Ranjit B Rai
This is a 1400 worded IDF Part One Analysis of India’s Nuclear Bombs with a personal snippet and trailer of Movie Parmanu as two nuclear tests 24 years apart changed India’s destiny. Why not earlier after 1974 is analysed in Part Two.
Five PMs deserve BZs. Shakti did not happen in a day. PM Nehru for supporting Dr Homi Bhabha to keep at it, Mrs Gandhi for 1974 PNE tests and Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao giving fillip and funds and Gen K Sundarji and Arunachalam for pushing. And many more !
Late K Subrahmanyam approached former PM Vajpayee and asked him to relate details of the run up to Shakti, as much was not on file and possibly verbal. Vajpayee told Doyen Strategist ‘Bomb Baba’ KS, he had told PM Dr Manmohan Singh all. IDF feels Data is vanishing as actors age !
Most Cabinet Ministers and even Service Chiefs were not aware though Army Engineers secretly transported six cores to Pokhran from BARC Mumbai and brought back one unused plutonium core and built the L shaped tunnels and trigger wires for the core in 1974 and for 1988 tests stronger cement was used for tunnels like for naval jetties, and varied and deeper 221 mtrs and more L shaped. Today DRDO has a large complex at Pokhran and a fine 12 Guards Regiment near by !
Oldies in Khetalai village near Pokhran told IDF all about 1974 and 1988. Onions were put in the tunnel IN 1974 to avoid radiation and they were moved out with compensation and many claimed illnesses, but not in 1988 when moved out. Brajesh Misra is credited as he sipped with PM Vajpayee and Kingshuk Nag’s book is a read. IDF saw PM Vajpayee’s sharpness at a McKinsey presentation on Infrastructure, when he told the audience, “Yeh to hame pata tha….Batao Bharat me kaise karenge”. We know all this tell me how to do it in India.
The trailer of Parmanu and another sums up the tests of 11th June 1988 with footage of Shakti.
Lt Col (TY) K Santhaman Adviser DRDO (Ex BARC/ RAW) is seen in Army uniform recalled the preparations and the bangs and the less publicised role of DRDO and TBRL Chandigarh as BARC took the credit. It was teamwork. Others on site were Late Col (TY) Dr APJ Kalam DRDO head and Brig (TY) Dr Chidamaram DAE head and Dr Kakodkar and Dr Sikka who did the calculations and is less known, like Dr S Basu for ATV. They conducted the tests very secretly at Khetolia village near Pokhran, working at nights with Army and vehicles to avoid satellites and used cloud cover. CIA was outwitted as Kalam reported success and PM Vajpayee wrote to President Clinton and bravely faced the sanctions. India became a Nuclear power and Pakistan followed with Chagai-I five simultaneous on 28th May 1998. The sub continent became volatile. Iran may follow.
Ambassadors Jayant Prasad and Sheel Sharma on the panel related the diplomatic activities and Bharat Karnad gave a critical view and raised many many questions to MEA and all why 1974 did not follow up with a bomb, the efficacy of the Thermo Nuclear Fusion devices and testing and CTBT which precludes any more tests. Santhanam and Dr Iyengar had also raised this controversy earlier. IDF learnt it was planned and less Tritium was employed for the Hydrogen explosion.
Another issue that confused the audience was Credible Nuclear Deterrent (CND) or Nuclear Credible Deterrent (NCD). IDF feels CND allows Government to decide number of cores while for NCD the military has a say discussed in Part Two. Chinese says they have learnt from India.
The event was timely but left IDF personally unconsummated. The true history, costs, and decisions should be recorded in classified and unclassified form like DRDO and Navy have done for the ATV Project with the Rise of Nuclear India on the world stage as Military is not kept in the loop except SFC under NSA for delivery.
Media reported latest Agni ICBMs have been handed over to SFC and IDF studies Command and Control which has holes. The Defence Planning Committee (DPC) may now clear these as NSA is the head. Navy will soon have delivery and mated weapons on nuclear boats and will need Code Security for safety like the Football code in USA.
As India rises Future Indian Researchers will look to our Nuclear Military history. We have little sense of history with our divisive politics on security when all parties should be one.
HENCE PERSONAL STORY
So this has to be personal, to appreciate how the world viewed 1974.
On 19th May 1974 at 0830 GMT in London’s Catford borough where Blacks and Indians lived a bright Cdr Ghafoor, a relation of the Shah of Iran driving down from Blackheath picked up IDF from the bus stop as he invariably did, if he saw a Lt Cdr in Uniform waiting for a bus with school children. He drove to Royal Naval Staff College in his Humber. He gave IDF the London Times and said. “You bloody Indian buggers have exploded the bloody nuclear bomb…..read the story. You keep saying India is a a non nuclear weapon nation !” IDF read the piece twice and Ghafoor asked, “Did you know ?”
Of course not, I pleaded I had no idea of the Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE), but have learnt a lot about Nuclear matters through NATO vs WARSAW exercises and lectures and seeing Jason mini reactor operations. There is nothing like a PNE. “It’s a bomb test I think. Great”.
Ghafoor loved pulling the Whites’ legs. IDF was known as Peter Sellers for changing accents from South Indian being married to one to Cockney Brit or American . So he said, “Peter, look surprised and when those whites ask you. Petend and say, ‘Oh it’s happened’‘ and tell them what you have read in London Times”. Need IDF write more as that is what IDF did and in the next two hours a team from Whitehall possibly Intelligence, was down to Greenwich.
IDF was marched up to the Deputy Director’s office and grilled ! IDF confessed it was a prank and asked to ring Rear Admiral RKS Ghandhi Ex Flag Lt to Mountbatten and well known in RN as India’s Naval Attaché at Aldywch, who laughed at IDF’s worried voice and said don’t worry both of you come over for dinner on Friday, “I have invited Frank Judd Deputy Defence Secretary who represents Scotland and Natwar Singh and come prepared to tell them what you did and don’t worry RN will not send you back or affect your report.”.
That was Buddha Smiling but IDF was barred from the rest of the visits to the Jason Mini Nuclear Training Reactor. Luckily the restricted visit to NATO base, and a ride in a Nimrod looking for Soviet submarines over the Atlantic with pretty NATO operators and coffee and sandwiches was over and it was coming to the end of the Staff course ! I was on 4 Pounds a day and paid 2 per week for one room to the Indian Brick Layer and his Post woman wife a week, who were kindest people to us.
My wife ate Baked Beans with onions and chillies for lunch and my name did not come in the list for Acting Cdrs like my term mates. I thought I had missed the bus but was told on return it was because if they promoted me, the High Commissioner BK Nehru (my wife got to know) will object but I was devastated for six weeks then, and was thinking of buying a farm or ask my UK colleagues for a job. They looked at me sadly as a ‘Passed Over ’ but in a great farewell dubbed me as the officer who knows India’s nuclear policy !
Like on above lines, the government kept SHAKTI low. PM was busy for Karnataka elections “to win or die”, and the Architect PM Vajpayee is bedridden so no new details of the five nuclear tests conducted at Pokhran on 11 and 13 May 1998 came out but India had openly crossed the Rubicon by declaring itself a nuclear weapon state. IDF did get promoted in 1974 and got Director Operations and Intelligence posts and a Diplomatic tenure possibly thanks to Buddha Smiling report. Part Two will have Nuclear and ATV’s serious snippets. Shan Na Varuna !