Fallout of Nuclear War Planning
Specter of Armageddon
by N.D. Jayaprakash
The writing on the wall is loud and clear for the fifteen-million or more residents of Delhi and its surrounding areas (and for many more millions in other cities across India as well). A horrendous death is awaiting them in the not too distant future. This doomsday scenario is not a figment of imagination but is a crucial factor that is shaping India’s State policy!
From the manner in which the Government of India is unfolding its nuclear war strategy it is now becoming increasingly certain that the fate of millions of Indians has already been sealed. Recognising that there would be massive destruction and colossal loss of lives if Delhi became a target of a nuclear attack, steps are being taken to safeguard the lives of the members of the Union Cabinet while leaving millions of hapless Delhiites and others completely at the mercy of the forces of annihilation.
According to the Hindustan Times, Delhi, dated 22 September 2003, India's Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) has decided to build two bunkers to protect the Union Cabinet in the event of a nuclear strike. The decision was taken on 1 September at the Council's first meeting since it was constituted after the Government of India proclaimed its nuclear command structure in January 2003. The meeting was reportedly headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The bunkers are being constructed purportedly to shelter the Union Cabinet, so as to prevent the country's political leadership from being wiped out in a nuclear strike, and to enable them to continue to run the government. The Council also reportedly agreed to the suggestion that the first nuclear-weapons-proof bunker should be built within South Block, in the heart of Delhi, which houses the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the ministries of defence and external affairs. A decision has also been taken to scout for a suitable location for a back-up bunker within a radius of 400 km in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh where the Cabinet could be flown easily from Delhi. But while the Council is taking adequate precautions to guarantee the survival of the Union Cabinet, no attention is been paid to the destiny of millions of their fellow citizens who would be totally exposed to the ravages of that very nuclear attack.
The doctrine of nuclear deterrence very eloquently asserts that possession of nuclear weapons would deter the adversary from launching a nuclear attack because of the fear of inviting a retaliatory strike. Hence the MAD (Mutually-Assured-Destruction) policy was considered the best guarantee against outbreak of nuclear war. But if this MAD doctrine could really prevent nuclear war, the need for constructing exclusive bunkers for the protection of the political leadership would never have risen.
It is interesting to note that, while India’s own purported nuclear doctrine proclaimed that “the fundamental purpose of Indian nuclear weapons is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by any State or entity against India and its forces”, the focus of its strategic planning was always on the type of response “should deterrence fail” (clause 2.4). Therefore, being fully aware of the fragility of the policy of deterrence, India’s political leadership has decided to take necessary precautions to protect themselves from a nuclear strike without any concern for the fate of their fellow citizens.
Reference may be made here regarding a news-report that had earlier appeared on the subject. It was titled “Preparing for a N-attack Aftermath” and was published in The Hindu, Delhi, dated 06 November 1999. According to the report: “The Delhi Government has proposed a Rs.1,100-crore [$300 million] plan to counter the after-effects in the event of a nuclear attack on the national capital and adjoining areas. The proposal…does not, however, advocate construction of expensive underground shelters….The proposal for Delhi has been premised on the assumption that a nuclear attack will not allow survival within a ‘Dead Zone’ radius of around 24 km to 48km. A ‘Survival Zone’ will begin thereafter and extend to the next 32 km.”
This bizarre nuclear-war impact assessment report hardly seems to have evoked any empathy from the BJP-led Government for the inhabitants of the potential ‘Dead Zone’. (It may be noted that the so-called Rs.1,100-crore survival plan is supposedly meant to save only those in the ‘Survival Zone’.) Instead, in a matter-of-fact manner, the NCA has come out with the current proposal for constructing nuclear-weapons-proof bunkers for the Union Cabinet alone. Under the circumstances, knowing fully well that a nuclear war-fighting plan would seal their fate, should Delhiites and others support such a disastrous plan or should they strive to prevent a nuclear war?
If the doctrine of nuclear deterrence cannot guarantee protection to the people of India from a nuclear strike, why should the Government of India pursue such a policy at all? Does the Government have no other option? The truth is that preventing a nuclear war is not one of the priorities of the BJP-led Government. Consequently in the nuclear doctrine that it proclaimed on 17 August 1999, there is not a word about the need to take urgent steps to prevent nuclear war, a policy that India had steadfastly pursued for five decades. There is no reference in it either to India’s long-held principled stand that the use of nuclear weapons constitutes a violation of the UN Charter and a crime against humanity. The net result was that India’s nuclear doctrine basically became a nuclear-war fighting plan.
Thus, the BJP-led Government’s prime focus is on “punitive retaliation”, while claiming that “India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike” (clause 2.4). As a result, it is seized with the senseless obsession of maintaining “sufficient, survivable and operationally prepared nuclear forces” and of developing “the will to employ nuclear forces and weapons” (clause 2.6) against its arch adversary. The strategy was simple as far as Mr. George Fernandes, India’s controversial Defence Minister, was concerned: “We could take a [nuclear] strike, survive and then hit back, Pakistan would be finished”, he claimed (see Hindustan Times, 30 December 2001). In other words, India could easily “afford” to lose 120 million lives and still “survive”, whereas a similar toll on the side of Pakistan would result in its obliteration. While this convoluted logic seemingly makes sense vis-à-vis Pakistan, how the same will make any sense at all vis-à-vis China is left unsaid! Anyway the issue is not whether India can strike back with greater force for a pyrrhic victory, what should matter is its ability to prevent nuclear holocaust.
If in case the potential holocaust victims of Delhi and elsewhere do not rise up to protest against this insane race towards Armageddon, it is inevitable that sooner than later they will be forced to pay for their folly with their lives. But if the potential Indian victims are really concerned about protecting their lives and that of their fellow beings, they have no alternative other than to strive for the prevention of nuclear war and the elimination of nuclear weapons world-wide. A beginning could be made by forcing the Indian Government (which along with Pakistan continues to rhetorically champion the cause of nuclear disarmament within the four walls of the UN General Assembly) to take concrete steps toward implementation of the laudable proposal on Reducing Nuclear Danger (A/RES/57/84) at a bilateral level. What is unique about it is that it is an Indian proposal which has been regularly adopted by the UN General Assembly for the last five years with the active support of Pakistan.
N.D.Jayaprakash is a member of the Delhi Science Forum/Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace in New Delhi, India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org