What difference does it make who signed the Pokhran files? Brajesh Mishra, the powerful former security advisor to then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, revealed a bit too late. There was a time when the Congress must have felt elated to claim making India nuclear. The first Pokhran test (in 1974) was their contribution and Indira Gandhi dared the Americans bravely. Should we be ashamed of it or try to delete that chapter from Indian history just because she happened to be another party's leader?
If Rajiv Gandhi signed the file clearing the way for Pokhran-II and Vajpayee did take the final step successfully, should the fight be on credit or the efforts made for an unanimity on those brave acts to take the nation on the path of Pokhran-III - if ever required?
Indians should develop a habit of feeling elated to see any other Indian succeeding for the cause of the motherland. That way the present United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has done injustice to the Indian cause by refusing to celebrate the Pokhran-II anniversary.
It was certainly a great moment. Indira Gandhi did the first Pokhran blast and while P.V. Narasimha Rao couldn't muster courage after the leak to the Americans and their subsequent pressure, Vajpayee, like Shivaji, did the whole operation in such a grand fashion that all pervasive US satellites failed and the world shook on May 11, 1998, seeing mushroom clouds over the desert of Rajasthan. A peeved and bruised US imposed all sorts of sanctions fooled by the Europeans and the Japanese too. Who cared? We emerged taller and all the sanctions were removed without our applying for it in their durbar.
Remember the days when Americans were refusing super computers and Russians were stopped from providing cryogenic engines? The fuel crisis and the technological components, the essential parts for our nuclear plants and heavy industry and so on so forth. All tactics were used to make us bend on knees and say sorry. India refused.
Our scientists did us proud by producing supercomputer Param in less than half the American cost and as good, if not even better. The spirit of Swadeshi, self reliance and indigenous brilliance was recognized. India asserted its sovereign rights and stood tall in the comity of nations.
But everything has a price, especially to stand firm as a proud people. The cost India gave is certainly high; we have been longing to get the best in hardware for our nuclear plants and heavy industry. Even for our labs and IITs, the supplies got stuck post Pokhran-II and the votaries of signing the 123 agreement with the US put up the same argument - ink the agreement and get all what you need. The crowd crying to sign is the same that advocates beheading the solution for a headache.
A society and a nation doesn't live just on un-interrupted power supplies and peaceful armed forces de-teethed to please some donors. And while donor nations keep on arming and financing our deadly enemies in the neighborhood sitting pretty on their nuclear godowns, the nice sweet and energy-starved are advised to work on their peaceful purposes.
India did its first explosion in May 1974 and named it 'Smiling Buddha'. That was Indira Gandhi's time and we had a great patriotic scientist in Homi Bhabha. Even that time, those who are aggressively campaigning to cap our nuclear programme were frowning furiously at us and helped Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's 'Islamic bomb' dreams get realized clandestinely.
Now India is surrounded by two unreliable nuclear power states and both of them have been at war with us, both of them have usurped a large part of our land and still clamoring for more. One of them has been singularly responsible for killings of more than 100,000 Indian citizens by way of direct war and proxy-wars through Islamic jihadis in the last three decades.
Apart from these two worthies, we are surrounded by failed states who threaten our security and territorial integrity. If Bangladesh, a 'jihad factory' sends our dead soldiers tied to bamboo poles like animals and exports its extra heads to become our illegal guests, Sri Lankan battle fields have cast a bloody shadow on our domestic politics claiming one prime minister. And look at Nepal. The Red Army rule in Kathmandu means China reaching as close to us as Gorakhpur, and Badrinath.
In this scenario, it is not to suggest that we shall use tiny bits of nuclear explosions to silence the dangers, but having the strength to strike in times of need means having a credible deterrence to frighten the arrogant and mischievous aggressor. Given the past record, it's only India on this planet that can be trusted for using nuclear power for peaceful purpose that includes the purpose to maintain peace and scare the enemy from becoming the first striker.
The nationalists are not blindly opposed to the nuclear deal with the US. In spite of the fact that neither the Clinton years nor the Bush era proved great for bilateral relationship, Clinton pushed us hard to de-nuclearize and for the first time used a ghastly incorrect term - Hindu terrorists - in reference to a terror attack in Chhittisinghpura in Jammu and Kashmir when 35 Sikhs were killed. Bush refused to address our terror wounds by ignoring Pakistan's support to Taliban and entertaining Kashmiri separatists.
Still an India-US friendship is always welcome for the present world scenario where India needs democratic cohesiveness to smoothen its path to economic progress. But it can't be done by sealing our doors and keeping the keys with Washington's mercurial masters.
Friendship doesn't mean complete surrender of our future options to the whims and egos of a nation whose track record doesn't instill confidence to call him an 'all weather ally'. In fact, we need a prime minister who would have the guts to go for Pokhran-III, if need be. And why not? We may wish never ever having to go that way, but that also means wishing that US and other nuclear club members take a complete Gandhian turn and empty their nuclear store houses for ever!!
This government neither represents the nationalist spirit of the Congress' basic identity nor the character of Indian patriotism.
It's a small coterie of people willing to sacrifice greater interests of the nation for smaller gains. Hence should we believe that the tenth and an un-celebrated anniversary of Pokaran-II, fell on the death of the Pokhran-III prospects?
(Tarun Vijay is director, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, a right wing think tank. The views expressed are his own. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)