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14th June 1998

Hindu Bomb: why an ethnic tag

By Mervyn de Silva

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We, the Heads of State or Government of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka:

I. Desirous of peace, stability, amity and progress in the region through strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter and Nonalignment particularly respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, national independence, non-use of force and non-interference in the intrernal affairs of other states which are bound by ties of history and culture.

2 Conscious that in an increasingly interdependent world, the objectives of peace, freedom, social justice and economic prosperity are best achieved in the South Asian region by fostering mutual understanding, good neighbourly relations and meaningful cooperation among..." blahblah-blah!!

B-o-o-m... The bomb, promptly introduced as the HINDU Bomb by the western media. Strange, strange. When various Christian nations exploded their monstrous weapons, nobody cared to introduce the infernal mass-murderer in terms of its religious or racial identity. Now the Indian bomb has become the Hindi answer to Pakistan's Islamic bomb or bomb-in-the-making. What do we call the Chinese bomb? Not the Confucian, one trusts.

What is it all about? It's no more than an extension of The fundamental fact of an unequal distribution of power, just as clear as the distribution of wealth. The "Haves" and "Have-nots". The US-led western bloc in which Britain, a cousin, was granted a special place in the post-war global hierarchy, could not prevent the Soviet scientific community from claiming a place in the superpower club. Then came communist China, the world's most populous and a permanent member of the Security Council... once Chiang Kai-Shek had to flee his country.

The Red Menace is no more. Has identity replaced ideology as the new, necessary enemy in a post-Cold War... world... from Yugoslavia to the Middle-east and Asia?

The renowned scholar, Hamaza Alavi has observed the "Khilafat" movement of 1919-1924 is probably quite unique in as much as it has been glorified with one voice by Islamic ideologists, Indian nationalists and communists not to mention western scholars as an anti-colonial movement of the Muslims of India, premised on the hostility of the British to the Sultan of Turkey, the Muslim's venerated Khalifa..."The Clinton administration moved fast, to prevent a Pakistani countermove. The Islamabad-based Pakistani journalist Farhan Bokhari, wrote that Strobe Talbot, the deputy Secretary of State (he served as a South Asia correspondent for many years before he was picked by President Clinton for his staff) was sent to Pakistan to restrain the "hawks"in the armed services and the political establishment. The Pakistani Ambassador to the U.N disarmament conference had already warned that this "grave threat to Pakistan's security will not go unanswered".

Indian Action

Why did the newly elected B.J.P take this dramatic step, knowing its diplomatic and other consequences? Why did it bring its covert nuclear programme into the open? The question is answered by some analysts by another question! Was it really a B.J.P decision? "Most commentators believe that the preparations for the tests pre-dated the B.J.P" says the British correspondent Quentin Peel.

On matters of national security as sensitive as the nuclear weapon, the final decision is made by the 'National security establishment', the scientific community and the leaders of the ruling party as well as their "colleagues" into the Opposition front bench. (This could be a legacy of the departed imperial ruler in that labour and Tories always consult each other on questions of National security) . In any case, we have other evidence too. In 1996, US spy satellites "identified preparations for such underground explosions at the Pokhran test site...." and what's more the Clinton administration persuade the Indian prime minister not to go ahead... (Wouldn't that be prime Minister Gujral?")

China's Response

China and India have gone to war on a disputed border twice. India has never been happy over Tibet.The second largest nation has always felt unfairly treated - the US and the Big powers treat China beter.... when infact China rarely toes Washington's or NATO's line, and in any case is no democracy with the kind or respect for human rights which the US-led western community demands from non- Communist, vibrant democracies like India, the largest .

It is not "human rights" that dictate NATO's policy but realpolitik. The Pakistani reaction - a long range missile test - could well be a reminder of its persistent claim that it has "the nuclear edge".

It may take two to tango, however awkwardly but there is a third party in this particular dance.. China. It was a contested order that led to two Sino-Indian armed clashes ... On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told the media that there was "no progress whatsoever" in talks held in Beijing between chinese and Indian "Diplomatic military groups". The main topic was the border dispute.

The deadlock coincided with an Agency report that U.N Secretary-General .Kofi Annan, was prepared to mediate if the two parties agreed. The response was a deafening silence.. So far from both the south Block as well as the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

Final Battle

While some south Asian diplomats argue that between the U.S, the U.N and China, a credible "conflict-resolution" exercise can succeed, it strikes this columnist that China's role should be understood in terms of its 21st century aims.

It has radically changed its economic policy; its regional policy now reveals wider dimensions, on the assumption that the US- -dominated unipolar" order cannot last. China No1. To entertain Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and alienate the Arab league, is a bold gesture that has to be examined closely. In the old days, Chinese commentators would have described such a gesture by some other nation as" adventurism". Today, it exposes China's plans for the next century. Its regional rival is India, so it" leans" towards Pakistan. The final contest will be the United States, once the European Union and Japan weaken the American rival economically. The Chinese have their own sense of time, best expressed by their poets.

Hulftsdorp Hill

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