Indian officials have trashed the report published by a military intelligence think tank based in the United States, which, citing satellite imagery alleged that New Delhi was covertly expanding its nuclear weapons programme.
The report is “mischievously timed,” ahead of a meeting on Monday of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Buenos Aires, and is intended to divert focus from the real culprits of proliferation, said an official source, who did not wish to be named. “It is interesting that such reports questioning India’s nuclear credentials are planted at regular intervals,” he observed.
The Hindu carried a news report based on the findings published by the IHS Jane’s group that satellite imagery had revealed extension of the Mysore nuclear centrifuge plant, which could “substantially” expand India’s nuclear submarine fleet and support development of thermonuclear weapons.
“We take strong objections to references that the Indian nuclear weapons programme has a covert dimension,” the source said. “India is a declared nuclear weapon state and is not subject to any legal and political obligations to restrict production.”
The official rejected the perceived references in the report that India was pursuing “runaway” expansion of its atomic arsenal. He cited New Delhi’s willingness to negotiate the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), intended to impose a worldwide ban on nuclear material for atomic weapons, as an expression of India’s nuclear restraint.
However, the source clarified that New Delhi “would not accept a ban on the production of enriched uranium that is used for the propulsion of nuclear submarines”.
Defence officials told The Hindu , on conditions of anonymity, that India’s indigenously designed nuclear submarine Arihant has concluded “harbour trials” and final preparations are underway for an imminent commencement of “sea trials,” ahead of formal induction of the platform into the naval fleet. The nuclear submarine - which has a long undersea endurance - is central to India’s “second strike” capability, and its induction in the navy’s stables would complete the triad of nuclear delivery systems.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), that steers India’s weapons development programme is developing a string of submarine launched ballistic missiles including the K-4 which has a 2,000 kilometer range.