The raging controversy triggered by the assertion of the former DRDO scientist K. Santhanam that “the yield in the thermonuclear device test conducted at Pokhran on May 11 and 13, 1998 was much lower than what was claimed,” is disquieting, to say the least. The fact that Mr. Santhanam has categorically rubbished National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan’s claim — that the Atomic Energy Commission comprising a peer group of scientists came out with the ‘most authoritative’ statement on the efficacy of the 1998 nuclear test — and reiterated his stand that the 1998 tests were a failure, and therefore, totally incapable of weaponisation, raises more questions than it can answer (Sept. 22). Given the gravity of Mr. Santhanam’s allegation, the government should pay heed to his request for setting up a panel of independent and eminent scientists to evaluate the 1998 test data.
Despite the strong defence against the detractors of the Pokhran-II thermonuclear test, the controversy about its actual yield remains a mystery. Now, Mr. Santhanam has taken a step further by advocating a series of thermonuclear tests to counter what he calls China’s inventory of 200 nuclear bombs, a vast majority of which are giant H-bombs (Sept. 22).
The article “Pokhran-II thermonuclear test, a failure” (Sept. 17) gave a detailed account of the findings to substantiate the failure of Pokhran-II. Mr. Santhanam is not alone and many former nuclear scientists too have voiced their concern. Notwithstanding M.K. Narayanan’s assertion about the success of the test, the nation will feel secure only if the government’s stand is confirmed by an independent inquiry panel consisting of retired and eminent nuclear scientists.
Capt. T.Raju (retd.),
The controversy ignited by Mr. Santhanam over the alleged fiasco is unfortunate. His assertion that India needs a series of thermonuclear tests to protect India from China is deplorable. Despite the avowed elucidation by the Indian security establishment that the H-bomb tests were consummately conducted, Mr. Santhanam and others have claimed to the contrary. The whole episode has only helped infuriate an irrational xenophobia. Even assuming that the H-bomb results were incommensurate, there is no reason to carry out more experiments. Nuclear deterrence is not an end in itself and a few more kilotons of yield will not substantially add to it. Any propensity to conduct more H-bomb tests is geopolitically unsellable and strategically unfeasible.
B. Jayanna Krupakar
The former DRDO scientist’s repeated statements on India’s allegedly compromised national security with respect to its minimum credible deterrence are completely unwarranted. So is creating public anxiety over India’s sensitive strategic policies. Freedom of speech and opinion must be respected in a democracy but here is a clear case of misuse of this freedom.
Gayathri V. Patil,
Mr. Santhanam does not really question the nuclear capability of the country, but only the actual ‘yield’ of the Pokhran-II test. Does it really matter whether the yield is 150 kiloton or even 25 kiloton, as both can cause immeasurable damage to the enemy when it is used? As Mr. K. Subramaniam and V.S. Arunachalam, the country’s two eminent defence experts state in their article (Sept. 21), “nuclear deterrence is essentially a mind game.” Once a nuclear war starts between two nations, the relative size of their nuclear arsenal has no relevance. Mr. Santhanam’s call for conducting further tests has no meaning. As General Omar N. Bradley has said, “the way to win an atomic war is to make certain that it never starts.” And the best way to ensure that is to develop your nuclear capability but never be the first user.
Mr. Santhanam asserts that thermonuclear test was a fizzle. When assurances of national security by leaders and scientists become questionable, it is the duty of every citizen to demand a full-fledged debate on the claims and counter claims on the country’s nuclear capability. It is not wise to display unfounded or false confidence and the pride of possessing nuclear weapons. The leadership should go in for further tests without bothering about the fallout — political or economic — as the country’s security cannot be compromised at any cost.