Controversy over Pokhran-II needless: PM

The PM on Saturday tried to put to rest the controversy over Pokhran nuclear tests of May 1998.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday tried to put to rest the raging controversy over Pokhran nuclear tests of May 1998, saying former president APJ Abdul Kalam has clarified that the tests were successful.

It’s a “needless controversy over Pokhran tests… Dr Kalam has clarified that the tests were successful,” Dr Singh said days after senior nuclear scientist K Santhanam, who was the DRDO representative at Pokhran II, dropped a bombshell earlier this week, saying the tests were only partially successful and the results much below expectations.

Santhanam had also stressed that the country needs to conduct more nuclear tests to consolidate its position and improve its knowledge of nuclear weapon programme before joining the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Santhanam, who was director for 1998 test site preparations, had stated that the yield for the thermonuclear test or hydrogen bomb in popular usage was much lower than what was claimed. As per him, the yield of Pokharan II tests can only be classified as a “fizzle” rather than big bang. In nuclear terminology, a test is classified as a fizzle when the yield is below expectation.

Reacting to Santhanam’s claims, Dr Kalam had asserted that Pokhran II nuclear tests conducted in 1998 during the NDA regime were "successful".

"Scientists know what it is. It has been a successful operation," said Kalam, who as director general of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) spearheaded the tests.

Rejecting Santhanam`s claims, Kalam had said the data collated by the team had established that the design yield of the thermonuclear test had been obtained.

Soon after the tests, Indian authorities had claimed that Pokhran II test was a huge success as it yielded 45 kilotons (KT). However, this was contradicted by the western experts who said that it was not more than 20 KT.

The Defence Ministry too had reacted sharply to Santhanam’s revelation, saying India has a meaningful nuclear deterrent.

Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar said the tests in 1998 achieved "100 per cent desired results".

Brajesh Mishra, who was the National Security Advisor to Atal Behari Vajpayee’s NDA government, too rejected the senior scientist’s claim.

“Dr R Chidambaram, when he reported to me on the second day of the test, said we have done five (tests) and we have met all our parameters and we don’t need to do the sixth one. This is enough for us – it was clear to us that the thermonuclear tests as well as the nuclear tests were successful,” Mishra said, speaking about Dr Chidambaram, who was the chief of the Department of Atomic Energy during the nuclear tests.

“The tests were adequate. We believe whatever the scientists tell us. The scientists said the tests were enough and tested. We believe the scientists, as they provide us with nuclear capability,” said Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta.