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'US wants to cap our nuclear programme'

August 18, 2005 23:25 IST
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Former Deputy National Security Adviser Satish Chandra believes the recently concluded nuclear deal between India and the US is dangerous for India's national security, because it exposes India's nuclear weapons programme to external interference.

In the second part of the interview to Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt, Chandra explains why separating India's civilian and military nuclear facilities will adversely impact its weapons programme, which needs to be flexible to adapt to changing circumstances.

Part I of the interview: 'The US has not fully delivered'

Part II of the interview: ''World doesn't know how many bombs India has'

But there is also a counter-claim regarding the separation of civilian and military facilities.

Yes, I know. I am just saying we have an excellent atomic energy establishment. It is of high repute and has an excellent ethos. It has delivered both on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and on the weapons side.

We have a large manpower pool and interchange always take place, creating synergy. We are doing lots of research on both sides. If you are going to segregate people it will affect research.

Say if I am engaged in the Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre. Now, if you shift me (after the segregation of civilian and military facilities as India has agreed with the US) to the civilian side, you are limiting my options. The country will have a limited pool of talent for the weapons programme.

The segregation of civilian and military facilities is not wise and not practical.

Also, we don't know who will head the military structure. Will it be under the Department of Atomic Energy? Maybe we will have to create a huge structure. Will civil servants head a military structure?

Indo-US nuclear treaty: A good deal

Many countries do have separate civil and military nuclear establishments.

Frankly, you can't compare yourself to others, not even to Pakistan. The US is a massive power and they have laboratories doing both military and civilian work. The US can get away with anything. If they ask others to stay away no one will go further.

Pakistan's nuclear programme is almost exclusively military. India has agreed to additional protocol, which are so strict and intrusive. India has agreed to dangerous ground rules.

During the NDA rule, I was involved somewhat in NSSP (Next Steps in Strategic Partnership)talks. Then, there was no question of agreeing to segregation (of civil and military nuclear facilities). Because that would not have been accepted at all. We were arguing with the Americans that we already had stringent protocols and that we are not proliferators. We have stringent controls because it is in India's interest.

But now we have agreed to obligations which were entirely avoidable. We are accepting controls in return for what?

Charter of Dependence?

It is a question of future vision. What about new plants? Also, once the US changes it laws India will able to talk to France and Russia for nuclear fuel.

India's route is not the light breeder reactor. We have fast breeder reactors. And we have ample thorium reserves. I know it will take time to make use of it. But we should have explored the ways to get uranium from other sources, from other countries that are not bound by international laws.

India-US: Unequal partners

Since the days of Nehru India has said it needs weapons only for minimum deterrent. You can't keep saying that you are a Gandhian country and a believer of peace and also ask for thousands of bombs.

We have always been a peaceful country. We are for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. I was posted in Geneva, as permanent representative and I know well that this is the issue we still hold dear to us.

If the world agrees to complete elimination of nuclear weapons, India has offered a time bound programme (to do so).

My colleagues from the West then at the UN told me that it is a pipe dream. Nuclear weapons are here to stay. That is the reason India went for nuclear testing.

It is not minimum deterrent India is talking about. India's doctrine is one of credible minimum deterrence. What is the assessment of minimum deterrent today? It could be X. After ten years it could be two X. India's minimum deterrent will change if assessment of threats to the country changes.

What is safe today may not be safe enough tomorrow. You can't finalise your stockpile of weapons today because we don't know what the future holds.

Countries who think that they are threatened by India would like to know the numbers. Do you want to reveal those numbers? The moment you separate your facilities you reveal your numbers.

Countries like America don't have to bother about it because fissile material is coming out of their ears, but a country like India should be very, very cautious.

It is the US game plan to cap India's nuclear weapon programme. What the US Congress is ready to do is not as important for me. What we are committing is important for me. We are committing to a complete inspection regime for our civilian nuclear sector. It will not be possible to produce fissile material for our military establishment. You are agreeing to close that option.

They have not even de-hyphenated our relation vis-à-vis Pakistan. Soon after talking to us Ms Rice called Pakistan and briefed them. In short, I am saying that to get fuel the price we are paying is too high. I have a problem with what we are giving in. Give and take is fine but when you give in national security, it is not fine with me.

US lawmakers say N-deal will be a tough-sell

Critics could ask you to rethink your definition of national security.

For me definition of national security is to have a credible minimum deterrent. We are sacrificing a credible minimum deterrent. I am very conservative on matters of national security. I think it is dangerous.

But India is so poor. More than 230 million people live below the poverty line.

Right. We are a developing country, and that is why we have a 'credible minimum deterrent.' The US is so rich they have a 'massive deterrent.'

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