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The “Long Telegram”, Right Wing Politics and PN Haksar

This is an extract from a 12000 words research paper submitted to The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center for review on 23rd December 2016 entitled The “Long Telegram” or a “Long Imagination”: PN Haksar and India’s Nuclear Policy in late 1960s. Most of the “long telegram” has been reproduced here. The National Interest article quotes very selectively from the so called “long telegram”.

The “Long Telegram”, Right Wing Politics and PN Haksar

The National Interest article plays a number of tricks with file no. 290.[1] First of all the note titled “Need for India in a Changing World to Reassess her National Interest and Foreign Policy” is just seven pages long. Many of the additional points are from ‘chapters’ on Pakistan, Russia, USA and China.[2] Therefore, File No. 290 becomes the “long telegram” and not just the note which has been specifically mentioned in the National Interest article.  Second, the policy prescriptions including that on nuclear weapons have been quoted very selectively. This is how foreign policy prescriptions including those on nuclear matters in Haksar’s unattributable “long telegram” begin (in verbatim on page 12-17 of File No. 290):

a) “Non-alignment should continue as the initial premise of this Foreign Policy in the sense that military alliance with either Russia or America or both should be avoided as serving, at this stage of India’s development, no real national purpose;

b) To the extent that foreign powers may be interested in maintaining India’s integrity as a state and the integrity of her Himalayan frontiers with China, India’s own ability to fight in defence of these instruments will more surely influence Moscow or Washington, or both, than any open engagement with either or both of these powers seeking this protection which, as explained in the chapter on nuclear arms for India (emphasis added) is wholly unreliable. (Insertion: this chapter is available in File No. 292 which the author of the “long telegram” has not seen. Towards the end of this chapter in the conclusion, it is more than evident that these random papers are part of a book: “the areas where advantageous collaboration between China, Japan and India is possible are elaborated in the final chapter of this book (emphasis added), File No. 292, p. 24.)[3]

c) It is certain that India must not surrender her nuclear options in her vital national interests;

d) A primary aim of Indian Foreign Policy should be take steps to keep open and indestructible the avenues which permit this great country, with a great history and vast human and natural resources, to attain progressively a position of real dignity, power and authority in the comity of nations; an this certainly involves the following measures taken in the shortest possible span of time:-

  1. the making of nuclear arms in the shape of missiles of medium range (2,000 to 2,500 miles) (emphasis added, Insertion: the National Interest article says 2000-3000 miles) capable, from sites within India’s frontiers, of striking with success not only a few chosen targets in Tibet but of ranging as far afield as the industrial heartland of China in Manchuria and in great river valleys south of it which include some of her principal industries and urban centres of population:
  2. the development simultaneously of submarine driven by nuclear power fitted out to carry nuclear missiles as this would extend and re-inforce the scope and effect of India’s military and, by implication, political authority in South and South East Asia and indeed, further afield eventually;
  3. this nuclear arms programme should be based on adequate stock-piling of those instruments and machineries which, as Russia and America advance their common policy towards nuclear non-proliferation (emphasis added), will be difficult to import from abroad increasingly;
  4. all Indian metallurgists, physicists and others who could be really useful in developing a nuclear arms programme for India and, attracted by better material and other conditions abroad, are working in foreign countries, should be called back (emphasis addedand integrated with the establishments controlled by the Indian atomic energy Commission at high rates of pay and with every incentive available to them;
  5. every attempt should be made in conditions of assured secrecy (emphasis added) to sound the Japanese about collaboration in these fields.”[4]

At even the most superficial reading, this appears to be written by a nuclear hawk. Unlike the  claim in the National Interest article over how the “long telegram” supports India’s nuclear doctrine of Credible Minimum Deterence vis-a-vis the revisionist comments recently made by Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the “long telegram’ is proposing a tous azimuts nuclear force structure, which till date is only subscribed by a handful of Indian strategists and has been completely ignored by successive governments since 1998, irrespective of their political ideology.[5] Second, the numbers on the range of the missile are also changed: the National Interest article claims 2000 to 3000 miles whereas the “long telegram” puts a limit to 2500 miles. One wonders why? The logic is simple: in 2500 miles, one cannot reach Manchuria (for example, the distance between Changchun (Manchuria) and New Delhi is approximately 2832.1 miles). Given PN Haksar’s intellect and resources, one cannot expect him to make such a basic mistake especially if the note is being addressed to the Prime Minister.  Third and most important, point no. 3 and 5 indicate that Haksar was inclined towards nuclear proliferation; India’s nuclear energy programme between 1968 and 1974 was therefore just a mask for its weapons program. If extrapolated, it also translates to the fact that all peaceful nuclear programs which India had with US and Canadian cooperation between 1968 and 1974 were geared towards nuclear proliferation. One can only wonder how many Indian nuclear scientists, diplomats and other decision-makers would agree to this idea. It also belies the most important attribute of India’s nuclear program: its quest for self-reliance and its unmatched record on nuclear non-proliferation even after the 1974 tests, US refusal to provide fuel for Tarapur reactor in late 1970s and early 80s and targeting of Indian nuclear and space program in decades following. For the good of scholarship on India’s nuclear history, this was never written by PN Haksar. Till his death bed, as George Perkovich recently told me on an email the details of his telephonic interview with PN Haksar in 1996-97, Haksar did not see a lot of merit in nuclear weapons.[6]

