Wow. K Santhanam, the former director of India’s Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses who played what C Ferguson “called”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_04/Ferguson.asp a “leadership role” during New Delhi’s 1998 nuclear weapons tests, told “Times Now”:http://timesnow.tv/NewsDtls.aspx?NewsID=6911 television that India canceled a 1994 nuclear test at the last minute.
Interesting topics include: New Delhi’s perception of other nuclear threats at the time, steps that India took to conceal test preparations, and domestic political considerations.
The full text of the interview, broadcast April 1, is below, with relevant portions in bold.
Srinjoy: Why compelled India to think of testing a nuclear bomb in 1994?
Santhanam: First of all you had *the clandestine programme of Pakistan; there was an increasing evidence of collaboration, co-operation, collusion between China and Pakistan, in nuclear weaponry. Specifically the trigger development which technology the Chinese had.* Secondly, other international factors came into play. You may remember The Glen and Symington amendments under which economic and military aid to Pakistan was stopped because of Pakistan’s Nuclear programme despite having certified.
For a variety of reasons we have lived with a nuke China, would it be possible for India to live with a nuke Pakistan, with a history of conflicts? So, the matter was analysed by a special group of experts, drawn from various disciplines as to what exactly should be done and the committee submitted its report to the then PM Narsimha Rao. *This was the build up, so obviously the direction was step by step be prepared to consider conducting tests and exercising the nuke option.*
Srinjoy: What went into the preparation for the test?
Santhanam: *There were two shafts in Pokhran dug during 1981-82 and they had been sealed because no further work was likely to occur. These two shafts were reactivated, we had to blow out the concrete lid and then pump out all the water, do all the repair work.* Brilliant job was done by the engineer in adverse circumstances.
Since we had a lull, so to say, *after December 1994 we came across abandoned wells in the area, the villagers had left because there was no water, deep enough wells, we could use them without inviting attention of digging a new one which the satellites would pick up. So these three wells in an area called Navtala, where identified, they were repaired, then made suitable to receive the device.*
Srinjoy: About the 1994 situation *how were they detected by the Americans*, what led to their detection?
Santhanam: *One must be aware that the resolution of the cameras, whether it is the US satellite or the Russian satellites these days is such that they can easily detect, especially in daylight,* night time the resolution is always poor. The phrase is change detection.
Srinjoy: So what happened after the detection what made the government back off?
Santhanam: Let me say the decision to conduct a test is ultimately political. We must acknowledge that fact because the technical factor is only one factor, amongst a host of other elements leading to a decision making at the highest level.
Srinjoy: How did it happen…*did the White house call? How does it actually happen on the ground?*
Santhanam: *It involves the White house; it involves the US embassy in Delhi. It also involves the Indian government and our embassy in Washington. It’s a tight dance.*
Srinjoy: What happened after that?
Santhanam: We were quite clear that *if work is resumed at these sites there is likely to be detection by satellites.* We were clear this would be detected and it was detected by the US satellite and they had conveyed their concerns to New Delhi. This was as you approach the end of 1994. There was another internal development that of parliamentary elections. *The concern was that if you conduct the test in November-December. It could be construed as a way of influencing the results of the elections* by saying that we are a firm government, we know how to attend to our national security needs, but the timing would have invited a lot of criticism. *The consensus was that ‘let’s hold’. After it is over we will revisit the case.*
Interestingly, Bhubnesh Chaturvedi, former Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that India canceled the tests because of the elections:
bq. We had the capacity to do it, but we did not do it, because the elections were near. We did not want the successive government to bear the brunt. If the government would have continued in power, we could have done it.
A transcript of the interview is “here”:http://timesnow.tv/NewsDtls.aspx?NewsID=6911. You can download a copy “here.”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/file_download/11