Asian nuclear race generates global concern

Jake Kapsner

In the wake of India and Pakistan’s underground nuclear tests in May, world leaders and citizens are concerned the nations have fueled an old rivalry and strained attempts to contain the spread of nuclear arms.
This discussion came to the University on Monday, when Admiral L. Ramdas, former chief of the Indian navy, spoke to 70 citizens at the Carlson School of Management about the complexity of harboring a nuclear defense system and the need for global disarmament.
“India and Pakistan don’t need these weapons. Neither does the U.S. or Russia. Nobody needs them,” Ramdas said.
He said if the international community doesn’t stop the spread of nuclear weapons now, soon there will be 20 or 30 nuclear nations.
The five original countries with the bomb, or P-5, include the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia. In June, these countries joined a coalition demanding India and Pakistan stop nuclear testing.
Ramdas noted that the outcry from P-5 nations was hypocritical.
The current situation is especially dangerous because India and Pakistan don’t have the necessary technology for a deterrence-model arms race — like the United States and the Soviet Union used during the Cold War, he said.
Ramdas said the theory of deterring war with nuclear might is a myth. The theory operates under an assumption that a balance of weaponry must exist, but because each country continues to stockpile and sophisticate its weaponry, there is no balance.
“India and Pakistan have no nuclear strategy,” Ramdas said. “The only strategy they have is that they hate each other.”
The bordering countries have a history of conflict, and leaders from each have said security concerns led them to nuclear technology, he said.
Arvind Anluck-Wilson, a nuclear physicist, came to the lecture with members of the Minnesota chapter of the World Federalists Association.
His group promotes a global-level government which would be responsible for conflict resolution, including nuclear disarmaments, an idea Ramdas supported.
The audience questioned, challenged and spoke out during the two-hour discussion, which was sponsored by five University departments.
After a student asked Ramdas if India’s government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, tested the bomb to tap national pride, a University math professor offered his own take on India’s nuclear motivation.
“It’s not nationalism, but pure human nature — that you want to be taken seriously,” said Alfred Aeppli, also a World Federalist.
He mused that India built the bomb to gain world respect, a repeating trend in history; only now every country wants to be taken seriously.
A handful of University graduate students from India echoed Ramdas’ sentiments. The students contended the root of the problem is unstable governance which fuels the people’s insecurity.
“I came here expecting to hear a representative of the army who was for India taking the nuclear option,” said Prashanth Holenarsipur, a University graduate student studying electrical engineering. “It was a nice surprise to know that he was against it.”