Feb 7, 2010

On India, Agni-III, Rogue Nuclear Programs, and Hindu Nationalists Who Despise Me

I learned of India's successful test of its long-range Agni-III missile in an unusual manner today. The first clue was the sudden spike in blog visitors, and by noon today an extra 600 or so visitors surfed here to read an older post I composed about the test launch of the Agni-III in 2007.

The second was the receipt of an email by an Indian nationalist who calls himself "Jack Sparrow" and who denounced me as "racist" for calling India's nuclear program "rogue" in the 2007 post. My original point - and an argument I still hold - is that the U.S. is highly selective in denouncing some nuclear programs as "rogue" (like Iran) while turning a blind eye to the nuclear stockpiles of Israel, Pakistan, and India, all nations that chose not to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Few blog posts I have ever written have generated more emailed responses than this rather short commentary to a news item I posted. I estimate I have received three dozen of such emails over the past three years, most of which I simply delete because of their anger, poor writing, and baseless accusations. Occasionally one of the emails displays some semblance of readability and civility; here is the text of "Jack Sparrow's" missive:
Hi Dr. Mike,

Hope you are doing well. I read your blog about Indian missile test. Don't you think you became racist as usual the American fan boys became always.

Now since America has the lagest stockpile of nuclear weapons as well as missiles and history proved how America has destroyed countries for their cheap interests say for example Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, now looking at Iran and now it is common saying that anyone who is between America and oil is a terrorist. I am not a muslim and I don't want to be either.India which is surrounded by 2 bastard hostile countries and if India test a missile it becomes a rouge country and as per your article rouge nuclear program.

My question is what makes you think Indian nuclear program is a rouge which has not attacked any country in its History till date but America is a good country which has killed millions of innocents worldwide.

Its easy to write blogs as their are lots of website provides you space to spit your bile as you are doing. But, the point is you have to be a man which you absolutly are not to face the truth.

US made nuclear deal with India on its own interest not a goodwill for India. India had resources before and India will get technologies even if deal fails. Its US who is at the loosing point at the rate of $35 billion a year if deal fails. So come out of your fools paradise and accept reality.
I find humorous Jack Sparrow's denunciation of me as a "racist" and then next describing India as a country surrounded by "2 bastard hostile countries," but I'll leave Jack alone on that point.

Jack's letter is typical of the numerous Indian nationalists (more accurately, Hindu nationalists) who have emailed me over the past few years to complain about what I wrote in 2007. I am going to restate some points here for future reference, so that I can just email back the link and not get into lengthy (and time wasting) electronic arguments with those who feel a need to debate me.

1. "Rogue" programs: simply put, I define as "rogue" any nuclear program that operates outside normal or desirable controls, such as the NPT. I chose the word "rogue" because President George W. Bush frequently used the word to describe Iran's nuclear program. Recently President Obama has also toughened his stance against Iran's nuclear program, yet neither president has uttered a public peep about the nuclear programs of Israel, Pakistan, or India, none of which is in agreement with international agencies. If India wants to legitimacy in its nuclear programs, it can simply sign the NPT. Unfortunately, President Bush changed the rules of the game with his unilateral India nuclear agreement, and this might have been the first act in the slow death of the NPT.

2. "Peaceful" India: Nationalists like to brag about India as a nation that has an unblemished record of peace. This idea of a peaceful India is especially laughable considering the recent history of warfare in the region, including the
Sino-Indian War, the various Indo-Pakistani Wars, and the Bangladesh Liberation War. Hindu nationalists, of course, like to blame the Muslims for all of the blame in these conflicts, but the argument that India somehow has a monopoly on peace is absurd. Also, are you really going to ignore the history of the Maratha Empire in claims that India has "never invaded another country"? Bonus points for Mohandas K. Ganghi, though, fellas.

3. U.S. history of bloodshed with nuclear weapons: no argument from me there. I have never supported the dropping of atomic weapons on innocent civilians at Nagasaki and Hiroshima (admittedly this happened two decades before I was born), and my fervent wish is to live in a non-nuclear world. I doubt I will see this in my lifetime, though.

4. Oh, and for the record I think India is a fascinating country with an amazing array of cultures and regional histories. I intend to travel to India someday and view firsthand the country I have studied from afar.


arshad said...

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Anonymous said...

