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The Thermonuclear Men’s Club:  India

The Thermonuclear Men’s Club:    France | Great Britain | India | Israel |
Pakistan | Russia | United States | The Up and Coming: Iraq and Iran

1974’s “Smiling Buddha” detonation in the Rajasthan desert introduced India as a nuclear power. After the ensuing international outcry, and the damage to its civilian reactor program, India would not conduct another test firing until 1998, in response to Pakistan’s successful A-bomb tests. In that time some things had changed – the Soviet Union, long one of India’s strongest supporters, no longer existed – but many of the old fault lines and hatreds remained. While India has not yet gained recognition as a superpower ala China, Russia, or the United States, it is certainly a force to be reckoned with. India has the fourth largest standing army in the world, with over one million soldiers. While its Air Force is hampered by aging and often crash-prone MiG-29s, its Prithvi and Agni series of ballistic missiles are capable of delivering an atomic response and by 2010 India hopes to be producing its own nuclear (powered and armed) submarines.

India’s constitution provides affirmative action and special training opportunities for Dalits and “other historically disadvantaged castes,” the group once called “Untouchables.” Nevertheless, discrimination against Dalits remains widespread, with the ruling Indian People’s Party (BJP) most frequently taking the side of the upper castes. Violence from “Naxalites” and other Marxist-leaning separatists, and violent responses from the Indian government, pose continuing threats in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu: this violence has at times bled over into neighboring Nepal. In the Punjab province, tensions remain high as Hindu police battle separatist Sikh militants and atrocities pile up on both sides; Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 was at the hands of Sikh militants; over 50,000 Sikhs are currently held in Indian prisons under the draconian Terrorist Affected Areas Act.

Perhaps most unsettling is the continuing tension between Hindus and Moslems. There are 150 million Moslems living in India; high-ranking BJP officials have been accused of complicity in the 1992 mob riots which destroyed the Babri mosque in Ayodhya and led to some 3,000 deaths, most of them Moslems. India’s only majority Moslem area, the provinces of Jammu and Kashmir, has been the site of continual fighting since 1947, as Pakistan has funded separatist militants there (and occasionally intervened on their side). Today India has some 250,000 soldiers stationed in Jammu and Kashmir, and attacks on civilians and extra-judicial killings are regularly reported.

In 1962 India lost a humiliating border dispute with China. During the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan, it received limited support at best from the outside world. and wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971. In each of these wars India had received limited support from the outside world. The U.S. provided Pakistan with weapons in the 1965 war and in 1971 sent an aircraft carrier to the Indian Ocean to intimidate India, a move which only served to infuriate Indians and increase support for “nuclear deterrence.” Relations between India and China remain stormy, despite efforts on both sides. Relations between India and Pakistan are pretty much the same as they have been since 1947; tense and belligerent, with occasional outbreaks of shooting.

Many in both India and Pakistan have come to see a nuclear exchange between the two countries as inevitable. The casualty count would be frightening: one study estimated that a Hiroshima-sized blast over Mumbai (Bombay) would result in between 150,000 and 800,000 deaths. As Pakistan’s links to the Taliban and to Al-Qaeda come to light, India may well use this as justification for increasing its presence in Kashmir – or in launching a pre-emptive invasion should Pakistan fall to Islamic hardliners.

Hindustan Times
http://www.hindustantimes.com/

The Hindu
http://www.hinduonnet.com/

India Times
http://www.indiatimes.com/

India’s Nuclear Weapons Program (excellent: highly detailed)
http://nuketesting.enviroweb.org/hew/India/


Mike Doughty



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