India is a peace-loving nation. In the past, when India was a pioneering nation, it never thought of attacking other nations for empire building. Foreigners from time-to-time took advantage of the situation and attacked India. Mughal and later Britishers, ruled India for a couple of centuries and ultimately India became independent in 1947 through non-violence under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. The Constitution of India calls for nonviolence and peaceful co-existence among nations of the world. The cardinal principle of our foreign policy is non-alignment and peaceful co-existence. During 50 years of her independence, India has always tried to develop friendly relations with all foreign nations particularly with her neighbours on the basis of the principles of Panchseel. Inspite of it, India has to face two unprovoked attacks; one from China in 1962 and the other from Pakistan, in 1971. These two attacks on India and piling of arms, both traditional and nuclear, by China and recently by Pakistan have made thinkers in India to consider whether India should also prepare its atomic weapons or it should continue to explore the possibilities of peaceful uses of nuclear energy only.
India has been making researches in atomic energy even before its independence. A systematic effort for development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes started by setting up Atomic Energy Commission under Chairmanship of Dr. Homi Bhabha, immediately after independence. In 1956, India could set up its first Research Reactor ‘Apsra’ ahead of China, Japan and Pakistan. It started nuclear power plants, which are supplementing power supply in India. Indian scientists could carry out successfully their first underground nuclear explosion on May 18, 1974 at Pokhran in Rajasthan. India made it clear, then, that she would restrict her experiments to peaceful uses of nuclear power and would not proceed to develop a nuclear bomb.
Development of a nuclear bomb, its delivery system and stock piling of such arms is a very costly affair. India is a developing country fighting for a reasonable standard of living for its masses. Even without a nuclear bomb, India has to spend a large amount of her meagre financial resources for defence preparedness, which results in slowing down of economic development plans. If India chooses to be a nuclear power, it will have to divert its meagre financial resources from development. This would result in perpetuation of poverty, which no body would like. The stand of our Parliament and Government on this issue has all along been that India is a poor country, which need not go nuclear, because it would result in very heavy strain on its economy. Another important point against India going nuclear is that India’s image in the world is as a strong advocate of peace, which would suffer a set back, if it decided to go nuclear. So far as defense preparedness through nuclear bomb is concerned, it is also highly debatable.
Big powers are today opposed to development of nuclear weapons by . developing countries. They threaten non-nuclear nations that if they attempted development of nuclear bombs, their economic aid would be stopped. Non-proliferation treaty has been designed to make the nations pledge not to go nuclear. India has refused to sign the treaty, because she wants to keep her options open on the one hand and to continue researches in peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Still India has assured world powers that she has no intentions to develop a nuclear bomb.
India should develop its atomic bomb, is a voice heard often. Those who support this view feel that unless India has nuclear capabilities, its neighbours, particularly China and Pakistan who have already developed nuclear bombs would continue to threaten India’s territorial integrity. Defence preparedness is not necessarily for waging a war, but also to scare away warmongers so that enemies may not dare a war with us in future. It is argued that the option of being nuclear should not be viewed merely on an realistic plane, but on a realistic one. It is a question of our survival as a nation. India’s decision that it would not go nuclear, has not prevented Pakistan or China from going nuclear. Big powers are stock piling nuclear devices and want smaller nations to be non-nuclear so that they could be reduced to the status of satellite countries of big nuclear power nations. Therefore, they plead, that India should reconsider her decision. Though a decision to go nuclear may result in retarded economic growth, but ultimately it would result in peace and development. The circumstances and power equation may take such a turn in near future that India may be compelled to go nuclear. It would, therefore be in the fitness of things that India takes a timely decision for development of nuclear weapons.
There are strong arguments both in favor and against India being a nuclear power. A pragmatic view of the situation is to be taken by keeping realities and hard facts before us. Even though we may not pile up huge stocks of nuclear bombs, still we should develop our capabilities in this regard and let our neighbours and world know that if circumstances force her, she would be able to manufacture atom bomb only to ensure her safety.