If this “long telegram” was sent by PN Haksar to Indira Gandhi, it will also sabotage the foundations of Indian foreign policy in 1960’s and 1970’s. There are a total of 15 policy prescriptions (from point ‘a’ till ‘o’).[7] For the want of space, the rest can only be summarised here:  (e) Indian arms industry should be modernised; (f) cooperation with Japan on heavy defense industries; (g) development of computers and allied industries; (h) cooperation with Romania and Yugoslavia; (i) cooperation with “no inhibitions whatever about the Hitlerian past (emphasis added) of Germany”; (j) military training (emphasis added) to South, South East Asian, West Asian and African countries; (k) efforts to be made with the United Nations for freeing Africa from the “grip of settlers of foreign origin”; (l) cooperation with Britain for “mutual advantage (even) when that country pursues increasingly a policy of direct and indirect support for the lands of apartheid (emphasis added)”; (m) deal with African countries on the “yardstick of her own national interests” and “it is neither profitable nor necessary (emphasis added) to act in a manner which suggests that India’s support of such states and governments is outright and unqualified in all circumstances”; (n) cooperate with Canada, other smaller countries of Western and Eastern Europe who have “no conflict of interest with India” and finally (o) cultivate relations with Latin American countries. By attributing the so called “long telegram” to PN Haksar, India’s whole foreign policy approach in 1960’s and 1970’s has been left in ruins. PN Haksar, on the other, has been turned into a “right wing ideologue.”

If one looks at the arguments coming from the right wing political parties like Jan Sangh and Swatantra between 1967 and 1970, Haksar’s “long telegram” appears eerily similar. Broadly, the reasons for the “long telegram” in author’s understanding of File No 290 originate from two major factors: USSR supplying military equipment to Pakistan in 1968 and the USSR-Soviet detente resulting in the non-proliferation treaty. Between 1967 and 1970, writings of Jan Sangh and Swatantra ideologues and sympathisers whether it is HM Patel, Balraj Madhok, Deen Dayal Upadhaya, KR Malkani, Piloo Mody, MR Pai, MR Masani,  Subramaniam Swamy, Major Ranjith Singh, ML Sondhi, Prince Dev Prasad Ghosh and Dr. G.K Mukherjee, to name a few, continuously attacked Indira Gandhi’s foreign policy on two counts: softening of Soviet attitude towards Pakistan and the detente between the two superpowers resulting into the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.[8]  As the President of Bharatiya Jan Sangh, former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, argued in his presidential address at the Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha Session (Indore) in September 1968, “The USSR’s decision to supply arms to Pakistan provides a glaring instance to show how our foreign policy has failed to protect and promote the enlightened self-interests of the country.”[9] Similarly on the non-proliferation treaty, the Jana Sangh party resolution of March 22, 1968 proclaimed, “Soviet Russia and USA are mounting their pressure on India to sign the non-proliferation treaty. The Government of India seem to be somewhat weakening in its resolve not to sign the treaty in its present form.”[10] Similar questions on foreign policy were raised by HM Patel, MR Pai and Piloo Mody during the Fifth National Convention of the Swatantra Party in October 1968 in Bhubaneshwar.[11]

Attribution of the “long telegram” to PN Haksar therefore not only changes Haksar’s political inclinations but also puts into question his loyalty to Indira Gandhi and the Indian government? Was PN Haksar a closet “right wing ideologue” who was masquerading in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat? Absolutely not; PN Haksar papers at NMML and documents at the National Archives of India also provide answers to confusion created by the “long telegram”.

[1] Prahladan, The Recent Declassification.

