Scientist claims Pokhran-II not full success, govt puzzled

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 28 2009, 05:40am hrs
A top scientist involved in 1998 atomic tests fuelled a controversy when he suggested Pokhran- II was not a full success but his claim had few takers in the government and the nuclear establishment which dismissed it as absurd and puzzling.

Dropping the bombshell, K Santhanam, the Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) representative for the tests conducted when Atal Behari Vajpayee was the prime minister, said there was no question about backing away from his assertion that the 1998 atomic tests did not achieve the desired results.

Somebody has made a statement. I was puzzled by the statement. If you are not puzzled, you are a genius, home minister P Chidambaram told reporters when asked to comment on Santhanams claim.

The government will find out (the statements veracity), he said indicating he found little merit in the claim. But R Chidambaram, who was the chairman of the department of atomic energy in 1998, was quick to dub the suggestion as absurd.

There is no controversy over the yield of Pokhran-II nuclear tests. The claims are absurd, Chidambaram, the current principal scientific adviser to the government said.

Santhanams version was also contested by Brajesh Mishra, national security advisor in the Vajpayee government, who said Chidambaram had reported to him on May 13, 1998 that all parameters had been met in the five tests carried out and there was no need to undertake a sixth one.

It was clear to us that the thermonuclear as also the nuclear tests have been successful, Mishra said.

Navy chief admiral Sureesh Mehta said Indias nuclear deterrence capabilities were proven and capable enough.

According to Santhanam , the first and most powerful of the three tests conducted on May 11 in 1998--thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb--was a fizzle and of low yield and not the one that would meet the countrys strategic objectives. Vajpayee had acknowledged that India has tested a big bomb.

In Santhanams view, India needed to conduct more atomic tests and should not rush to sign the controversial nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT). Santhanam stuck to his position that the yield of the atomic tests was lower than what was claimed indicating certainly the need to refine the designs in order that the country has assured performance from the thermonuclear designs. Admiral Sureesh Mehta said, As far we are concerned, we go by the views of the scientists. They have given us certain capability and that is capable enough to provide deterrence and they are proven.

Santhanam has contended that the international seismological community had made measurements and come to the conclusion that the yield from the device was below what was claimed by India.

He said no country in the world has ever managed to get its thermonuclear weapon in just one test.