Saturday, September 26, 2009

India's Perfect Nuclear Storm

This post is written by my friend and guest blogger Karthikeyan Chandran. He blogs at Glocal View

The unfolding Nuclear Saga in India is much lamentable, if not for the shocking revelations, atleast for severely damaging the credibility of the few institutions left with any credibility in our country. However, it is much more important at this point that all the revelations made by Dr.Santhanam be properly and honestly addressed. Per Dr.Santhanam we need atleast two more tests before we can claim to have mastered the Hydrogen bomb technology.

From DNA India
At least two more trial tests are required for India to perfect the thermonuclear, or hydrogen, bomb, says retired scientist K Santhanam. The scientist created a furore last month by claiming that the H-bomb test conducted in 1998 was a dud.

Santhanam believes that there is still time to do so before the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is ratified by the US and China. "I have recommended the crossing of the rubicon," Santhanam told reporters during an interaction with reporters organised by the Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC) in the capital.

Some raise questions about Dr.Santhanam's claims and his motives, including why he waited for 11 years before coming out. Though there is some legitimacy in questioning about the delay before he came public, i think no one can rubbish his claims since he has the expertise and the insider information. The way govt (NSA) has quickly come out to deny any such gaps in our deterrence is sad. Denial has never solved any problem. When much respected personalities like Anil Kakodkar, Abdul Kalam (i know he does not have the technical expertise) are in one camp while Dr.Santhanam and Dr.P.K.Iyengar in another, it only exacerbates the public's anxieties.

Anil Kakodkar (from TOI)
"We have enough data. We have comprehensive simulation capability and therefore there is no need for any more tests," Kakodkar said days after K Santhanam ignited a controversy that Pokhran-II was a fizzle and did not give the desired yield.

"We used the data of Beneberry nuclear tests of US of December 18,1970 to validate our 3-D simulation for earth motion and displacement and this validated tool was used for bench marking," Kakodkar said.

P.K.Iyengar (from TOI)
There is a "strong reason to believe that the thermonuclear device had not fully burnt and, therefore, further testing was called for," Iyengar, a former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, said in a statement yesterday.
...
He said, "If he (Santhanam) says that the yield was much lower than projected, that there was virtually no crater formed, and that these reservations were formally presented by DRDO in 1998 itself, then there is considerable justification for reasonable doubt regarding the credibility of the thermonuclear test and, therefore, of our nuclear deterrent."

These are people who are held at high esteem and considered beyond reproach. In my opinion, Dr. Santhanam is doing a great service to our nation by highlighting the inadequacies in our nuclear deterrent even if its 11 years late. This is significant now due to the US's renewed interest on NPT and CTBT.

Obama's call the other day in the UN for all the nations to join and ratify NPT met with unanimous support. This also calls for signing and ratifying CTBT. With the nuclear treaty between India and the US hinging on India not testing, among other things, we are bound to get a lot of heat from the US and other Western Nations before the NPT summit next year. Though India has reiterated its official position of not joining these treaties, how much longer would we be holding out is to be seen. (Note:- The call is for India to join NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state).

From Indian Express:
Ahead of next year’s review conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), US President Barack Obama on Thursday successfully piloted a resolution in the UN Security Council, calling upon all countries outside the treaty, like India, to join as ‘non-nuclear weapons states’.

The resolution, adopted unanimously at a rare summit meeting of the Security Council, evoked a sharp reaction from New Delhi, which, in a strongly-worded letter to the president of Security Council, said India would not comply with non-proliferation obligations to which it has not provided its sovereign consent. Additionally, it noted that India was a nuclear weapon state and that there was no question of it joining the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state.

“India cannot accept externally prescribed norms prescribed norms or standards on matters within the jurisdiction of its Parliament or which are not consistent with India’s constitutional provisions and procedures, or are contrary to India’s national interests or infringe on its sovereignty,” said the letter from Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s permanent representative at the UN.

Added to this already high pressure situation for our policy makers is the new revelation that Iran has a secret Uranium enrichment facility. This would only make the NPT hawks within US State department and Foreign Affair ministries across Europe go into a tizzy and want everyone to join NPT and CTBT asap. This would only give them more momentum in arm-twisting India.

From BBC
Iran's decision to build a secret facility represented a "direct challenge to the basic compact" of the global non-proliferation regime, US President Barack Obama said, making a statement in Pittsburgh, where he is hosting a G20 summit.

Despite Iran's assertions that the facility was for peaceful purposes, the new plant was "not consistent" with that goal, the US president said.

This is an emerging story, there will more that will be coming out in the next few days and it doesn't look like what will would help India's stand. It is for this reason India should quickly do a quick review, conduct a few more tests if need be, and sign the treaties as a FULL NUCLEAR WEAPON STATE. It won't be easy for the next couple of years for India on this front, and S.M.Krishna and Shashi Tharoor have their job cut out for them. One can only hope they are good enough to handle the upcoming Perfect Storm.
(Originally published here.)
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