[2] NMML, Unattributable and undated, Subject File 290, PN Haksar Papers (IIIrd Installment).

[3] NMML, Unattributable and undated, “India and Nuclear Arms,” Subject File 292, PN Haksar Papers (IIIrd Installment).

[4] NMML, Unattributable and undated, Subject File 290, PN Haksar Papers (IIIrd Installment).

[5] Prahladan, The Recent Declassification. For schools of thoughts on India’s nuclear posture see, Kanti Bajpai, “The Great Indian Nuclear Debate,” in Anindyo J. Majumdar (ed.), Nuclear India into the New Millennium, (New Delhi: Lancers, 2000), pp.47-74.

[6] Email conversation with George Perkovich, 16 December 2016.

[7] NMML, Unattributable and undated, Subject File. 290, PN Haksar Papers (IIIrd Installment).

[8] A good summary of these can be found in Mohammed Ali Kishore, Jana Sangh and India’s Foreign Policy, (New Delhi: Associated Publishing House, 1969); for original writings see, H.M Patel, “India’s Defence Preparedness,” Swatantra Souvenir (Fifth Annual Convention, Bhubaneshwar), 5and 6 October 1968, p. 44-47, p. 38-40; Piloo Mody, “India’s Foreign Policy,” Swatantra Souvenir (Fifth Annual Convention, Bhubaneshwar), 5and 6 October 1968, p. 44-47; M.R. Pai, “India’s Foreign Policy: The Need for Reappraisal,” Swatantra Souvenir (Fifth Annual Convention, Bhubaneshwar), 5and 6 October 1968, p. 168-169; Deen Dayal Upadyaya, “Fundamentals of a War economy,” Jana-Deep Souvenir (A Publication brought out on the occasion of Mid-Term elections, 1971), pp. 15-20; K. R. Malkani, “How Jana Sangh looks at Russia and America,” Jana-Deep Souvenir (A Publication brought out on the occasion of Mid-Term elections, 1971), pp. 56-59; Ram Singh, “India: a country without friends,” Jana-Deep Souvenir (A Publication brought out on the occasion of Mid-Term elections, 1971), pp.139-141; M.L. Sondhi, “Wanted: A National Foreign Policy,” Jana-Deep Souvenir (A Publication brought out on the occasion of the 14th Annual Session of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Calicut, December 1967), pp. 47-53; K.R. Malkani, “How we look at the Middle East,” Jana-Deep Souvenir (A Publication brought out on the occasion of the 14th Annual Session of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Calicut, December 1967), pp. 63-65;  Balraj Madhok, “India’s Unity,” Jana-Deep Souvenir (A Publication brought out on the occasion of the 15th Annual Session of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Bombay,  April 25-27, 1969), pp. 62-66; Subramaniam Swamy, “Defence and Economic Growth in India: a study in an inseparable relationship,” Jana-Deep Souvenir (A Publication brought out on the occasion of the 15th Annual Session of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Bombay,  April 25-27, 1969), pp. 67-87; Prin. Dev Prasad Ghosh, “let’s make the indian ocean REALLY INDIAN,” Jana-Deep Souvenir (A Publication brought out on the occasion of the 15th Annual Session of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Bombay,  April 25-27, 1969), pp. 88-89: Nana Deshmukh, “Essentials of a National Industrial Policy,” Jana-Deep Souvenir (A Publication brought out on the occasion of the 15th Annual Session of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Bombay,  April 25-27, 1969), pp. 98-101.

[9] Bharatiya  Jana Sangh, “Presidential Address by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha Session, Indore, September 7 and 8, 1968, p. 22.

[10] Bharatiya  Jana Sangh,  “Beware of Non-proliferation Treaty,” Resolution adopted on 22 March 1968 at CWC, Bhopal, in Party Documents (Volume 3), Resolutions on Defence and External Affairs (New Delhi: Bharatiya Jana Sangh, July 1973).

[11] H.M Patel, “India’s Defence Preparedness,” Swatantra Souvenir (Fifth Annual Convention, Bhubaneshwar), 5and 6 October 1968, p. 44-47, p. 38-40; Piloo Mody, “India’s Foreign Policy,” Swatantra Souvenir (Fifth Annual Convention, Bhubaneshwar), 5and 6 October 1968, p. 44-47; M.R. Pai, “India’s Foreign Policy: The Need for Reappraisal,” Swatantra Souvenir (Fifth Annual Convention, Bhubaneshwar), 5and 6 October 1968, p. 168-169

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