Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Speech by Admiral (Retd.) Ramdas

[This is a transcript of a speech by Admiral (Retd.) Ramdas, former Chief of Indian Navy,
delivered at the Convention against Nuclear Weapons, at New Delhi on 9th June, 1998.

Participants in this convention and friends,

I do see a few friends here. You must be all wondering why a person like me who has spent his entire life in uniform -- from the age of 15 to 60 -- who has been a part and parcel of the entire gamut of policy making, scheduling, training, brain washing -- call it what you like -- a person with this type of background should be here. I can tell you that it has been a very long journey from a part of the establishment where I belonged to where I stand today. It has made me see things from the inside. When we arrived at May 11th with these explosions, I had indeed a divorce on my hands as my wife and I were on totally opposite camps. Even then, while one part of my mind was saying that what a great thing we had done, another part of my mind was saying that there is something not quite right about this. Was it really necessary, did we really have to do this? I was in a absolute state of dilemma. There was a churning that was going on in my mind and within myself. Even though I am the Vice-president of the India-Pakistan Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy, I could not fully agree to the statement that was issued. It was only a fortnight ago that I said to myself that this was all wrong; no matter what the compulsions were, there is no need to go nuclear, certainly no need for nuclear weaponisation. And that was one of the greatest turning points of my life.

From the Buddha Purnima which was almost a month ago to today, an evil shadow has been cast on the subcontinent. Conventional warfare is a totally different ball game. Once you cross over the threshold of nuclear weapons, there are so many things that can fail, that can mislead you, that can take you into disaster. Even in conventional warfare, in 1971, when we went and pasted Karachi with our missiles and set the whole place in flames -- made heroes of a lot of our chaps -- these were all using conventional warheads. Today, when a missile is being detected by an air defence system, it is not going to advertise to you whether it is carrying flowers, conventional explosives, or thermo-nuclear devices at the tip of the missile. What are we going to do? Have we got systems that can tell us whether the missile is carrying a nuclear warhead or not? We have proudly proclaimed that we have set up a command, communications and control system. This is all humbug. Even in conventional systems, we had a plane coming in and dropping arms in Purnea and flying back, all undetected. So what are we talking about? Where are the air defence systems to identify friend or foe, nuclear or conventional, flowers or bouquets at the tip of the missile?

Once you get into this league of nuclear weaponisation, it is a very very serious business. And it is even more serious business as the excuse given from the beginning was ensuring national security. The question to ask is have we actually done so. The answer, ladies and gentleman, is no. If anything, we have enhanced the chances of something going wrong -- of accidental release of nuclear weapons systems, failure of leadership on both sides of the border who are all gung-ho about these underground explosions.

If they think that their strategy is “jiska lathi uska bhains”, this just does not work with nuclear weapons. If somebody even thought that this would work, well we have the lathi in other hands too in a matter of fourteen days. The stakes are now much higher. We have no civil defence systems in this country, even for conventional warfare. There are no air raid shelters in this city of Delhi because in this country, people are considered expendable. In a conventional missile attack, if thousands die it is all right However, in a nuclear attack, the death toll will be not in thousands, it will be in millions. In the minds of those who have gone in for nuclear weapons, people are expendable, even in millions.

We have to understand the stark reality of what the nuclear weaponisation means -- the command and control systems, the codes and the inter-links we have to create, the permissives, the action limits -- we have nothing in place. These things do not happen overnight. We can certainly do sabre-rattling overnight, we can celebrate and dance in the streets, release firecrackers as if what we have tested is a bigger firecracker. The whole concept of nuclear warfare and the havoc it can create has not been well understood. Even within the armed forces, we do not have any protective clothing against radio-active fall-out. It takes time to put all these systems together, even as defensive protective measures. In the navy, for example, all we have is a procedure to pass through a nuclear fall-out area, which we have been practising for 50 years. But this does not mean that we have the systems in place to put in nuclear weapons.

