The Editorial Board of The New York Times often forgets that its prescriptions about global problems and crises originate in a country that is frequently the cause of those problems and crises. Its July 5 editorial headlined ‘India’s Role in the Nuclear Race’ is a case in point. Let me quote the first couple of paragraphs from the edit and then offer my view of zero consequence.
“India is seeking membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 48-nation body established 40 years ago to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military purposes, as was done by India itself. Membership would greatly enhance the acceptance of India as a nuclear weapons state and give it a say in how countries trade in nuclear-related exports.
The application, which was discussed at a meeting in Buenos Aires last month, should not be granted until India proves itself willing to take a leading role in halting the spread of the world’s most lethal weapons. One way to do that would be by opening negotiations with Pakistan and China to end the dangerous regional nuclear arms race.”
According to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), between the United States and Russia, there are 15,315 nuclear weapons. America has 1920 operational strategic warheads, 184 non-operational strategic warheads, 2661 reserve and non-deployed warheads and a military stockpile of 475. Russia has 1600 operational strategic warheads, no non-operational strategic warheads, 2700 reserve and non-deployed warheads and a military stockpile of 4300. The third nearest rival with operational strategic weapons is France with 260 operational strategic weapons. Britain has 160 operational strategic weapons.
FAS says, “More than two decades after the Cold War ended, the world’s combined inventory of nuclear warheads remains at a very high level: more than 16,000. Of these, nearly 4,200 warheads are considered operational, of which about 1,800 US and Russian warheads are on high alert, ready for use on short notice.”
Now contrast those figures with China, India and Pakistan, the three countries that the Times feels compelled to comment on. China has no operational strategic nuclear weapons, according to FAS’s estimate, but has a total inventory of 250 weapons. Pakistan has no operational strategic weapons either but has between 100 and 120 reserve/non-deployed nuclear weapons. India also has no operational strategic nuclear weapons but has between 90 and 110 reserve/ non-deployed nuclear weapons, according to FAS.
With this as the backdrop it seems farcical to me for “The Editorial Board” of the Times to expect India to “take a leading role in halting the spread of the world’s most lethal weapons.” And that too with its two most frenzied neighbors with whom it has fought wars. If America and Russia with their massive inventory and long decades of preeminence as superpowers could not “take a leading role in halting the spread of the world’s most lethal weapons” how does the Times propose India play that role with its two most visceral adversaries?
I am mindful of the utter futility of countering opinions of people and institutions. That said, I have this blog to run. Hence this rejoinder. For someone who believes not just one nuclear weapon but any weapon is one too many, it is painfully obvious that the nuclear horse bolted the stable decades ago. Other than banking on our collective primal survival instinct overriding any recklessness among the nuclear powers, I do not expect much else.