Top Stories from the Editorial/Opinion pages of the International
Thursday, May 14, 1998
But We Thought India Was Turning Into a Constructive Partner
By Gerald Segal International Herald Tribune
LONDON - India becomes the sixth declared nuclear power.
Just when we thought we were making progress in denuclearizing the world,
India risks taking us back up the ladder of escalation. But the military
risks can be exaggerated.
The most long-term damage will be done to the prospects for the
fifth of mankind that lives in India to play a full part in the prosperity
of the global economy.
Having one more nuclear weapons power is not a fundamental challenge
to global security. And India does have real security concerns about a
nuclear-armed China, and a fair complaint that the declared nuclear powers
have not moved fast enough to reduce their own arsenals.
India's actions are less understandable in the light of the clear
trend in recent years toward cutting nuclear arsenals.
Both India and Pakistan seemed to have settled for a ''screwdriver''
nuclear capacity - both sides merely one turn of a screwdriver away from
having a nuclear weapon. Now the domestic pressure will be on Pakistani
leaders to formally become the world's seventh declared nuclear power,
which would mean increased risks of a costly and dangerous arms race.
There will be also an increase in diplomatic tension as the United
States and other powers talk about sanctions and gripe about each other's
behavior as suppliers of dangerous technologies to South Asian nuclear
The risks of actual nuclear war should not be overdrawn.
But those of us who have argued for years that the West should
take India more seriously as a constructive player in international affairs
will now have to reconsider. What we see is a nationalist government that
makes South Asia a more risky place.
To the extent that there was support in the West for taking India
more seriously, it was based on the notion that here was a country that
was finally appreciating the virtues of interdependence and would be a
more constructive player in the global economy.
A nationalist and risky India projects the opposite image. Foreign
investors will see India as a less safe bet - a sad outcome, especially
given that Pacific Asia's economic crises might have led some to look more
favorably on investment in India.
In addition to any Western sanctions, there will be damage to
India's prospects for receiving investment and trade.
If the United States, along with a nuclear-averse Japan, blocks
aid and loans from the World Bank and other institutions, India will not
collapse, but it will be poorer than it was before the tests.
India can certainly expect to see more restrictions on trade in
high technology. In the past few years we had been edging toward closer
high-tech cooperation between the United States and India, but none of
that will now be possible.
Those Americans who argued for an incentive strategy in high-tech
transfer as a way of keeping India from becoming a declared nuclear power
will now retreat.
In short, India has confirmed the worst images of outsiders of
a country out of touch with the new principles of a post-Cold War world.
The greatest sadness will be felt by friends who had come to believe
that India could become a major player in the global economy - a power
on a par with China but far more amenable to Western interests.
President Bill Clinton, who will surely now cancel his planned
trip to India scheduled for the autumn, will be reminded during his Beijing
summit in June that at least China has stopped its nuclear tests.
India and the world are less secure and poorer.
The writer, director of studies at the International Institute
for Strategic Studies, contributed this comment to the International Herald