India’s n-tests raises questions, ‘puzzles’ government


New Delhi : A former top official’s admission that the 1998 nuclear tests by India were inadequate from the security standpoint has left Home Minister P. Chidambaram “puzzled”.

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“We can’t get into a stampede to sign CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty). We should conduct more nuclear tests which are necessary from the point of view of security,” K. Santhanam, who coordinated the tests, called Pokhran II, in the Rajasthan desert, told IANS.

“I have seen the report. I am puzzled. The government will find out, somebody will brief you,” Chidambaram told reporters after a meeting of the cabinet committee on economic affairs.

He was replying to questions about a report in The Times Of India daily Thursday that quoting Santhanam as admitting that the only thermonuclear device tested during Pokhran II was a “fizzle.” A test is described as a fizzle when it fails to meet the desired yield.

Santhanam, while speaking to IANS, said”: “We should not get railroaded into signing the CTBT.” He was commenting on reports about the US pressuring India to sign the CTBT and the fresh efforts by the Obama administration to revive non-proliferation activism.

Santhanam, a former official with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, said that the thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb tests – the first and most powerful of the three tests conducted on May 11, 1998 – did not produce the desired yield.

R. Chidambaram, who was then the chief of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is on record as saying that the bombs yield was 45 kilotons (45,000 tonnes of conventional explosive).

Santhanam’s remarks are set to create a flutter in the non-proliferation establishment in the US and may raise fresh doubts about the future of the India-US nuclear deal which will unravel if New Delhi were to test again.

Santhanam’s assessment is set to bolster India’s opposition to signing the CTBT – an issue that may figure in the discussions when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes to the US in November. India has opposed CTBT on grounds that it is discriminatory and tends to divide the world into the nuclear haves and have-nots.