fifty years ago March 12, 1970 Archives

India not to go in for atom bomb

The Defence Minister, Mr. Swaran Singh turned down in the Lok Sabha to-day [March 11, New Delhi] the Jan Sangh member, Mr. Kanwarlal Gupta’s demand that India should go nuclear. Replying to a half-hour debate raised by Mr. Gupta, the Minister said nothing had happened to change the policy decision taken by the Government in this matter. Mr. Singh described as “hypothetical” and declined to answer a question whether the Government’s decision meant that India would not go in for nuclear weapon programme for all times to come. But he said that the “primary consideration” (in taking such decisions) was the safeguarding of the nation’s security. At the present moment, the decision of the Government was as had been stated. “If the situation changes, can decide what other action we should take,” he observed.

In the course of the debate there were sharp exchanges at one stage between the Defence Minister on the one hand and Mr. Kanwar Lal Gupta and Mr. M. L. Sondhi, also Jan Sangh, on the other. Mr. Sondhi reacted sharply when the Minister developed the point that no nation on earth, a non-nuclear one in particular, had any real danger of being attacked with nuclear weapons by any of the powers possessing such weapons. The destructive potential of nuclear warfare being well-known, it would be nothing short of “madness” on the part of any nuclear power to use the nuclear weapon, specially against a nonnuclear power. If such a thing happened, the world was simply not going to be a silent spectator.

Rising agitatedly in his seat, Mr. Sondhi charged the Minister with making a “most irresponsible statement”. “You are misleading the country”, he said. Mr. Swaran Singh hit back by returning the charge. Raising the discussion, Mr. Gupta asserted that a non-nuclear India would be an easy prey for China which had become a nuclear power. He did not agree that India did not have the economic capacity to sustain a nuclear programme. According to Prof. Swamy, a Harvard-returned economist, the cost of the programme was going to be Rs. 750 crores and not Rs. 18,000 crores as was made put. Replying, Mr. Swaran Singh said that for several years to come, the threat that India was going to face along its long border was the threat from conventional weaponry. Therefore, there would be no let up in the preparation to meet such a threat.

Mr. Swaran Singh also assured the members that India would not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in its present form even though it had been ratified by more than the requisite 40 countries. The treaty was no guarantee against vertical proliferation of the nuclear weapons by the nuclear club members. He said this was not a race in which one could enter in an “amateurish” manner. And after all was said and done, the hard reality remained that there really was no defence against nuclear attack, even for the countries having their own nuclear stockpiles. There was also no fear of any country supplying the nuclear capability to Pakistan, the Defence Minister said.

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