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India's nuke delivery system flawed


George Koshy,CNN-IBN
Sep 02, 2009 at 02:17am IST

New Delhi: More scientists are now raising questions about India's status as a nuclear weapon state. Two former Atomic Energy Commission chiefs, Homi Sethna and PK Iyengar have told CNN IBN that Pokharan II was only partially successful.

The two scientists told CNN-IBN that political pressure forced scientists into rushing into the 1998 test.

It certainly is a bombshell of nuclear proportions from a former atomic energy chief.

"How did Pakistan fire a device 10 days after we did? It is obvious that they had a tunnel, a horizontal tunnel. After putting the device inside they had to close it with concrete. That would have taken atleast a week. 60 tonnes of cement and concrete was used. Therefore, my guess is that by even on the 11th of May when India detonated, or even earlier in March, the government of India's intelligence must have found out that the Pakistanis are ready to test and that they are serious. They asked these people to hurry up. In that hurry, whatever hole had already been built, they used it. They decided 'let us fire both of them simultaneously'. All this political pressure to be one up politically was stepped up as BJP had just come to power. If Pakistan had fired an explosion before India what would the common man in India have thought?" said P K Iyengar.

Another former AEC chief, Dr Homi Sethna rubbished the role of APJ Kalam who is widely seen as the father of Pokhran II.

"What did he know about making a explosive grade? He did nothing. By being present he appeared to rise in stature," said Sethna.

Read this with former defence scientist Dr K Santhanam's assertion last week that the 1998 hydrogen test was a dud, the conclusion is inescapable. It means the Indian claim to nuclear weapon status is hollow. It also means that personal likes and dislikes may have even undermined the scientists' overall efforts.

Dr Kalam refused to comment on his former colleague's criticism but on the other issue, it's important to note that India declared itself a nuclear weapons power on the basis of six tests: one in 1974 and five in 1998.

Comparatively the US conducted 1054 tests, France has conducted 192 tests. Compare that with Russia's 715 tests with including the world's biggest 50 megaton device and China's 45 tests.

The doubts extend to delivery systems. India's Agni II missile was declared operational after two tests. The Agni III missile has been tested three times as it failed the first time.

China, on the other hand tested its DF-31 missile 18 times in 16 years and it is only now that reports of deployment are being heard.

The revelations are a blow to the atomic energy establishment. Its credibility stands severely undermined. More than that, it increases the pressure on Manmohan Singh not to make any commitment on signing the CTBT when he calls on President Obama in November in Washington.

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