New Nukes Boost India's Leaders

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NEW DELHI: How do you shore up a shaky Indian coalition government? Detonate a few nuclear bombs. India’s leaders may be facing a storm of international criticism for exploding three nuclear bombs, but it’s done them a power of good among India’s voters -- so much so that despite the announcement of U.S. sanctions, New Delhi on Wednesday tested two more bombs.

“India’s ruling party is doing this mainly for domestic reasons,” says TIME New Delhi bureau chief Tim McGirk. “Their coalition is floundering and they’ve been unable to get anything done. This was a way of showing they’re decisive, and they knew it would be popular with most Indians.”

Although opposition parties questioned the timing of the blasts, the reaction has generally been positive. Indian officials don’t believe that Washington’s sanctions will have a profound effect on an economy that receives little U.S. aid. But if the U.S. manages to cut off loans from international institutions, and major donor nations such as Japan, Germany and Denmark carry out their threats to withhold aid, “India’s government will find it’s made a disastrous miscalculation,” says McGirk. After all, India may have advanced thermonuclear weapons capability -- but it remains a Third World economy.