Editor's note: please see Disarmament Diplomacy, No. 25, for initial statements and reaction from India, Pakistan, the UN, the European Union, Australia, Canada and the US.
Statement to Parliament by Prime Minister Vajpayee, 27 May
'Suo Motu Statement by Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Parliament,' available on Government of India web-site http://www.indiagov.org, 27 May 1998
"I rise to inform the House of momentous developments that have taken place while we were in recess. On 11 May, India successfully carried out three underground nuclear tests. Two more underground tests on 13 May completed the planned series of tests. I would like this House to join me in paying fulsome tribute to our scientists, engineers and defence personnel whose singular achievements have given us a renewed sense of national pride and self-confidence. ...
In 1947, when India emerged as a free country to take its rightful place in the comity of nations, the nuclear age had already dawned. Our leaders then took the crucial decision to opt for self-reliance, and freedom of thought and action. We rejected the Cold War paradigm and chose the more difficult path of non-alignment. Our leaders also realised that a nuclear-weapon-free-world would enhance not only India's security but also the security of all nations. That is why disarmament was and continues to be a major plank in our foreign policy.
During the 50's India took the lead in calling for an end to all nuclear weapon testing. Addressing the Lok Sabha on 2 April, 1954, Pt. Jawaharlal, to whose memory we pay homage today, stated 'nuclear, chemical and biological energy and power should not be used to forge weapons of mass destruction'. He called for negotiations for prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons and in the interim, a standstill agreement to halt nuclear testing. This call was not heeded.
In 1965, along with a small group of non-aligned countries, India put forward the idea of an international non-proliferation agreement under which the nuclear-weapon States would agree to give up their arsenals provided other countries refrained from developing or acquiring such weapons. This balance of rights and obligations was not accepted. In the 60's our security concerns deepened. The country sought security guarantees but the countries we turned to were unable to extend to us the expected assurances. As a result, we made it clear that we would not be able to sign the NPT.
The Lok Sabha debated the issue on 5 April, 1968. Prime Minister...Indira Gandhi assured the House that 'we shall be guided entirely by our self-enlightenment and the considerations of national security'. This was a turning point and this House strengthened the decision of the then Government by reflecting a national consensus.
Our decision not to sign the NPT was in keeping with our basic objectives. In 1974, we demonstrated our nuclear capability. Successive Governments thereafter have taken all necessary steps in keeping with that resolve and national will, to safeguard India's nuclear option. This was the primary reason behind the 1996 decision for not signing the CTBT, a decision that also enjoyed consensus of this House.
The decades of the 80's and 90's had meanwhile witnessed the gradual deterioration of our security environment as a result of nuclear and missile proliferation. In our neighbourhood, nuclear weapons had increased and more sophisticated delivery systems inducted. In addition, India has also been the victim of externally aided and abetted terrorism, militancy and clandestine war.
At a global level, we see no evidence on the part of the nuclear-weapon States to take decisive and irreversible steps in moving towards a nuclear-weapon-free-world. Instead, we have seen that the NPT has been extended indefinitely and unconditionally, perpetuating the existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of the five countries.
Under such circumstances, the Government was faced with a difficult decision. The touchstone that has guided us in making the correct choice clear was national security. These tests are a continuation of the policies set into motion that put this country on the path of self-reliance and independence of thought and action.
India is now a nuclear-weapon State. This is a reality that cannot be denied. It is not a conferment that we seek; nor is it a status for others to grant. It is an endowment to the nation by our scientists and engineers. It is India's due, the right of one-sixth of human-kind. Our strengthened capability adds to our sense of responsibility. We do not intend to use these weapons for aggression or for mounting threats against any country; these are weapons of self-defence, to ensure that India is not subjected to nuclear threats or coercion. We do not intend to engage in an arms race.
We had taken a number of initiatives in the past. We regret that these proposals did not receive a positive response from other nuclear-weapon States. In fact, had their response been positive, we need not have gone in for our current testing programme. We have been and will continue to be in the forefront of the calls for opening negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, so that this challenge can be dealt with in the same manner that we have dealt with the scourge of two other weapons of mass destruction-through the Biological Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention.
Traditionally, India has been an outward looking country. Our strong commitment of multilateralism is reflected in our active participation in organisations like the United Nations. This engagement will continue. The policies of economic liberalisation introduced in recent years have increased our regional and global linkages and my Government intends to deepen and strengthen these ties.
