Vol 3, PW 16 (01 Sep 99) People & Policy

Should companies investing in India be worried that India is formulating a Nuclear Doctrine Not really.

All that has been announced is a Discussion Paper, which could - one day - form the basis of a nuclear weapons programme, no different to that already available to China, the US, Russia, the UK and France. No one likes nuclear weapons, but the fact that these countries all have them, and are ready to slap Indias wrist because it has raised the possibility that it too would like a similar toy, suggests a degree of hypocrisy, not to mention racism, which is stinging the Indian public and government.

The US has been the quickest to react, announcing it is delaying the lifting of sanctions, imposed after Indias nuclear tests last year at Pokhran, while Japan wants a meeting with the Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh "at the earliest". There is no doubt Indias motives for wanting nuclear weapons are highly questionable, if not plain stupid.

We are after all living in an era where the worlds nuclear powers are decommissioning nuclear weapons - not commissioning them. But to get over-excited at Indias position is to completely miss the point.

And the point is this: India is about to vote in an election where the BJP wants to extract maximum political capital from its image as the only party in the country that has National Security as top priority - an image greatly enhanced by its deft and ultimately successful handling of the Kargil crisis. Electioneering and a hope that macho talk of nuclear weapons will win votes is the only reason the BJP has made public its nuclear intentions now.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh hopes to make that clear to US Secretary of State Madelaine Albright when he meets her later this month in New York.