Topic started by SHOCKED (@ on Wed May 29 01:37:55 .
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

This was an interview published in rediff two years back....

'We are great at fooling ourselves'
An NBC report quoting intelligence sources as saying that Pakistan's nuclear arms are greater than India's in number, sophistication and delivery systems has sent shock waves through the country. But Professor Bharat Karnad feels vindicated. A security affairs specialist at the Centre for Policy Research, he has been crying himself hoarse that India's nuclear arms are not just insufficient to match China but are probably incapable of matching Pakistan too.

In a brief interview to Amberish K Diwanji, he explains his position and his fears about India's nuclear arsenal and its strategic weaknesses. Excerpts:

First question. Are Pakistan's nuclear weapons superior to what India has?

I have been saying this for almost two years, since the May 1998 tests. The case I am making is that unless we test, and do so repeatedly, we will not be able to have deployable or usable weapons. We will have computer-designed weapons which can be exploded in computer simulations. But that is not the same as the real thing. Without physical testing, we will never know whether our nuclear weapons work.

We don't have that amount of data, especially on the thermonuclear device. The one thermonuclear explosion we had was a fizzle, which has now been admitted by our top scientists like P K Iyengar. So what data do we have for the thermonuclear weapon, which is a decisive weapon in any nuclear arsenal?

And I have said that if we don't test more, not only are we going to be no match for the Chinese, but we will find it difficult to match even the Pakistanis when it comes to deployable arms. After all, the Chinese have conducted some 50-odd tests and have a whole battery of data to use for comparing their computer simulations and to constantly upgrade their weapons.

Even the Pakistanis have conducted very few tests.

Look, the Pakistanis have imported their entire design and delivery systems from China. They don't need to test. I made this point in great detail at a recent seminar where I said we are not a match for even Pakistan, so why are we talking about China?

Now that the NBC report has come out, everyone is talking about it [Pakistan's superiority]. But earlier it was evident to a few of us. In the nuclear scientific community, many of them know this. But outside that group, I think I am the only one who kept saying [that we are no match for Pakistan]. I then persuaded P K Iyengar for almost a year to go public, which he did recently. He was very reluctant and required a lot of coaxing. But I needed him to back what I had been saying because no one was believing me. I knew I was right, but needed an independent corroboration, which Iyengar provided.

Both the Indian government and the Pakistani government have denied the NBC report.

Let's look at the motivation of the Pakistanis to say they have only a modest arsenal. It is simple: they do not want India to go ahead. It is better for them to say that India is great and has a huge arsenal compared to their small collection, and thus lull us into complacency at which India anyway is very good.

Look at our complacency. We conduct one test and think we have a huge inventory. But it is just the beginning. The 1998 tests were just the beginning because we had a 24-year hiatus when we did literally nothing.

We are great at fooling ourselves. We have deluded ourselves into believing that we don't need to do any of the things others did to achieve deterrence. This has been the Indian tradition, a habit of mind that is difficult to contest.

And it is this habit of mind that makes us believe we have achieved weaponisation?

Very true. When, in fact, the processes of weaponisation are very distinct, very detailed, very rigorous, and ultimately, very physical. Which means that you may do all kinds of computer simulations and sophisticated testing, but ultimately they have to be physically tested.

Arundhati Ghose, former representative at the Disarmament Conference, has said that India does not even have data for computer simulations.

That's right. But you know, ultimately, Arundhati, I and others, we don't have much credibility. But people know we are right.

Do you think there is a witch-hunt against you?

No, not a witch-hunt. I don't want to get into the conspiratorial stuff. But the fact is that my views are not convenient for the government, for the people, for the mainstream leaders of the strategic community. The Jasjit Singhs and K Subrahmanyams have been proven wrong so consistently and so often that they don't think anything is wrong when something like this [the NBC report] is pointed out. They are the ones who opposed any testing after 1974, saying that one test was enough. Jasjit Singh wrote that and Subrahmanyam said before the [May 1998] tests that we don't need any more tests.

Then, after the tests, oh yes, they said that is good and now we don't need any more tests [laughs]. Now, after the ground under him has been weakening, he has said that we may need some tests.

The lesson of this is that the government has advisers who give advice that they think the government wants to hear. This, of course, assumes that these advisers can give that kind of advice. What, after all, are retired officers? They have somehow managed to survive 35 years in service because they do not want to go too much against the grain. So it is clods like us who don't know how to play the game. We give our assessment based on analysis and if the analysis says this is how the chips fall [that is what we say]. If someone can refute the analysis, do so.

The NBC report says India lacks a credible delivery system while Pakistan has one.

I think that is overstating the case a bit. I don't really know...

But the DRDO [Defence Research and Development Organisation] does not have a good track record.

I have said that DRDO does not have a good track record. We have made A P J Kalam into an icon, and the trouble is that in doing so he becomes invulnerable to criticism. Kalam is a tremendous leader of the integrated defence missile project, but you can't then say that he is God's gift to the country.

But you do believe we have a delivery system?

Yes, a rudimentary delivery system, not as rudimentary as the report claims.

But not as sophisticated as what Pakistan has?

No, because Pakistan has been getting Chinese missiles. Everything there is imported. It is a bit like comparing a calculator made in Ghaziabad with one made in Germany. They have imported their stuff whereas we have put together something.

But in the end what matters is the final system.

That is right. What finally matters is whether you have something to use or not, not how good your research base is or how great you are.

Ultimately the bomb has a utilitarian value. It does not have a metaphysical value. We give it metaphysical values such as equating it to the Indian stake in high science. What the heck!

Do you think this report will be a wake-up call to the government?

I am not too sure. Our writings have not done the trick, but as usual, some foreigner says the most banal things and we take it seriously.

How would you place this report in context?

I have been saying the same things, so naturally I won't say this report is wrong. It states all these things that I know and I have written about.

Most of our indigenous weaponisation programmes have not done very well. What needs to be done?

We have very, very good scientists. But we have to let them loose to do the things that they can do. We have the finest physicists, engineers and metallurgists, but we have to give them incentives, you have to get them cracking, not restrain them by holding back funds. After all, nuclear arms do not come cheap.

India wants to achieve superpowerhood on the cheap. Why should anybody accord you big-power status? What are you? You are a beggarly country. You don't even know what your national interests are.

I am very respectful of Pakistan, and I have always said so. Why? Because their margin of error is so little. That is why they don't take any chances. Like the Israelis. You have to beg, borrow or steal to ensure your security. In our case, we think we are a subcontinent and who cares? The drought kills millions, but there is a billion more, so who cares?

That is the difference. I am not surprised that the Pakistanis are so motivated, so dedicated and so resolved to have what they want. Bhutto said, 'We'll eat grass, but we'll have it [the nuclear bomb].' They got it! They got it!

Incidentally, the defence minister has said that India will sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. What do you think?

I doubt it. This government will fall.


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