A declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) document claimed that after returning to power in 1980, the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had considered military action on Pakistan’s nuclear installations to prevent it from acquiring weapons capabilities.
According to a redacted version of the 12-page CIA document titled, “India’s Reaction to Nuclear Developments in Pakistan,” the decision was being made by then Indian Prime Minister as the US was in an advanced stage of providing its fighter jets F-16 to Pakistan.
Indian American Times reached out to Ravi Batra, Chair, National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs for his reaction to the CIA report (Read full coverage here)
New York – Unlike the Dick Chaney-solicited discredited WMD national intelligence estimate that supported the launch of the Iraq War and Ill-advised regime change (which threw the Sunni-Shia regional balance out of whack), this Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE) does our CIA and intelligence services proud – for it is proven to be accurate human intel-based analysis. Given the current disagreement over the historic Iran Nuclear Deal, there is wisdom in this SNIE that ought not be ignored – even as its P5+1 and Iran.
While PM Margaret Thatcher went to war, PM Indira Gandhi disfavored attacking a neighbor to destroy her sovereign nuclear weapons production capacity – and instead chose conservative counter-balancing legal development of nuclear weapons. Nuclear arms race is better than conventional war – is statecraft wisdom. Critical to this laudatory course of action, is India’s SNIE-documented state of mind: nuclear weapons power ends conventional weapons asymmetry among nations and “in time produce a climate conducive to improving (bilateral) relations (albeit, this was in context of China-India relations).
The then role of China and then-Soviet Union, each supporting Pakistan and India, respectively, along with the US’ proposed sale of F-16s to Pakistan, our security partner, is nuanced P3-dimensional chessboard upon which India and Pakistan played and moved. As history happily proved, India & Pakistan proved their bilateral maturity, with the P3 pull & push, and no nuclear weapon war or conventional weapons war occurred. The relative difference in their economies and the disparate wellbeing of the everyday hardworking Indian and Pakistani may be the coefficient of difference in the robust or shrill nature of politics domestic to each such nation. The happier and better off a nation’s population is, less is the sovereign soil fertile for incubating terror, and exporting of same as a tool or unacknowledged asset of statecraft.
This SNIE should reassure the people of Pakistan and India that their governments know not only the sovereign right to war, but better yet have the judgment to read each other well and act in a calibrated manner to avoid a bruising and unhelpful war. Nice to know that India and Pakistan had leaders that were capable to dance to the highest tunes without military or civilian casualties, and indeed served to create a nuclear weapons capacity that in time was conducive to improving bilateral relations.
This SNIE shows that a nuclear arms race is a conservative course of action, rather than a war over another’s nuclear weapons capacity. After all, mutual assured nuclear destruction is a reality no nation can permit a madman to toy with, and such destructive mutuality, with reciprocal maturity, becomes the fertile soil of peace and prosperity for all.
The United States did us proud, and the India civil nuclear deal occurred decades later, obviously supported by this SNIE – as a predicate proof of India honoring its international commitments and the existence of an unappreciated wise and mature bilateral partnership that benefits from P3 on the chessboard with timely sovereign independence, rather than dependence. This SNIE ought encourage these neighbors, India and Pakistan, to embark upon a path of greater trust, with random verification, so that their people can sooner enjoy the fruit of greater peace and prosperity with full and free movement of people and goods – as befits the sons and daughters of a common soil.