Pokhran-II: Ex-AEC chief slams Kalam

Controversy over India’s 1998 N-test refuses to die as another scientist slams Kalam.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Controversy over India’s nuclear test in 1998 refuses to die as another prominent scientist on Tuesday slammed former President APJ Abdul Kalam, saying he was no authority over Pokhran-II.

In an interview to a news channels, former Atomic Energy Commission chief Homi Nusserwanji Sethna said Kalam was not qualified to reject the claim of former Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist K Santhanam that India nuclear test of 1998 was not satisfactory.

"What did he (Kalam) know about extracting, making explosive grade? He didn`t know a thing. By being a President he appeared to wear the stature. He relied on atomic energy to gain additional stature," Sethna said.

Sethna was the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission when India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974. He, along with scientists Raja Ramanna and Nag Chaudhuri, guided the mission called Smiling Buddha.

“The Science and Technology Community as a whole wanted to have some more tests,” Santhanam had said.

“…but conducting a nuclear test is a highly political decision, and no matter the wish of scientific community may be, the political leadership of the country will have its say,” he had added.

Santhanam also clarified that he had at no stage said the tests were a complete failure.

Kalam, who was then Director General of DRDO, however said the nuclear test was a success and this had been proved by data. He was supported by the current AEC chief Anil Kakodkar, then National Security Advisor to the NDA government Brajesh Mishra and also Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

`Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has already clarified it and described it as successful,` he said. `Unnecessary controversy is being created about the Pokhran test.`

Santhanam, who coordinated the Pokhran II tests, had claimed that the only thermonuclear device tested was a "fizzle". Another scientist related with the test also de-bunked Santhanam’s claim.

R Chidambaram, who was in 1998 chief of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is on record as saying that the bomb`s yield was 45 kilotonnes (45,000 tonnes of conventional explosive).

Criticism of the 1998 also came from another nuclear scientist PK Iyengar, who was the second-in-command to Ramanna in 1974. He recently said India needed more nuclear tests as Pokhran-II was organized in a hurry due to intelligence inputs about Pkaistan getting ready to conduct such a test. Pakistan conducted its own series of nuclear tests a week later.