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Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Hindu Editorial: Charting Its Own Path

Mahendra Guru

Title: Charting its own path 

(Why the 20th anniversary of the Pokhran nuclear tests was so muted this month) 

Context:- Some anniversaries are celebrated with enthusiasm while others are merely observed. The muted response to the 20th anniversary of India’s nuclear weapons tests this past month puts this milestone firmly in the second category. 

Even if India today is not quite at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)-sanctioned top table of the original five nuclear weapons states (NWS), it is not in the company either of the other two self-declared nuclear weapons powers, Pakistan and North Korea. Therein lies the rub.(biggest problem or difficulty) 

No place at the top table 

Today India occupies a special position as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, to quote from the 2005 Joint Statement announcing the India-U.S. nuclear deal. This status is a product and a reflection of the steady attempt by New Delhi to shift attention away from its nuclear weapons and towards its civil nuclear technology. 

That route to the top table closed when the NPT was negotiated. India has therefore had to make different choices from the original five. By the time the NPT was negotiated, the world had witnessed 925 tests by the NWS, including 96 by the U.S. in 1962 alone. New Delhi declared a moratorium on testing after the two series of tests on May 11 and 13. 

India published a draft nuclear doctrine within five years of testing. The U.S. first published its Nuclear Posture Review in 1994. None of the other NWS has an explicitly published doctrine. 

Even though debate on doctrine has since stalled(stop), the point remains that India hoped transparency would help legitimise its nuclear choices and carve out a path to the nuclear top table. 

Reality, however, did not pan out that way. Each pronouncement on deterrence(discouragement) only strengthened the link between India and Pakistan. 

India learned that its international interlocutors were unable to view nuclear possession by the two South Asian neighbours with any degree of equanimity(संतुलन). Never mind that the then Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, had mentioned two nuclear neighbours, not one, in explaining the reasons for the test. Nuclear weapons bound India ever closer to Pakistan; worse, they gave Pakistan the ability to invite international attention to the bilateral relationship by playing on extra-regional fears of tensions escalating to a nuclear level. 

Witness the anxiety generated by Kargil and the 2001/2002 deployment. By the Mumbai attacks in 2008, India had shifted attention away from weapons to the civil nuclear side of things. 

This might explain India’s muted presence in current discussions on deterrence. The U.S., Russia and China are modernising their nuclear assets; the U.S. and Russia are also developing weapons with calibrated yields. Pakistan claims to have developed tactical nuclear weapons. India has stayed away from these discussions. 

In contrast, India has been very vocal about joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the informal groupings that control trade in nuclear and dual-use technology. Along with the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group, they control trade in sensitive materials and technology. 

By the terms of the NPT, India cannot be a ‘nuclear have’ as the Treaty only recognises those states that conducted a nuclear test before 1968 to be NWS. So the only way to fully legitimise India’s (legal) nuclear choices is to make the NPT irrelevant to India, while not undermining the Treaty. Joining the NSG and MTCR would help as the informal guidelines for membership require accession to the NPT. 

Final Words 
Deciding to test in May 1998 at Pokhran was probably the last truly sovereign decision that it made in this field. Now declared, what India chooses to do with its nukes is — legitimately — a global concern. 

This may explain why May 11 is now National Technology Day and a rising India is protecting its economy by shifting attention away from the Bomb. 

Title: Paper chase 

(The Election Commission must review the use of paper trail machines in the polling process) 

Context:- The high incidence of glitches in the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in Monday’s by-elections should be a major cause of concern for the Election Commission of India. 

Fresh polling had to be ordered in dozens of booths in Kairana and Bhandara-Gondiya in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, respectively, as a consequence. 

Ever since the implementation of the VVPAT system last year, machine malfunction and subsequent delays in polling have been recurring issues. 

Close to 4.2% of the VVPAT machines deployed in the Karnataka Assembly elections this month developed glitches during the testing as well as polling processes.
The overall fault rate was as high as 11.6% in the by-elections held in four parliamentary and nine Assembly constituencies on Monday. The ECI has suggested that these machines were more prone to malfunctioning due to their sensitivity to extreme weather conditions and exposure to light. 

Inadvertently, the use of these machines, which are adjuncts to the ballot and control units of the EVMs, has added to the complexity of an otherwise simple, single programmable-chip based system, and rendered it prone to more glitches. 

There is enough empirical(प्रयोगसिद्ध) evidence to show that EVMs have eased polling and helped increase voter turnout since being put to use. But in using VVPAT machines to reassure sceptics about an election’s integrity, the ECI has introduced a new element, and cost, to the process. 

Considering these challenges, the ECI should consider deploying the VVPAT machines in a limited, statistically significant, randomly chosen set of polling booths. 

This will reduce the possibility of glitches affecting the polling process as well-tested machines could be deployed (with enough replacements also handy) to such booths. 

Final Words 
The current verification process, after all, only involves the counting of VVPAT slips by randomly choosing one booth from each constituency (or segment), and this check should not be affected drastically by the new method. 

Vocabulary words: 

Glitch (noun) = A sudden, usually temporary malfunction or fault of equipment (खामियां) 

Recur (verb) = Occur again periodically (आवर्ती) 

Deploy (verb) = Bring into effective action, move troops into position for military action (तैनात) 

Ballot (noun) = A system of voting secretly and in writing on a particular issue (गुप्त मतदान) 

Deem (verb) = Regard or consider in a specified way (विचार करना) 

Stray (adj) = Misguided, fallen (पथभ्रष्ट) 

Prone (adj) = Likely to suffer, vulnerable 

Empirical (adj) = Based on experience rather than theory (प्रयोगसिद्ध) 

Muted (adj) = Quiet and soft (मौन) 

Turbulent (adj) = Characterized by conflict, disorder or confusion (अशांत) 

Moratorium (noun) = A temporary prohibition of an activity (प्रतिबंध) 

Doctrine (noun) = A set of belief (सिद्धांत) 

Glean (verb) = Obtain from various sources, often with difficulty (बीनना) 

Deterrence (noun) = The action of discouraging an action or event through instilling doubt or fear of the consequences (अवरोध) 

Equanimity (noun) = Calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation (संतुलन) 

Accession (noun) = Succession, elevation (पदप्राप्ति) 

Desultory (adj) = Lacking a plan, purpose or enthusiasm (अनियमित) 

Nuke (noun) = A nuclear weapon

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