Read the PASSAGE|When Mountains Die

I saw on television a picture more awesome than the familiar mushroom cloud of nuclear explosion. The mountain had turned white. I wondered how much pain had been felt by nature, God’s most wondrous creation. The great mountain in Chagai will turn in time to solid ash! And we, who are so proud of our mountains?

India’s mindless right-wing leaders who started it all and then proceeded to goad Pakistan into baring its nuclear capabilities may never acknowledge that they have committed a crime against India and its neighbours, and that not one good – strategic or tactical, political or economic – can accrue from their blunder. An Indian scientist, Dr. Vinod Mubayi, rightly says that the RSS has now Killed Gandhi twice: his body in 1948, and his legacy 50 years later.

India shall suffer for some time to come from the effects of these killings. It had enjoyed what the French call a prejuge favourable in world opinion, a mystique of being uniquely ancient and pluralistic, a land of Hindus and Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Zoroastrians, the spiritual home of Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, Father Daniel Berrigan, and Martin Luther King. In a single blow, the BJP government has destroyed India’s greatest asset. And more:

After decades of bitter squabble, India’s relations with China, the world’s most populous country and a fast growing economic giant, had been improving for the last six years. The Sino-India amity had reached a level significant enough for Chinese leaders to counsel Pakistan, their old ally, to resolve its disputes with India. In a conversation with e a few weeks ago, former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral cited Sino. Indian cordiality as a model for Indo-Pakistan relations. A high-level Chinese military delegation was in India when Prime Minister Atal Behari Wajpayee proudly announced his first three nuclear tests. These had preceded and followed anti-China rhetoric. India’s greatest single foreign policy achievement of the last two decades was thus buried away like nuclear waste.

For nearly four decades, India’s rate of growth had remained low at around four per cent per annum. Economists the world over dubbed this mysterious consistency as the ‘Hindu rate of growth’. Then a decade ago, the curve began to move upward reaching a whopping 7.5% last year. Hope had never prevailed so widely in India since independence, and international capital had begun to view it as a grand investment prospect. Economists expected that in the next decade India will maintain a 7% rate of growth, just about wiping out the abject poverty that so assails its people. This expectation too has been interred in the Pokhran wasteland. International economists now estimate that in the financial year that ended on March 31, India’s growth would show a decline from the projected 7.5% to 5%; these estimates are based not on the effects of sanctions but on the adverse turn in the investment climate.

Excepting a few interregnums, such as the short-lived government of I.K. Gujral, India’s governments have not been very sensitive toward their neighbours. At regional and international conferences, a participant is often astonished at the antipathy delegates from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bangladesh express towards India’s policies. But I believe nothing had shocked and angered its 3+2nuclear tests, thus starting a spiral of nuclear arms race and open the way to potential holocaust in South Asia. They have a right to anxiety and anger as nature has so willed that they are no more safe than Indians and Pakistanis are from the nuclear fallout.

Eqbal Ahmad Reader

Writings on India, Pakistan and Kashmir

Edited by: Sarthak Tomar