The scientist who is at the forefront of the row over the alleged failure of India’s 1998 thermonuclear test said on Monday that the country needs a “series of thermonuclear bomb tests” in order to be able to “protect the nation’s security” from China.

“We are totally naked vis-À-vis China which has an inventory of 200 nuclear bombs, the vast majority of which are giant H-bombs of power equal to 3 million tonnes of TNT,” a note circulated by K. Santhanam, former Chief Adviser (Technologies) of the Defence Research Development Organisation, at a press conference addressed by him said.

Mr. Santhanam reiterated his earlier claim that the thermonuclear device had been a failure, “totally incapable of weaponisation,” and urged the government to lift the unilateral voluntary moratorium on testing announced in May 1998.

The scientist, who represented the DRDO at the Pokhran-II tests, disputed National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan’s recent contention that he (Santhanam) had no idea of what he was talking about and did not have access to all the data. The NSA, he said, “is barking up the wrong tree.”

Mr. Santhanam pointed to China’s stockpile of nuclear weapons and asked whether India would prefer using the 3,500-km Agni-III missile with a 25-kiloton fission warhead as the core of its credible minimum deterrence, instead of mounting a larger warhead.

As to what prompted him to raise the issue 11 years down the line, Mr. Santhanam said interpreting the test results took time but he had given a confidential report to the government towards the end of 1998.

He said the government could consider setting up a panel of independent and eminent retired scientists to evaluate the 1998 test data and prepare a confidential report.

Asked whether he had factored in the international consequences of India testing afresh, Mr. Santhanam said it was for the government to weigh the political, economic and strategic costs. The “pain of testing” was unlikely to be as severe as it was being made out. “In any case, it [testing] was better than our current situation of dar dar ke marna (dying out of fear),” he said.

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