When men who occupied important positions in a government decide to publish their memoirs, they are bound to send ripples and it will be a while before the stir settles down and such books are soon forgotten. This happens more in case of those memoirs are written by men who do not have a long tradition of struggles. In other words, memoirs by men who landed in public life to occupy positions in a government will not have a long shelf life. Such works, by their very nature, do not contain any honest attempt to chronicle the times in which the authors lived and instead deal with some half truths that they chose to convey.
It is a different matter that they create some sensation for a while and there will always be a bunch of gullible media professionals who will play ball because they know that their own existence will depend on causing such a sensation. Jaswant Singh’s book is no different from this.
It all began with the media reporting such silly things as Abdul Kalam and a couple of others, who at that point were running the Department of Atomic Energy, made to wear army fatigues to elude the spy cameras and other surveillance instruments of the US establishment from knowing that the Vajpayee Government was going to conduct a test in Pokhran on May 11, 1998. For those who saw the popular magazines of the times, this was nothing new. The image of Kalam in army fatigues is etched in our memory of that time.
And if Jaswant Singh wants us believe that this helped them hoodwink the US establishment then, we will then have to rethink on the level of intelligence of the US establishment. Without being one who looks at the US dispensation with awe, it is possible to conclude that this can be nothing but a fairy tale. Jaswant Singh could have written this story for primary school children and yet exposed himself to some ridicule.
Even if he dressed himself up in army fatigues, Kalam’s body language would betray his real identity. This is no fault of Kalam. The way he walks and also the way the other DAE men walked as well as their physical shape was such that anyone with an elementary sense of intelligence could have made out that they were not army officers. And it is strange that Jaswant Singh, who had been an army officer, wrote such things.
And then came the other ``truth’’ about the last minute decision by P.V.Narasimha Rao against conducting the tests. That Rao had thought of testing and this was called off at the eleventh hour is also a fact that has been discussed earlier. Raj Chengappa deals with this elaborately in his book and the Congress party has refused to react to all that all these days. And the reason, Chengappa attributes to the last minute decision is that things came to the knowledge of the US regime and Rao was arm-twisted into deciding against the tests.
Now, Jaswant Singh talks about a mole in the PMO and claims knowledge that this mole had conveyed all the details about the proposed tests to the US establishment. And he has gone further to even claim that he knew who this mole was. The Congress, meanwhile, is only daring Jaswant to reveal the mole. The cause for concern here is that the ruling party is unwilling to deny that no such tests were planned.
In other words, this is the fallout of a mindset that considers the explosion at Pokhran on May 11 and 13, 1998 as an achievement. The Congress party that had maintained, at least after May 18, 1974, that India stands committed to the idea of nuclear-tests-only-for-peaceful-purposes is now openly associating with the nuclear weapons programme that the BJP-led NDA had initiated. The Congress party that blamed the BJP for having deviated from the national consensus is now fighting shy of stating in categorical terms that the May 11-13 tests were against our national interests.
It is another matter that the Congress position on the issue has always bee guided by rhetoric than substantive understanding of the dangers and the unethical aspects of the nuclear weapons agenda. But then, it is sad that even this rhetoric is missing now. And that certainly is a cause for concern. The party seems determined in attempting to appropriate the BJP’s agenda and its ideology rather than reinventing itself as a democratic platform.
And before we forget about the mole and all other stories that Jaswant Singh has attempted to regale us with, it is important to make a statement. I will want to state here with all my courage and conviction in my command that there was no such mole in the PMO during Narasimha Rao’s time. And there was no one who acted as a mole in the Vajpayee dispensation too. And there is no mole in the PMO even now. I say this because a US mole becomes necessary only when the political establishment is committed to an anti-US idea.
The US establishment did not have to cultivate moles and does not have to invent moles because the political leadership of successive regimes in India had remained pro-US establishment. The manner in which Jaswant Singh conducted himself as Minister for External Affairs and the zeal with which Dr. Manmohan Singh is pushing the Indo-US nuclear deal should convince anyone that the US did not have to plant moles in the regime in India.