Tag Archive for 'Pokhran II'

India’s nuclear fizzle

Pervez Hoodbhoy at Chowk:

By generating a pro-test environment, India’s nuclear hawks hope to make life difficult for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s moderate government whenever India’s signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) comes up for discussion. Santanam’s revelation has been spurred by the fear that if President Obama succeeds in his initiative to revive the CTBT – which had essentially been shot dead by the US Senate in 1999 – the doors on nuclear testing could be shut world-wide. A race against the clock is on.

There are not the only ominous developments. India has begun sea trials of its 7000-ton nuclear-powered submarine with underwater ballistic missile launch capability, the first in a planned fleet of five. India became the world’s 10th-highest military spender in 2008 but now plans to head even further upwards. In July 2009, Indian defence minister, A.K. Antony announced that for 2009-2010 India plans to raise its military budget by 50% to a staggering $40 billion, about six times that of Pakistan.

On the Pakistani side, the desire to maintain nuclear parity with India has caused it to push down the pedal as hard as it can. Although the numbers of Pakistani warheads and delivery vehicles is a closely held secret, a former top official of the CIA recently noted in a report released this month that: “It took them roughly 10 years to double the number of nuclear weapons from roughly 50 to 100.”

This is bad news for those Pakistanis, like myself, who have long opposed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. More:

India’s nuclear fizzle

Why blow the whistle 11 years later? Think President Obama’s initiative to revive the CTBT. By rubbishing the Pokhran II tests as a failure, India’s nuclear hawks hope to make the case for more nuclear tests. Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear physics at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, in Outlook:

Suspicion has now turned into confirmed fact: India’s hydrogen bomb test of May 1998 was not the fantastic success it was claimed to be. Last week’s dramatic revelation by K. Santhanam, a senior DRDO official with important responsibilities at the 1998 Pokhran test site, has essentially confirmed conclusions known from seismic analysis after the explosion.

Instead of 45 kilotons of destructive energy, the explosion had produced only 15 to 20. The bomb had not worked as designed.

Why blow the whistle 11 years later? An irresistible urge to tell the truth or moral unease is scarcely the reason. Santhanam’s ‘coming clean’ has the stamp of approval of the most hawkish of Indian nuclear hawks. Among them are P.K. Iyengar, A.N. Prasad, Bharat Karnad and Brahma Chellaney.

By rubbishing the earlier test as a failure, they hope to make the case for more nuclear tests. This would enable India to develop a full-scale thermonuclear arsenal.

As is well known, a thermonuclear (or hydrogen) bomb is far more complex than the relatively simple fission weapon first tested by India in 1974 and by Pakistan in 1998. Advanced weapons needs fine-tuning to achieve their full destructiveness – France had to test 22 times to achieve perfection. More: