Military experts condemn Khan’s sabre-rattling on nuclear capacity

Indian strategic community has roundly condemned claims by A.Q. Khan, closely associated with Pakistan’s nuclear programme, that its nuclear weapons can reach New Delhi in five minutes. Experts within the government and outside said it was irresponsible war mongering by the discredited nuclear scientist.

“I don’t think we should respond to such claims. India’s position is clear, no first strike. If we have to carry out a second strike, it would be decisive. But then there is no need for such discussions now,” a senior military scientist said.

He said a nuclear missile launch involves elaborate preparations for hours. “The final flight of a missile would only take a few minutes because of our proximity to each other,” he said.

Army chief General Dalbir Singh declined to comment on Khan’s claims.

Basit dismissive

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit said, “Those who wish to have solution to issues through war and violence are fools.”

“War is not possible between India and Pakistan under the present circumstances. There is a need for result-oriented dialogue between the two sides which should include the fundamental ( buniyadi ) issues which have not been reconciled,” Mr Basit told a gathering in the capital.

Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar (retd), Director, Society for Policy Studies, said there was nothing new in what Dr. Khan had said.

“He is very well known to seek limelight and draw attention to himself. The man should be ignored. At a time when U.S. President Barack Obama is in Hiroshima warning the world of the dangers of nuclear weapons, such sabre rattling degrades regional stability,” he said.

‘In fantasy land’

“Such discussions are irresponsible, Khan is living in his fantasy world,” a senior military officer said. He pointed out that while strategic nuclear capabilities are a reality, India was not lagging behind. He said India was progressing as planned, and would soon complete the nuclear triad — with the weaponisation of its indigenous nuclear submarine. India already has a robust nuclear missile capability, and also can deliver nuclear weapons from aircraft.

Dr. Khan had, on Saturday, claimed the Pakistan nuclear weapons have the ability to target Delhi in five minutes. Addressing a group on the 18th anniversary of Pakistan’s first nuclear tests, he also claimed that Pakistan could have become a nuclear power as early as 1984. However, the then President General Zia-ul-Haq opposed the move, fearing a military intervention by foreign powers.

Dr. Khan said Pakistan had the ability to target Delhi from Kahuta, near Rawalpindi where the Kahuta Research Laboratories, Pakistan’s key uranium enrichment facility, is based.

The nuclear scientists is now a shadow of his former self, and doesn’t have any acceptance in the power circles of Pakistan.

Once celebrated as a national hero, Dr. Khan was forced in 2004 to accept responsibility for the proliferation of nuclear technology and was placed under house arrest. In 2009 the court granted him freedom.

“Without my services, Pakistan would never have been the first Muslim nuclear nation,” Dr. Khan was quoted as saying by news agencies.