- (March 2006)
India's nuclear lesson.
The USA and most of the West strongly disapproved when India began a nuclear
arms race in the Indian subcontinent. It was an act of stupidity that simply
caused Pakistan to reply in kind by detonating its own nuclear bomb. It did
not increase India's chances of winning a war against Pakistan. It only
increased the chances that more countries in the neighborhood would seek
to build their own nuclear bombs. That is precisely what happened: Iran is
trying to build its own nuclear weapon, although it keeps insisting that it
needs nuclear power only for civilian purposes. The truth is that Iran has
plenty of reasons to claim its own right to a nuclear arsenal
(see Iran vs Europe). After all,
almost all of its neighbors have it, directly (Russia, Israel, Pakistan,
India) or indirectly (Afghanistan and Iraq are controlled by the USA).
Thus India's action increased the degree of danger in the world. Coming
from a country that is not yet capable of feeding all its citizens, it truly
looked like a reckless act of colossal stupidity.
Instead in 2006 it looks like India is being rewarded by the USA for becoming
a nuclear power. Critics of the recent nuclear agreement between India and the
USA insist that it is a blatant contradiction: while the USA tries to convince
North Korea and Iran to abandon their nuclear project, the USA rewards India
precisely for disobeying. Countries that accepted to dismantle their nuclear
programs (Libya) have reaped precious few benefits, but India, that refused
to dismantle its nuclear program, are now being rewarded with the status
of nuclear power.
First of all, let us remember that this "contradiction" is a personal gesture
by George W Bush. It is far from certain that the USA Congress will approve it,
and it far from known if the majority of USA citizens, who were probably caught
by surprise by the whole issue, will be proud or ashamed.
Second, Bush indirectly set a new standard for determining which rules apply
in foreign relations, which is actually the oldest standard of them all:
behavior matters more than precedent or rule. India has proven to belong to
the league of responsible, democratic, peace-loving states, therefore it is
welcome in the club. So did Israel, a country that could annihilate its
enemies but so far has not even invaded them.
North Korea and Iran are not welcome in the club because they have proven to
be irresponsible, totalitarian and aggressive states (North Korea routinely
threatens South Korea and Japan, and Iran has called for the destruction of
Israel, besides being the original sponsor of international terrorism).
For several decades the West tried to create an "international law" that
could be applied more or less mechanically to any situation that arose in
the world. It looks like in 2006 the West (or at least the government of
its most powerful country) is going back to the pragmatic rule of rewarding
friends and punishing enemies as the only international law that matters.
A country that fully understood this new rule is Pakistan, or at least its
president. Musharraf has invested a lot and risked his own life to behave
like a good ally of the USA in the war against terrorism. While Pakistan has
not been rewarded the same way that India has, it has not been punished like
Iran or North Korea either. India is already in paradise, Pakistan is still
in purgatory, and the status of both depends on their behavior, not on
The problem, of course, is that there are many countries that can claim
"good behavior" and that could build a nuclear weapon if they wanted to:
Japan, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Australia, just to name the obious
ones (democratic and technologically advanced countries). But, let's face it, in 2006 the know-how to build a nuclear weapon is
not difficult to acquire. The number of countries that could potentially
become nuclear powers is very large. Many of them are USA allies.
How will the USA tell them that they cannot do what India did?
As usual, one gets the feeling that Bush has not thought things through.
What will Brazil, a democratic country with an economy of the same size as
India's and a population larger than Russia's, think of this USA-India deal?
And, even more importantly, what will the visceral anti-USA president of
Venezuela think of it?
What will emerging regional powers such as Nigeria or South Africa think?
If the poor Indian subcontinent can have two nuclear powers, how far are we
from the day that the African continent will have a nuclear power?
If Pakistan can have a nuclear bomb, why not Indonesia, a country with
a similar population and economy?
India's act of stupidity proved to be an act of genius. Individuals tend to
follow the example of successful individuals. So do countries.
TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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