Our nuclear policy has been marked by restraint and openness. We have not violated any international agreement either in 1974 or now, in 1998. The restraint exercised for 24 years, after having demonstrated our capability in 1974, is in itself a unique example. Restraint, however, has to arise from strength. It cannot be based upon indecision or doubt. The series of tests recently undertaken by India have led to the removal of doubts. The action involved was balanced in that it was the minimum necessary to maintain what is an irreducible component of our national security calculus.
Subsequently, Government has already announced that India will now observe a voluntary moratorium and refrain from conducting underground nuclear test explosions. We have also indicated willingness to move towards a de jure formalisation of this declaration.
The House is no doubt aware of the different reactions that have emanated from the people of India and from different parts of the world. The overwhelming support of our citizens is our source of strength. It tells us not only that this decision was right but also that our country wants a focussed leadership, which attends to their security needs. This, I pledge to do as a sacred duty. We have also been greatly heartened by the outpouring of support from Indians abroad. They have, with one voice, spoken in favour of our action. To the people of India, and to Indians abroad, I convey my profound gratitude. We look to the people of India and Indians abroad for support in the difficult period ahead.
In this, the fiftieth year of our independence, we stand at a defining moment in our history. The rationale for the Government's decision is based on the same policy tenets that have guided us for five decades. These policies have been sustained successfully because of an underlying national consensus. It is vital to maintain the consensus as we approach the next millennium. In my statement today and in the paper placed before the House, I have elaborated on the rationale behind the Government's decision and outlined our approach for the future. The present decision and future action will continue to reflect a commitment to sensibilities and obligations of an ancient civilisation, a sense of responsibility and restraint, but a restraint born of the assurance of action, not of doubts or apprehension. Avoiding triumphalism, let us work together towards our shared objective in ensuring that as we move towards a new millenium, India will take its rightful place in the international community."
Vajpayee Letter to President Clinton, 12 May
Letter from Prime Minister Vajpayee to President Clinton, 12 May 1998: text reproduced in The Economic Times, 14 May
"You would already be aware of the underground nuclear tests carried out in India. In this letter, I would like to explain the rationale for the tests.
I have been deeply concerned at the deteriorating security environment, specially the nuclear environment, faced by India for some years past. We have an overt nuclear-weapon State on our borders, a State which committed armed aggression against India in 1962. Although our relations with that country have improved in the last decade or so, an atmosphere of distress persists mainly due to the unresolved border problem. To add to the distress, that country has materially helped another neighbour of ours to become a covert nuclear-weapons State. At the hands of this bitter neighbour, we have suffered three aggressions in the last fifty years. And for the last ten years we have been the victims of unremitting terrorism and militancy sponsored by it in several parts of our country, especially Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.
Fortunately, the faith of the people in our democratic system, as also their patriotism, has enabled India to counter the activities of the terrorists and militants aided and abetted from abroad.
The deteriorating security environment, specially the nuclear environment, faced by India for some years past has forced us to undertake [a] limited number of tests which pose no danger to any country which has no inimical intention towards India.
I urge you, Mr. President, to show understanding towards India's security concerns.
India's commitment to participate in non-discriminatory and verifiable global disarmament measures is amply demonstrated by our adherence to the two conventions on biological and chemical weapons."
Joint Statement, Department of Atomic Energy and Defence Research and Development Organisation, 17 May
'Joint Statement by Department of Atomic Energy and Defence Research and Development Organisation', New Delhi, 17 May; available on the Government on India web-site http://www.indiagov.org,
"The current series of testing 5 nuclear devices during 11-13 May, 1998 in the Pokhran Range is the culmination of years of pioneering work done by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).
DAE has done pioneering R & D work in various aspects of nuclear science and technology. It has developed comprehensive indigenous capabilities in designing and building nuclear power reactors, fuel reprocessing plants and many other fuel-cycle related activities. DAE has also developed and built research reactors and strongly promoted the peaceful uses of atomic energy in industry and agriculture. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) is one of the largest multi-disciplinary laboratories in the country with the capability to build new technological systems in a wide range of areas. The fissile material used in these 5 tests are completely indigenous, and have been produced by local mastery over the relevant technologies by DAE establishments.
DRDO is one of the largest agencies in the country which is engaged in research and development of advanced weapons and systems for the Armed Forces. DRDO is also at the forefront in a spectrum of advanced defence technologies.
It has a large number of mission-oriented programmes involving design, development and proving of defence systems along with Transfer of Technology to Production Agencies. DRDO's experience and expertise in explosives and explosives-related technologies and in systems engineering and integration constitute an important part in the 5 devices tested in the present campaign.
