The statement a few days ago by Nawaz Sharif, the former Pakistani Prime Minister that his country possesses a nuclear bomb has caused an explosion of anger in India.
An Indian official spokesperson said that the Pakistan bomb was a threat and it would take all necessary steps to safeguard 'our national security.'
An embarrassed Pakistani Foreign Minister Assef Ali described Sharif's statement as "a pack of lies." He added that "we've the capacity but no bomb."
The question arises as to why all this hullabaloo about the Pak bomb? Is it not 'Paak' as all bombs should be?
Why this grave concern at Pakistan's nuclear program and especially from India which exploded the bomb some twenty odd years ago.
India, like Israel, has not signed the NPT or allowed inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear installations. However, since it has the bomb there is no reason to do that. Nor have North Korea and South Africa done so. Why then all the fuss about Pakistan's nuclear plan. India claims it's weapon-oriented. Pakistan claims it's not.
Indian newspapers have had a field day reporting on the seizure of four men in a bid to smuggle plutonium in Germany. They claimed they were Pakistanis. However, Western intelligence agencies have confirmed that two of the smugglers arrested had connections with ETA, the Basque Separatist Organization. Maybe they were wearing shalwar kameez as their disguises!!
Unnecessary hysteria is being created in the Indian press and they have begun to believe their own lies.
At a time when cool minds should think of calming a somewhat stormy period in relations the Indian press is indulging in jingoism. This to me is more disastrous and dangerous than Pakistan's nuclear program.
India itself was the main actor in a clandestine operation that involved smuggling of enough heavy water to start three large reactors.
From 1983 to 1987, Alfred Hempel, a German freelance nuclear broker made secret shipments of 4.7 tons of Soviet heavy water and sent the lot to Bombay. An appropriate name for a city receiving this shipment!
Western officials began suspecting something was amiss but did not do anything about and Mr. Hempel was allowed to act freely.
However, today with the spotlight on Russia and the assumption that there may be as much as 150 Kg. of weapons-grade nuclear material
in illegal circulation in Europe, the situation becomes serious.
A nagging question that remains unanswered is the identity of the nuclear customers. The Indian press, of course, has the answer - Pakistan.
However, it is a case "of shooting yourself in the foot" as one colleague described Sharif's statement. No amount of explanations by Pakistani officials could hold down screaming Indian voices.
Why did Nawaz Sharif do it? We don't know. I don't know, even though I have met him many times and he seems to be a responsible person.
Why has Nawaz Sharif found it expedient to pretend his country is already in possession of a nuclear bomb, we do not know. However,
we are all aware of the 'concern' about Pakistan going nuke.
The Indians now have the opportunity to use it as a propaganda weapon.
Internationally, the Indian government has its diplomats buzzing like bees to prompt the West and especially the mercurial United States administration into action. Domestically this jingoism acts as food for the millions of hungry people. India's arms imports, which account for a whopping size of the national budget, cuts through its economic programs. A large chunk goes to crush the uprising in Kashmir. It seems not to have dawned on the government that diverting a fraction of the budget could be better used to provide education and drinking water for 215 million people.
Mr. Narasimha Rao was apparently playing to the gallery when he said that India might annex Azad Kashmir if Islamabad continues its arming of militants in the Indian part of the disputed state.
Till now it has not dawned on him that the Kashmir dispute is not one of territory. But an issue of self determination for a nation of 14 million. No protracted negotiations or diplomacy are likely to resolve it without the active participation of Kashmiri leaders.
With all this tension in the background, Indian leaders will do well to serve their country by asking the government to sit with genuine Kashmiri leaders and look into their needs.
The Indian press should also play a responsible role and not look around for villains. It is important that the media uncover and investigate. I myself am not for a tame press. However, there should be a responsible press which should keep the country's best interest at heart.
Beating war drums is just not doing that.