INDIA'S SECURITY SCENARIO SINCE 1998
By Mr. Anurag Sinha
nuclear experiments in 1998 were a sign that it was no longer
secure in its immediate external operational environment.
The nuclear threat from China and a (construed) combined conventional
threat from Pakistan made India take recourse to the path
of nuclearism. Though India already possessed the technological
capability, and had only maintained a climate of ambiguity
with regard to its nuclear status since 1974, this move on
the part of India betrays a lot more than just a safeguard
against China. The tests signify India’s entry into
international politics as a major player, and its aspirations
to reach a great power status. Inasmuch as the nuclear weapon
states retain their exclusive status and influence world politics,
burgeoning middle powers would always seek to gain entry into
this glorified club. That the nuclear experiments triggered
an almost immediate response in kind from Pakistan and increased
the conventional threshold was a matter which could hardly
be avoided, and in the context of South Asia, all this has
done is to nuclearise the subcontinent, and escalated the
fears of the other states in the region.
India’s relations with the USA have also undergone sea changes in the face of developments in the post-Cold War world. There has been a conspicuous stance taken by India on the subject of the American proposal to develop the “Star Wars” program, which would essentially be in violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 between the US and the USSR. India claims that the US should reserve the right of ascertaining its own security concerns, and take whatever measures it deems fit to guarantee national security. However, on a more careful analysis, especially given the direction that Indo-US ties have headed in the last year, it could also be said that India wants to acquire similar technologies, to guarantee escalation dominance over Pakistan, and to thwart any nuclear blackmail on the part of China. Joint military exercises have also been conducted to contribute to troop readiness, development and strategising, while the two navies have been jointly patrolling the Straits of Malacca.
It is difficult to argue in favour of whether India’s security scenario has improved or not with the successful nuclear tests of 1998. If the perceived threat from China were the only criterion for the tests, then the same still loom large. In terms of the immediate surroundings, the Kargil conflict broke out after the tests, and in essence, gave proof of the fact that the nuclear umbrella had meant the escalation of the conventional threshold. With such an escalation, it is possible for countries to fight longer and bloodier wars, since nuclear deterrence would mean that neither state would have a telling superiority. Thus, the tests only exposed India’s rough nuclear and conventional parity with Pakistan.
However, what the 1998 tests have ensured is that India’s position in the calculation of world politics has been significantly and positively revamped. A modicum of economic development along with the nuclear status has fortified India as one of the major powers in world politics today, more deeply engaged in the affairs of the world than ever before. If the threats of old still persist, India has also found now a place from which to effectively counter the same, as evident from the improving relations with China and Pakistan.
Thus, it can be said that even if India’s security scenario may not have improved a great deal since the 1998 nuclear tests, India has found a more fluid balance with which to address these issues. India’s foreign policy is less reactive, and not driven by inherent insecurities; instead a more realist orientation is betrayed by the foreign policy makers today.