You must also consider India's record with the Punjabi Sikh population, in particular its 1984 attacks on the holy Golden Temple and their human rights violations against the Sikh people, hundreds of thousands of whom are still missing. The police and government has not held those responsible for the rape, murder and attempted genocide of the Sikhs responsible thus far.

India has been far from peaceful to its minority groups.

Balajari said...

History has always proved that Indians have stood for peace, and it is the United States of DEATHica who has the bloody hands!!! You are pitiful person for believing your own governments lies about killing people all over the world!!

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to tell you that your "Indian" is probably no Indian at all. The English was either altered to look bad (but in ways that dont attach themselves well to Indian writing styles) or it was the work of someone from another grouping. But it's a given that some Indians will be touchy - after all India has not had the same time the US had had to consolidate itself.

I wont argue about your use of the word rogue for India (you can call it what you like). But consider this - India unlike Iran never signed the NPT and can therefore make all the nukes it wants (without anyone's permission, I might add) to protect itself from China (have you read a recent article in the Wash Post on China?) and Pakistan and especially because it doesnt have the nuclear security umbrella that the US provides Japan and Australia.

In addition, the NPT has little to do with missiles as you indicate and India is not a signatory to the MTCR either.

I can understand your anger at those people who may have written claiming to be Indians and insulted you but the examples you give in support of your argument that Indians are not peace-loving (I dont know what that means - is anyone peace loving and wont defend themselves) are not accurate (even you are not expected to know all Indian history - most Indians dont). The Bangladesh war, the Sino-Indian war saw India stepping in after the initial military aggression had started and the Maratha war was several centuries ago in a nation that was not yet politically whole and that had faced several brutal Islamic invaders for centuries.

Good luck with your blog and apologies on behalf of those who may have been Indian after all.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

Thanks for your post regarding the successfull test firing of Agni III missile by India.

Just noting couple of thoughts that sprang up in my mind:

>> 1. "Rogue" programs: If India wants to legitimacy in its nuclear programs, it can simply sign the NPT.

a. India is more than willing to sign NPT. But as a nuclear weapon state.

b. A nuke will kill millions irrespective of its a legitimate nuke or not. A nuke is a nuke.

Mad Jack said...

The Agni-III is just the thing in case those Mongolians get out of control. They'll think twice before they invade India, let me tell you!

Although I don't know a lot about India's history, I do know that India is a nation of States, and those States do not share language or custom.

India is a place I'd like to visit as well, but not without a local guide.

historymike said...

Anonymous #1:

Agreed that minority groups have suffered in India, though this owes much more to violence by ultra-nationalists than the government itself.

historymike said...


It is interesting that your name references a town in Afghanistan - is this a coincidence or is there another meaning to "Balajari" to which I am not privy?

As far as my own government in the U.S.: I am under no illusions about the conduct of the United States in various wars. Go bark up the appropriate tree, not here.

historymike said...

Anonymous #2:

Thank you for a well-reasoned and insightful post. I fully agree that India has the right to self-defense, and with armed nuclear neighbors (Pakistan and China) it would be folly for me to suggest that India unilaterally reject nuclear weapons.

As far as "Indian" or non-Indian readers: I think the earlier post was linked onto some ultra-nationalist message boards. I certainly do not think that any angry emailers are representative of Indians in general. I have workjed with Indian students at a number of universities, and some of them write at a higher level than native-born Americans.

historymike said...

Anonymous #3:

Again, my most serious concerns were with President Bush, not India. His unilateral disregard for the NPT likely means that this treaty will evetually die.

Agreed with you that nuclear weapons are no respecters of international agreements, whether or not they are detonated by signatories or non-signatories.

historymike said...

(laughs at MadJack's Mongolian reference)

As we know from watching South Park, the Mongolians are just chomping at the bit to reprise their thirteenth century exploits.

Anonymous said...

"Agreed that minority groups have suffered in India, though this owes much more to violence by ultra-nationalists than the government itself."

Mike, I am not following can you please expand on what you are saying? Are you suggesting the struggle of Sikhs in India is due to their own "Ultra-Nationalists"?

historymike said...

Hi Anonymous:

No, I am saying that the historical violence against mninority groups is due to actions by individual nationalist factions as opposed to the Indian government itself, though one could argue that the Indian government could be doing more to rein in these factions. Certainly there are elements within parties like the BJP who fan the flames of Hindu nationalism.