Sunday, Aug 07, 2022
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Review

Behind The Buddha's Mask

A forceful, compelling account of the history of India's nuclear programme and policy

Behind The Buddha's Mask
Behind The Buddha's Mask
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

India's Nuclear Bomb reinforces the thesis that there is a greater deal of continuity to India's present nuclear policy than is usually imagined. In other words, India's nuclear weapons programme and policy must not be seen as the product of the BJP's right-wing agenda, but is rooted in a process that goes back to that usually unassailable champion of disarmament, Jawaharlal Nehru. Perkovich ably documents Nehru's contradictory statements which revealed, at the very least, that he recognised the potential security benefits of India's civilian nuclear programme even while New Delhi led the cause of nuclear elimination in multilateral fora. While Shastri and Indira Gandhi's inputs into India's nuclear programme are well known, Perkovich reveals with rare insight the role played by Rajiv Gandhi and V.P. Singh in furthering weaponisation. In 1985, Gandhi and in 1990, Singh set up secret committees on the nuclear issue. The 1985 committee, which included General Sundarji, Vice Admiral K.K. Nayyar and the Atomic Energy Commission's R. Chidambaram recommended that India build a minimum deterrent force, "guided by a strict doctrine of no-first-use and dedicated only to retaliating against a nuclear attack on India". A doctrine not very different from the one drafted by the National Security Advisory Board last year. And in 1990, a committee which included Sundarji, K. Subrahmanyam, Arun Singh and representatives from the AEC and DRDO developed plans to "ensuring that in the event of a nuclear attack on India, the government would continue to function and be able to deliver nuclear retaliation". Among its conclusions, the group called for "designating air force units to receive nuclear devices and deliver them according to previously prepared orders".

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