The design and development of various kinds of nuclear explosives, e.g. fission, boosted fission, thermonuclear and low yield, has been carried out by BARC based on more than 25 years of R & D. BARC has also worked out several new concepts like long shelf life of device components and optimisation of the yield-to-weight ratio. Further, the fabrication of fissile materials to suitable shapes was also performed by BARC. The PNE experiment of May 1974 was an early and successful demonstration of India's capability in nuclear devices.
One of the laboratories of the DRDO had the task of 'weaponising' proven designs. This activity involved design, testing and production of advanced detonators, ruggedised high volt trigger systems, interface engineering, systems engineering and systems integration to military specifications. Three other laboratories have made contributions in aerodynamics, arming, fusing, safety interlocks, flight trials etc. DRDO has, further, conducted a series of trials and achieved the necessary operational clearances. Additionally, DRDO shouldered the burden of field engineering associated with the conduct of the 5 tests along with DAE.
DRDO and DAE have effectively and efficiently coordinated and integrated their respective technological strengths in a national mission to confer the country with a capability to vacate nuclear threats.
The 3 tests conducted on 11 May, 1998 were with a fission device with a yield of about 12 kT, a thermonuclear device with a yield of about 43 kT and a sub-kilo tonne device. All the 3 devices were detonated simultaneously. It may be noted that the yield of the thermonuclear device tested on 11 May was designed to meet stringent criteria like containment of the explosion and least possible damage to building and structures in neighbouring villages. On 13 May, 1998 two more sub kilo-tonne nuclear tests were carried out. These devices were also detonated simultaneously. The yields of the sub-kilo tonne devices were in the range of 0.2 to 0.6 kT.
The tests conducted on 11 May as well as on 13 May were fully contained with no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere.
The measured yields of the devices agree with expected design values. A complex software package developed by DAE has been used in device design and yield estimation.
The tests conducted during 11-13 May, 1998 have provided critical data for the validation of our capability in the design of nuclear weapons of different yields for different applications and different delivery systems. These tests have significantly enhanced our capability in computer simulation of new designs and taken us to the stage of sub-critical experiments in the future, if considered necessary.
DAE and DRDO would like to place on record their thanks to the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force for excellent support to the campaign. They would also like to record their gratitude to the current Government, as well as those in the past, for reposing confidence in the ability of DAE and DRDO to meet nuclear threats."
Government Press Release, 15 May
Press Release, Government of India, New Delhi, 15 May 1998: kindly supplied by the Permanent Mission of India, Geneva
"We have noted with regret that the Security Council has adopted a Presidential Statement on 14 May, 1998 [see below] on the underground tests which we have conducted. We are surprised by this, because the Council has never thought it necessary even to take cognizance of the many hundreds of nuclear tests carried out over the last 50 years, including in 1995 and 1996, when the de facto moratorium on testing, which the Council recalls, was already in place.
2. The tests which our scientists carried out are not directed against any country. Tests by themselves...do not jeopardize peace and security. Nuclear weapons do, and the refusal of the nuclear-weapon States to consider the elimination of nuclear weapons in a multilateral and time-bound framework, despite the end of the Cold War, continues to be the biggest single threat to international peace and security.
3. It is because of the continuing threat posed to India by the deployment, overtly and covertly, of nuclear weapons in the lands and seas adjoining us that we have been forced to carry out these tests, so that we can retain a credible option to develop these weapons, should they be needed for the security of India's people, who constitute one-fifth of the world's population.
4. There is a strong national consensus supporting the Government's decision... [I]t is essential to recall that India has been subjected to aggression by one nuclear-weapon State and to the threat of use of nuclear weapons by another. Our security concerns, therefore, go well beyond South Asia.
5. The Statement adopted by the Security Council, therefore, is to be viewed in this light and is completely unacceptable to us. India is a responsible member of the international community, and has consistently supported the United Nations. ... The nuclear-weapon States have completely set their face against the overwhelming wish of the international community, and increasingly significant sections of their own domestic strategic and military opinion, for meaningful progress towards nuclear disarmament. The nuclear-weapon States have adopted every ploy possible to deflect attention from their policies... The Statement issued by the Council is in this unhappy tradition.
6. We would like to take this occasion to express our appreciation to the members of the international community who have shown understanding to India's concerns and actions."
Press Conference with Weapons Scientists, 17 May
Press Conference, Shastri Bhavan, India, 17 May 1998; available on the Government of India web-site. http://www.indiagov.org,
"Question: 'How near is the thermonuclear device to a hydrogen bomb? What was the material used for the fission trigger?'
Dr. R. Chidambaram, Chair, Atomic Energy Commission (AEA): 'The hydrogen bomb is the popular term. In a hydrogen bomb there is a fission trigger and separately there is also thermonuclear material which requires appropriate configuring. It is therefore a two-stage device. The secondary stage provides the major yield. The range can go quite high but we were limited in the total yield by the damage it may cause to habitations nearby. We are not revealing the materials used.'
