50 Years Ago: Indian A-Bomb

The plain fact about the Indian government’s much publicised decision, several years ago, not to produce an atomic bomb is that it is too good to be true.

And so it is turning out.

India’s renunciation meant that some people thought of her as a country where human interests were put above those of narrow nationalism. India was held up as an example for the rest of the sabre-rattling world to follow.

This has never been consistent with the way India acted over, say Goa and Kashmir – incidents which made Delhi’s attitude to atomic weapons look suspiciously like one inspired by anything but humanitarianism.

In any case, the Indian government always made it clear that, if the international situation demanded it, they would make the Bomb. For a long time they have been working on the basics of a nuclear weapon – their separation plant near Bombay, which produces plutonium, has been working for over a year.

And now comes the news from New Delhi that the pressure from Indian military and political circles to make the Bomb is growing, and that (according to The Guardian of 27th September last) the first one may be exploded sometime next year.

The campaign in favour of an Indian Bomb, to go with the rest in the world, has gathered strength from recent events. Indian military men complain that Pakistan had the advantage of advanced American weapons in the fighting in Kashmir, and that the threat from China looms ever larger.

They also claim that the old argument, that the Bomb was too expensive, has been disproved. The estimated cost is now around £20 million. There is no record yet of anyone in India protesting at this sort of money being spent on weapons by a country which has such a chronic problem of hunger and disease.

Such considerations are irrelevant. The reasons for making the Bomb are always the same; one senior Indian officer summed them up: “. . . if national interests are at stake . . . we have no alternative but to go ahead.”

Everyone is familiar now with the argument of “national interests”. It is used to excuse any suffering, any atrocity, any betrayal. It is an argument which will be used by many nations if and when a global nuclear war ever starts.

It is only appropriate that we should be hearing the same argument now that India may be getting ready to go back on her word over atomic weapons. It is also appropriate that India, who has done so much to foster the idea that there are such things as oases of nobility among the murderous desert of capitalism, should herself expose the fallacy.

(from News in Review, Socialist Standard, November 1965)

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