New Delhi: Seeking to put to rest decisively any questions about India`s nuclear deterrence, former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar has robustly defended the 1998 nuclear tests, saying they were "perfect", and has assured the army that it should be "fully confident" about the nuclear arsenal at its command.
"I think that it is guaranteed. Army should be fully confident. There is no doubt about the arsenal at their command," he told Karan Thapar in an interview on the "Devil`s Advocate" programme on a private news channel on Sunday.
He was responding to a question on former Indian Army chief V.P. Malik`s remark that nuclear scientists should assure the armed forces about the efficacy of the thermo-nuclear device.
Dismissing claims made by scientists K. Santhanam, who coordinated the Pokhran II tests, and PK Iyenger, former chairman of the AEC, that the 1998 thermo-nuclear tests of India were duds and "erroneous," Kakodkar asserted that the country has several hydrogen bombs with a yield "much more" than 45 kilo tonnes, required for making bombs.
Kakodkar asserted that the thermo-nuclear test, the fission test and the sub-kilo tonne test "all worked as designed", and with the results of these tests India can build a range of systems right up to 200 kilo tonnes.
"The yield of thermo-nuclear test was verified, not by one method but several methods based on different principles, done by different groups. These have been reviewed in detail and, in fact, I had described the tests in 1998 as perfect and I stand by that," he said.
He refuted the argument advanced by some scientists that India needed one more test to perfect its thermo-nuclear deterrence.
"Well, if you go by `Dil Maange More`, that`s another story. But we are talking about a time where the knowledge base has expanded, the capability has expanded and you carry out a design and prove you are confident that on the basis of that design and that test, one can build a range of systems right up to 200 kilo tonnes," he said.
"And that kind of fully assures the deterrence," he added.
Kakodkar said that Iyengar did not know very much about 1998 tests and was, therefore, "in no position to talk". Santhanam only knew about the thermo-nuclear test on a need-to-know basis and, therefore, he too did not know everything, he added.
Kakodkar, who retired as the AEC Chief on Nov 30, contended that India has several thermo-nuclear bombs and their yield is well above 50 kilo tonnes each.
Strongly dismissing the claim of Santhanam and Iyengar that the yield of the thermo-nuclear test was only 20-25 kilo tonnes and not 45 kilo tonnes, Kakodkar reiterated that the AEC has six separate ways of measuring the yield and they all came to the same conclusion, i.e. 45 kilo tonnes.
Kakodkar said the DRDO seismic instruments, which Santhanam is relying on to measure the yield, were flawed.
Ruling out the setting up of a peer group of scientists to review the results of the 1998 thermo-nuclear test, Kakodkar asserted that the tests "have been actually verified in 3-D situations on the test data available from abroad and validated, and these have been published in international journals."
"Of course," he said when asked whether India has a credible thermo-nuclear bomb? "Why are you using singular? Make that plural," he said when Thapar asked him whether India has a credible thermo-nuclear bomb.
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam has also defended India`s nuclear deterrence capability. He has said the only thermo-nuclear device tested in 1998 produced the "design yield," sufficient for producing therm-onuclear bombs.
The controversy erupted in August when Santhanam, a former official with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), told a seminar in New Delhi that the only thermo-nuclear device tested was a "fizzle". A test is described as a fizzle when it fails to meet the desired yield.
Santhanam also pitched for more nuclear tests by India in the face of alleged pressure from the US for India to sign Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTB"). "We can`t get into a stampede to sign CTBT. We should conduct more nuclear tests which are necessary from the point of view of security," Santhanam said. Subsequently, some nuclear scientists, including Iyengar, backed Santhanam`s assertions.