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Brajesh Mishra, former National Security Advisor, thinks the Indo-US nuclear deal will not adversely affect India’s strategic programme and says so in a television interview with Karan Thapar. Excerpts.


Karan Thapar: As a former national security advisor are you satisfied that if India goes ahead with the deal it won’t in any way damage or constraint its strategic nuclear deterrent?

Brajesh Mishra: Well, after the talks I’ve had with various representatives of the Government of India at a fairly high level and some scientists, I’m convinced that there is not going to be any major impact on the strategic programme through the deal. If there is any impact on the programme it is because we have other constraints, like lack of fuel. That is a possibility but not through this deal. This deal doesn’t stop us from continuing our strategic programme in the way we have tried to do in the past.

Karan Thapar: Are you satisfied with the Government’s claim that the deal won’t in any way lead to India losing its rights to carry further nuclear tests?

Brajesh Mishra: There is no doubt about it that there’s no bar on India undertaking nuclear tests. Of course exercising that option means a lot of hardships, economic and otherwise, because sanctions will inevitably follow. People talk about the Hyde Act not permitting nuclear tests but that is not really true. It is the 1954 Act of the US Congress and the mother of all Acts-it imposes conditions and sanctions on those who undertake nuclear tests.

We’re not barred from undertaking tests if we’re ready to pay the costs of sanctions, etc.

Karan Thapar: So, both in terms of future nuclear tests and in terms of any damage done to India’s strategic nuclear deterrent you are relatively satisfied that if India signs the nuclear deal there will be no deleterious effect in either case?

Brajesh Mishra: Yes, as far as the testing is concerned there is really no bar and as far deterrence is concerned, knowing the conditions in this country and knowing what has happened in the past, I would say I am more or less satisfied.

Karan Thapar: Do you accept that if a future Democratic President in America were to sign the CTBT, which many believe would be likely to be the case, he or she would inevitably set in motion a chain of events which would leave India also signing and thus foreclosing forever the option of nuclear tests?

Brajesh Mishra: But why do you think it is only a Democratic candidate who might do it. There is a possibility that a Republican President would seek Congressional approval for ratification of the treaty.

Karan Thapar: So whenever an American President signs CTBT a chain of events would be set in motion which would lead to India singing as well and therefore the option of nuclear tests would be closed forever at that time.

Brajesh Mishra: The US has already signed it, the question is of ratification. Since one is fairly certain that the Democrats will continue to control both Houses of the Congress I would say the ratification will come through. In that case will India stand in the way of the treaty coming into effect-I doubt it.

Karan Thapar: Therefore, in due course-possibly within two-three years- America will ratify CTBT, India will be forced to follow through and the option of nuclear tests will be closed.

Brajesh Mishra: It is bound to be closed. But unlike the NPT, which was a discriminatory treaty because it allowed some countries to have nuclear weapons and not others, CTBT is applicable to all. There is no discrimination in CTBT.

Karan Thapar: Which is why it would be impossible for India to hold out.

Brajesh Mishra: India cannot hold back. India will have to sign it and we will have no argument to go against it.

Karan Thapar: Given that what you have just said are political parties mistaken in rejecting the Indo-US nuclear deal on the grounds that it would stop India from carrying out further nuclear tests or on the grounds that it does damage to India’s nuclear deterrent?

Brajesh Mishra: Well so far as these two questions are concerned, in my view we are not restricted from carrying out tests and, more or less, the programme we had devised before we left the NDA government is on-going.

Karan Thapar: So it follows to reject the deal on these two grounds is mistaken?

Brajesh Mishra: Rejecting is too strong word. Rejecting is too strong a thing to do and I would not agree with it.

Karan Thapar: On these two specific issues has the BJP consulted you and sought your advice?

Brajesh Mishra: I have not been consulted by the BJP in the last four months or more.

Karan Thapar: Even though you were National Security Advisor of that government.

Brajesh Mishra: I had resigned from the party before I took over, so my connections with the BJP were severed at that time.

Karan Thapar: You have an authoritative opinion and they have not sought your advice.

Brajesh Mishra: Well, you may consider it to be authoritative opinion, I may consider it to be (but) they need not.

Karan Thapar: Do you accept the view that if the nuclear deal is not passed while George W Bush is the US President, it is unlikely the same favourable terms will be offered to India by any successive administration?

Brajesh Mishra: Yes, my view is the following. In any negotiation you have two parties. If you want to renegotiate any clause or aspects of the treaty, the other party is equally entitled to it. A new administration, whether Republican or Democratic, may have some other ideas regarding the treaty. It will become very, very difficult to renegotiate the treaty and have the same treaty for you to sign.

Karan Thapar: So if you want the same treaty on the same favourable terms, it is now or never?

Brajesh Mishra: It is now. It is now.

Karan Thapar: Should the Government go ahead with the deal even if the BJP and the Left remain adamantly opposed to it?

Brajesh Mishra: That’s a political question. It is a political decision that they have to take. My personal view is that given the harmful effects of not going ahead perhaps we should go ahead and do it. Perhaps. But I am not a political man.