With some scientists questioning the efficacy of the hydrogen bomb tested in Pokhran over a decade ago, former Army chief V P Malik has said the armed forces need to be “reassured” by the nuclear establishment on the exact yield of the weapons developed by them.
“They need to be reassured about the weapon system they use and about the planning of what kind of the yield they have when they hit the target,” Mr. Malik, the Chief of the Armed Forces during the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, told Karan Thapar on the Devil’s Advocate programme of CNN-IBN.
Terming the recent comments of former DRDO scientist K Santhanam, questioning the yield of the thermonuclear device tested on May 11, 1998 as “shocking”, he said doubts over the efficacy of the weapon affects the armed forces.
“Yes, it affects the armed forces. Particularly, because, when they plan the task given to them then they have to know what kind of yield that each nuclear weapon has,” he said stressing that it was important to remove doubts.
Mr. Malik also dubbed as “unconvincing” former President A P J Abdul Kalam’s remarks virtually rubbishing Dr. Santhanm’s claims on the yield of the thermonuclear device tested in 1998.
“Let us not forget that Dr Santhanam was part of his (Kalam’s) team. And it came as quite a shock with Dr Santhanam himself mentioning that it was a fizzle. Of course, again he was referring to the thermonuclear weapon. So, Dr Kalam’s statement was not quite convincing,” he said.
The former Army chief said that the team of scientists led by then Chairman of the Atomic Energy commission R Chidambaram should reassure the armed forces on the yield of the weapons.
“You can convince people only through the scientists, particularly those who participated in this exercise. I am referring to Dr Chidambaram and his whole team from the Atomic Energy Commission.
“I don’t think we can be convinced easily by people who are not scientists. This is a matter of technology and these are the people who can discuss and reassure you,” Mr. Malik said.
Asked whether he found Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks on the controversy convincing, Mr. Malik said “well that was a political statement. In things like this, particularly for the armed forces, they have to be convinced by people who have developed these weapons.”
He said the reassurance by nuclear scientists need not be in the form of a public debate but can be done privately.
Mr. Malik, who is credited with the victory in the Kargil war, termed as “worrying” reports about Pakistan stepping up nuclear weapons programme and modifying the Harpoon missiles acquired from the US.
“It is not only the low intensity conflict but even the ongoing proxy war may get extended because they are so reassured, so confident that we will not be able to do anything, even Kargil-type incursions can take place,” he said about perceptions that Pakistan had gained confidence with the steady build up in its arsenal.
“I am absolutely convinced that we need to build our deterrence capability much more than what we have today,” Mr. Malik said noting that the Pakistan gaining confidence after the 1998 nuclear tests was one of the reasons for the Kargil incursion.
The former Army Chief said that the reported modification of the Harpoon missiles has brought several cities and key establishments in the country within the strike range of Pakistani weapons.