Who has thought about the command and control systems? Who is going to have the nuclear button -- the Prime Minster, the Defence Minister, the Home minister, the Chief of the Army Staff, the Naval Staff, the Air Staff, the RSS or who? Are there any fail safe systems to prevent weapons being released accidentally? This needs a whole series of technical and other sophisticated systems in place, a hot-line between India and Pakistan, all this and more. There is price to pay for all this. Nothing comes free in this world. These systems are highly expensive. Therefore, this will lead to cuts in social programs -- health, education, and so on. Of course, nobody cares for these, as these are totally different programs.

Has this explosion helped politically? The answer is no. Has it helped economically? Certainly not. We are now ready to get into this race, no matter what we say. And this is a very expensive business. A conventional aeroplane costs Rs.200 crore. The other day Dr. Iyengar came out with a figure of Rs.10 crore for a nuclear weapon. He is just talking about the (nuclear) pudding that he will put in the nose cone. What about the infrastructure and the superstructure -- the missiles, the carriers, the air defence systems, the placement of people? We do not have any Early Air Born Warning System in our country. So we are talking like babe in the woods who suddenly found a new toy. A toy that is being used for purely political reasons. Economically it’s going set us back, militarily it has not helped us one bit.

The two theories advanced to justify possession of nuclear weapons is the theory of power and the theory of deterrence. Soviet Union was a great super power --Russia still has lots of these “toys”. Has it made Russia a great power? Where are they today? This is what is going to happen to us too if we get caught up in this race. We will go on and on as we get drawn into the vortex of the tornado. We will bind ourselves with this chain without knowing how to set ourselves free. That is why we have to stand up and say today that this is not on. We have to break this chain either here or in Pakistan. It is not easy but it will have to be done.

This will have to be done as nuclear weapons are not defensible. The myth that the strategists have created and put forward in the media is, I am afraid, totally false. The public must get to know the stark realities of the indefensible nature of arguments for possessing nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons are no longer a deterrence. The time and space that we are confronted with --whether its China, Pakistan or ourselves in the triad -- is in minutes or in some cases, even less. A tactical nuclear missile takes even less -- only seconds. Who will have the time to react, who will have the time to fire an anti-missile missile? As a missile is coming towards you, the Chief Executive or who ever is in charge, will have 50 or 60 seconds to determine whether the missile is carrying flowers, bouquets or greeting from Pakistan or a nuclear warhead. So he will press the button as nobody can take the chance. Even if we sign a no-first use agreement, on both sides of the border we have people who are irresponsible enough to start a war. With no safe-guards and no fail safe mechanism in the command and control system, with people in power who are all gung-ho, before we know it we will have a nuclear war. And we can not limit it to tactical nuclear weapons -- this will rapidly escalate to a nuclear holocaust.

Where do we go from here? First, India and Pakistan, preferably also China must put our heads together. China is unlikely to join in this. Pakistan and we must sit down. Cap all nuclear activities on both sides of the border. Stop everything, as is where is. If that can be agreed to then why not? We are not saying dismantle it or blow it up -- just say stop. Blow the whistle and say stop. Secondly, find out each others capabilities and what danger we face from each other. To proceed as we are now doing is just madness. In pretending that we will deter each other, we will destroy each other.

The belief behind the induction of nuclear weapons is that Indians are expendable -- even if a nuclear holocaust takes place, people are expendable. This is in the back of the minds of the people who have gone in for nuclear weapons -- without a discussion, without a debate and I believe without a proper discussion with the members of the Armed forces at the highest levels. -- a full and complete discussion. It is one thing to have the bomb in the basement which was the situation we were in before these things were blasted. Now most of the strategic advantage that which we had, to bargain, to talk, to put pressure on the other side has almost completely been lost.

We as fighters who are present, must fight for peace -- to forge this concept, to get the public to understand, to put pressure on the system and the Governments of India and Pakistan. So that we leave behind a peaceful India for your children, grandchildren and possibly great grand children.