Question: 'When were you told to go ahead with the tests?'
Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Secretary, Department of Defence Research and Development: 'T[est] minus 30 days.'
Question: 'Are we now moving towards subcritical, hydronuclear, hydrodynamic and computer simulation [testing], including laser fusion techniques such as those in the National Ignition Facility in the US?'
Dr. Chidambaram: '... We are aware of the US programmes for Inertial Confinement Fusion, where you hit a pellet with laser beams and simulate some kinds of phenomenon. We have done what we have done.'
Question: 'Does India have a deliverable weapons system right now?'
Dr. Kalam: '... This is a National Mission. PM [Prime Minister] has said that India is a NWS [nuclear-weapon State].'
Question: 'Will sanctions affect [your work]?'
Dr. Kalam: 'Technologically, we have faced sanctions for a long time. When we were refused the supercomputer, we went ahead and made our own. In the space programme, when we were refused cryogenic engines, we have gone ahead and made our own which should be ready next year. No one can trouble us technologically. There is a challenge to be met and we rise to the occasion."
Question: 'How far is the nearest village?'
Dr. Chidambaram: 'A little over 5 km away - Khetolai. Our total yield was set by this."
Question: 'Where is India in nuclear weapons technology today?'
Dr. Kalam: 'The 3 tests on 11 May - the hydrogen bomb, the fission device and sub-kiloton device - as well as the two subsequent sub-kiloton device[s] have proved clearly that our nuclear weapons technology has achieved a stage of self-reliance. If there is a demand for it, we shall do it.'
Question: 'What was the logic behind simultaneous detonation?'
Dr. Chidambaram: 'The two devices - the thermonuclear and fission device - were 1 km apart. We needed to make sure that the detonation of one did not cause damage to the other, since the shock-wave has a time-travel in milliseconds. So we went in for simultaneous detonation. It was also simpler - use one button to blow three. We had close-in seismic measurements and accelerometer data also.'
Question: 'What fraction of the hydrogen bomb energy is due to the thermonuclear part? What was the cost of the tests and weaponization?'
Dr. Kalam: 'As regards cost, this dies not amount to huge amounts. These costs were met from the budgets of our respective departments, over and above what we apportion for regular activities.'
Dr. Chidambaram: 'As regards what fraction - the total was 45 kilotons. The fission trigger was equivalent to that of the fission device.'
Question: 'Can these nuclear warheads be fitted on Privthi and Agni?'
Dr. Kalam: 'The missiles we have can carry any type of warhead, conventional or nuclear, depending on the weight, size and environmental specifications. The missiles are only carriers, they can even carry flowers.'
Question: 'Do we have the technology to gauge the size and power of Pakistan's bomb?'
Dr. Chidambaram: 'Before or after they detonate? Of course we have methods of detecting their tests using teleseisometers. I have no idea of their programme. I have never been to Pakistan. In our tests the waveforms recorded have been confused because the detonations were simultaneous. ...'
Question: 'Is the Agni project now to be further developed?'
Dr. Kalam: 'If needed, we can make it in the numbers required. The ranges can be adjusted, if needed for higher ranges.'
Question: 'From your 5 tests you have collected data. Can development now be done within the ambit of the CTBT?'
Dr. Chidambaram: 'Good question. But no comment.'
Question: 'How long have scientists been ready?'
Dr. Chidambaram: 'Since 1974 we have had the knowledge. The technology and knowledge has been undergoing improvements and refinements.'
Question: 'Did you specifically prepare the tests so that they cannot be detected?'
Dr. Chidambaram: 'No.'
Question: 'But not even by the CIA?'
Dr. Chidambaram: 'You must ask the CIA.'"
Other Indian Reaction
Remarks in Parliament by former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar, 27 May
"A nuclear race is being triggered off. This is a dangerous game... It's easy to explode a nuclear device. But what have you gained?"
Source: India nuke policy sparks debate, Associated Press, 27 May.
Remarks in Parliament by former Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, 27 May
"The Government has not discovered a new threat. It has invented one... You don't have the courage to take the country to war or [the] skills to negotiate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. You are taking us toward another election. That is your real agenda."
Source: India nuke policy sparks debate, Associated Press, 27 May.
Remarks in Parliament by Indrajit Gupta, Communist Party
"[The Government can't even] supply ordinary water and electricity to the residents of the Capital."
Source: India nuke policy sparks debate, Associated Press, 27 May.
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.
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