The Indo-Pak Bomb

Funnily enough, the India/Pakistan nuclear tests of May 1998 were triggered by a Tamil lady from India's south. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, humiliated by a mere 13 days in office the first time around exactly two years earlier, was unwilling to lead his party through another ignominious early ouster. And so when the querulous partners in his shaky coalition, most importantly J. Jayalalitha of the AIADMK, threatened to pull out of the BJP-led government, Vajpayee went nuclear. It was as simple as that. The resulting nationalist wave would sustain the government a few months longer. A political party's short-term interest had decided national policy with grave regional and international fallout.

After India tested, Pakistan tested. Two countries, made essentially of the same people sharing the same history and sensibility, having land borders and adjacent population centres, now make plans to cap their missiles with nuclear tips. They contemplate atomic war. What was unthinkable in April became hard reality over the course of May.

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Himal Southasian