Viagra is now a household word everywhere. This was proved Wednesday in New Delhi’s Asian Age, which carried a cartoon showing a sick-looking fellow identified as the Indian “coalition government” being addressed by a doctor holding a phallic, rocketlike object labeled “nuclear test.” The caption: “This will definitely cure your ailment. It’s made with Viagra.” On this, two days after India’s first three underground nuclear tests, the AsianAge joined the rest of the Indian press in praising the government for carrying out the tests and urging the rest of the world to “welcome India, not isolate it.” It said no one had ever doubted that India and Pakistan were both de facto nuclear powers and that “the simplest answer would be for both to emerge from a rather inadequate closet and then sign the nuclear proliferation treaty.”
In an editorial the following day, after India had carried out two further nuclear tests, the paper was rather less upbeat. It urged the government to cut down drastically on spending and to devise an economic policy “attractive enough for foreign investors to continue patronising India.” It pointed out that Japan, not the United States, is India’s largest trade partner, that Japan had “categorically counselled” New Delhi about six weeks ago not to proceed with the tests and would now “take measures which correspond” with its outrage. “It is here that Indian diplomacy faces its severest test, because unless there is a concrete action plan to tackle the political and economic fallout of the tests, the country will be faced with a real crisis.”
The Times of India said Thursday that U.S., Japanese, and German sanctions against India were “hardly going to cause sleeplessness in New Delhi,” but it also urged the Indian government to “adopt a more welcoming stance towards foreign capital than it has so far.” The newspaper attacked “the hypocrisy which governs US policy on nuclear matters” and said “no country has the right to dictate to another what policies it can and cannot follow.” Therefore, the U.S. move “needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
Another Indian paper, the Deccan Chronicle, said it is in India’s interest that Pakistan also join the nuclear club. “If the theory is correct that a credible nuclear deterrent makes war unnecessary, if not impossible, then another war between India and Pakistan will automatically be unnecessary if both acquire nuclear weapon capability.” The same paper quoted a minor Indian government minister–Bandaru Dattatreya, union minister of state for urban development–as stating at a press conference after the tests that a war would bring unity to India. “We need not have to be afraid of wars,” he said. “If there is a war, we have to fight.” Asked by a surprised reporter if he really meant what he said, the minister replied, “Yes, I mean it. … I am on record.”
The Pakistani newspaper Dawn counseled prudence and said it was reassuring that India’s nuclear tests had “failed to push Pakistan into some sort of knee-jerk reaction.” But it added Pakistan must “undertake a wide-ranging review of its foreign policy, economic planning and defence and security strategy” if it is to be “adequately prepared to meet the critical situation which India’s brazen nuclear ambitions have created in South Asia.” In an op-ed piece, Dawn commentator Sultan Ahmed said that India’s aims mirror U.S. strategy during the arms race with the former Soviet Union–to bring about the economic collapse of the enemy. Pakistan’s spending on defense is 6 percent of the gross national product, while India’s is only 3.3 percent, he said; but India’s armed forces were double the size of Pakistan’s. “Ultimately, a strong defence needs a strong economy,” Ahmed added. “Japan’s military spending is one per cent of the GNP but that is equal to 35 billion dollars or ten times what Pakistan spends on defence.”
In Japan, the daily Mainichi Shimbun condemned India in an editorial Thursday for “foolish actions, which go against the universal desire to wipe such weapons of mass destruction from the face of the Earth.” But it also attacked the United States “for excluding certain tests that do not involve the detonation of nuclear devices” from the provisions of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It went on to point out that the U.S. Senate has yet to ratify the treaty:
The United States is the world’s largest nuclear power, and its failure to take nuclear disarmament seriously provides encouragement to countries like India. We must insist that the nuclear powers meet their disarmament responsibilities in order to prevent other Indias from emerging in the future.
In Australia, the Age of Melbourne said the tests made “everyone on this planet feel less safe” and that India’s “flaunting of its nuclear credentials comes down to nothing more reputable than a desire for national prestige.”
In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post, under the headline “U.S. Policy Blown Wide Open,” ran an opinion piece by Simon Beck saying the tests have “driven a truck through what Washington believed to be its well-conceived South Asia policy.” It said that cancellation of President Clinton’s planned visit to India this fall would be disastrous and only intensify nationalist fervor in that country. “Instead of feigning horror over this week’s developments, the time is ripe for Mr. Clinton to accept the realities of another major member of the nuclear club, and use his visit to make sure its government knows that its future lies in forging closer ties to the democratic West,” Beck concluded.
In Britain, where the government has refused to impose sanctions on India, the Times said that President Clinton needed British support and “should have it.”