Monday 28 May 2007

India's 'Caste' in the Global Nuclear Network (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat 

Manipal, India — A millennium ago, when Muslim armies began succeeding in defeating their Hindu rivals, such victories came despite the latter's greater opulence. A contributory factor was caste. Only certain "high-born" groups were permitted to bear arms in defense of the state. Their number did not exceed 9 percent of the total population. Had a more equitable social structure been in place, India's history may have been different.

It was only in the 1960s that democratic elections became the instrument through which the "backward castes" were able to claim equal rights with the rest. Ironically, since that time a new caste system has arisen, again one that denies upward mobility to those condemned to second-class, or worse, status. This is the international nuclear order implemented through the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which permanently restricts the right to possess nuclear weapons to only five countries -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China.

Since then, Israel, India, Pakistan and now North Korea have emerged as de facto nuclear weapons states. Of these, Israel has not thus far tested a nuclear weapon, although it has clearly had access to the technology needed to build a stockpile of them. Of the other three, Pakistan and North Korea are both authoritarian states known to have proliferated both nuclear as well as missile technology, and to have secured the know-how for developing both from third countries.