best reports on DPRK's nuclear tests can be read at, surprise, the onion. Titled as "N. Korea detonates 40 years of GDP", this article tells us about the actual cost of the nuclear bomb, albeit in a humourous manner. What price did we pay for our nuclear tests in 1998? What have we sacrificed for this so-called deterrence?

And what deterrence have we got? Are Indians, by any standards, safer now than we were in 1998? Immediately after the blasts we were told that nobody will cast an evil eye upon our country anymore. After the evil eye did come in the wake of Kargil attack, and the attack on the parliament, we were told that the nuclear bomb saved us from a real war. Lies, they were all. It took the USOFA to summon the Pakistan prime minister and president respectively, to take drastic measures to avoid a nuclear war. Perhaps, we don't realise how close we were from a nuclear catastrophic war in those days. Suppose for a moment that Nawaz Sharif had not agreed to pull the troops back in 1999, or Musharraf had not made the Jan 12 speech, what would have happnned then? Let's be honest. Nuclear weapons did NOT save us from war, Sharif's and Musharraf's pragmatic (clever?) decisions saved us from war. So much about deterrence. So much about being a superpower.

There are huge indicators that India's tests had in a way encourage the rest of the world, notably Pakistan, Iran and North Korea to follow the same path. We are a self-confessed superpower, who can't even decide which country to vote for, in the elections to security council elections for non-permanent member. We are a self-appointed superpower, who cannot ensure security of its own people, where the state acts as a apparatus in the hands of the moneybags. It is actually unfortunate that the world is letting us carry this delusions. Treating us with kid-gloves. Most of the world knows this to be untrue, but some countries like DPRK and Iran have started to believe that India has raised its status because of teh atom bomb.

It is similar to what happenned in my village. The biggest Gunda gets the most respect, just because he can beat up or kill anybody whom he doesn't like. So some of the people think that it is good to become a Goonda themselves. The sensible people know that the Goonda is wrong to beat up anyone at whim, and the real courageous stand up to him, without becoming a goonda themselves. We went the I-will-become-a-goonda-because-China-is-a-goonda way of solving our problems.

It is very important for all of us to know PRECISELY the cost of a nuclear bomb. It is important to know why Amartya Sen, Mahatma Gandhi and Einstein are/were against it. The numbers speak for themselves. We remain in the world periphery in majority of human development indicators. The direct and indirect cost of India's nuclear bomb is anywehere between $50 billion to $500 billion. (I have filed an RTI application, and hope to get a reply soon) Till then note down that number. Who is paying for it? Of course, you and I. And who else?

The people of Jaduguda are a harassed lot. Their's is a long struggle, telling the world by their experience about the dangers of uranium mining. Working hard to stop the mining there and save their children. The people near the mines have suffered devastating consequences (pdf). This mine supports the entire nuclear supply of India (we can't import from NSG countries because of the bomb). Their plight is so visible that the governments of AP and Meghalaya have diallowed UCIL to set up uranium mines in their states. Anybody who has any doubts, or wants to tell us about UCIL propaganda about safe mining, is invited to spend a couple of days in the villages near those mines. I will bear the cost of his/her transport (from anywhere in India) and stay (in the village). Buddha weeps in Jaduguda, is a wonderful film that tells the whole story.

We have achieved absolutely nothing by having nuclear weapons. And lost a lot. Nuclear war reduces the whole paradigm of war to a competition of which country can kill more number of oridinary people, and who can withstand more casualties of its citizens. As I mentioned above, it is an evil pulverisation of science, of humanity and of religion. The whole concept of nuclear bomb goes against the tenets of freedom and democracy.

South Africa remains the only country in the world to have voluntarily destroyed its entire nuclear arsenal in 1994. Its a pity that no other country followed South Africa's example. It is not that we are a poor country inspite of the nuclear bomb. We are a poor country because of the nuclear bomb.


At 8:33 am, Blogger n said...

ur right. the cost of deterence is far too high. Keep updating us on the RTI. it should be interesting to see what you find out.
And oh, like you mention right in the beginging. Sometimes, the hardest part is figuring out whose version to believe.

At 9:00 am, Anonymous confused said...

How are we poor because of the nuclear bomb? And why is USA not poor or Britan or France?

At 10:03 am, Blogger n said...

"We are a poor country because of the nuclear bomb."
i think you did get a lil carried away there as confused points out.
And, the threat of retaliation does help maintain an uneasy truce.
fcourse, we'd all be better off without any bombs. and could better soend all that money

At 8:13 pm, Blogger Nitin said...

Dear Anoop,

Your's is just a variation of the guns vs butter argument; less guns implies more butter. The problem is that this argument is valid only in the special case where there is global unanimity on getting rid of all weapons of war, not just nuclear ones. In practical terms, the guns vs butter argument fails to hold. [Related posts here and here]

You wrote that

Nuclear weapons did NOT save us from war, Sharif's and Musharraf's pragmatic (clever?) decisions saved us from war.

That statement is bizarre in more than one way. But you should ask yourself what caused them to be pragmatic in the first place. Also examine why China is interested in engaging India in negotiations (boundary disputes on the back burner) compared to the belligerence it reserves for Taiwan and Japan, and the contempt it reserved for India post-1965.

In any case, if your argument is that developing and maintaining nuclear weapons takes away resources from human development then I don't see how the 1998 tests can change things. The cost of tests was a small fraction of the overall cost of nuclearisation, and the major part of that cost was sunk anyway.

Several decades of wrong-headed economic policies that have denied the Indian citizen economic freedom are more to blame for poverty than the nuclear programme.

At 4:09 am, Blogger Anoop Saha said...

Thanks for your comment. Please check my replies at my main blog.


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