The prime minister has hailed the nuclear tests as a national achievement.
The first blast at Pokhran had already established that India had nuclear capability. There was no need to prove the point again. The recent blasts are essentially a repetition of what was achieved in 1974 with perhaps some small improvements. The BJP is playing on public sentiment by raising the bogey of the traditional enemies, Pakistan and China.
You have also said the tests were cleverly timed.
The BJP government so far has a record of non-performance. It is either fighting within its ranks or surrendering to the blackmailing of its allies. The blasts were meant to take public attention away from all this and, in the process, make tall claims which the ordinary citizen is in no position to judge. The BJP wants to convey the impression that it has now turned India into a nuclear power. What is meant thereby, I do not understand. Repeated tests, so far as I can judge, have merely earned a bad name for India.
But the US and other western powers have adopted a stand on the nuclear issue that is clearly hypocritical.
Who doesn't have double standards? Is India without double standards? Nobody is more hypocritical than Indians. We preach non-violence all the time in the name of Gandhiji and practice exactly the opposite.
That still leaves the American position unanswered.
I am not interested in answering the American position. Economic power is what governs the world. America is way above us in terms of economic power. The nuclear tests are not going to bring us on par with the US. Japan has a per capita income higher than that of America and yet even they do not claim to be equals in economic terms.
Do you foresee economic repercussions, given the threat of sanctions?
We are not dependent on food from abroad. Or steel. We make most of our own machinery. We are not helpless. On the question of aid cutbacks, we have reached a stage in our development where we can manage without aid. All we need to do is continue increasing faster our exports to earn more foreign exchange.
What about the ongoing projects funded by the IMF and World Bank?
The IMF and the World Bank are now very much on the defensive all over the world. The country they give full support to,along with US was Indonesia. See what has happened there. The Indonesian economy has collapsed. India has in fact done far better than Indonesia. India is being demoralised by its politicians and their brand of journalists.
Do you see a positive side to the tests?
None at all. India has lost whatever image it had for being a reasonable people. Even Japan, which normally does not speak out, has condemned us. The Japanese have had good reason to respect us. After all, we never claimed compensation for the losses incurred by us in the war with Japan.
Some would say the tests have done wonders for national self-respect.
This government has only given reason for India to be ashamed of itself. The tests have derailed our priorities. I was associated with Nehru during the preparation of the First Five Year Plan and was entrusted with the responsibility of charting out our path for long-term development. At that time we expected to be able to raise the rate of investment in India from 5 per cent of the national income in 1950-51 to 20 per cent over a 25-30 year period. We exceeded that target long ago. We now have a rate of saving and investment of the order of 27 per cent of the national income. From the early '90s, our national income has been therefore growing between 6 and 7 per cent per annum, whereas our original growth-rate target (set in 1951) was no higher than 5 per cent. We now need to concentrate on a more equitable distribution of income and consumption. In Kerala, and more generally in south India, primary education and primary health standards have improved far more than most states in north India. This now relatively backward region covers Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and UP and has been aptly described as the BIMARU states. These are the states that the BJP government needs to focus attention on, especially since most of its electoral support comes from these states. A few nuclear blasts help neither the standard of living in these states nor the country at large, which is growing rapidly economically.