A DRDO scientist involved in 1998 atomic tests ignited a controversy when he suggested Pokhran- II was not a full success but was contradicted by his then boss and former President A P J Abdul Kalam who said the explosions had yielded the desired results.
The claim by K Santhanam, the Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) representative for the tests conducted when Atal Behari Vajpayee was the prime minister, also had few takers in the Government and the nuclear establishment who dismissed it as absurd and puzzling.
After he dropped the bombshell, Santhanam said there was no question about backing away from his assertion that the 1998 atomic tests did not achieve the desired results.
But Kalam, who was the Director General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) during Pokhran-II, told PTI that from the data obtained by seismic and radioactive measurements it had been established by the project team that the "design yield of the thermo-nuclear test has been obtained."
"Somebody has made a statement. I was puzzled by the statement. If you are not puzzled, you are a genius," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters when asked to comment on Santhanam's claim.
"The government will find out (the statement's veracity)," he said indicating he found little merit in the claim.
R Chidambaram, who was the Chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy in 1998, was quick to dub the suggestion as "absurd". "There is no controversy over the yield of Pokhran-II nuclear tests. The claims are absurd," Chidambaram, the current Principal Scientific Adviser to the Union Government, told PTI.
"If he (Santhanam) has any new scientific information which we are not aware of, it will be nice to have that data. He is a scientist, not a politician. Let him tell exactly what made him give that comment. Who are the seismologists he is referring to. We will go and look back," Chidambaram added.
Santhanam's version was also contested by Brajesh Mishra, National Security Advisor in the Vajpayee government, who said Chidambaram had reported to him on May 13, 1998 that all parameters had been met in the five tests carried out and there was no need to undertake a sixth one.
"It was clear to us that the thermonuclear as also the nuclear tests have been successful," Mishra said.
Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said India's nuclear deterrence capabilities were "proven and capable enough".
According to Santhanam , the first and most powerful of the three tests conducted on May 11 in 1998--thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb--was a 'fizzle' and of low yield and not the one that would meet the country's strategic objectives. Vajpayee had acknowledged that India has tested a "big" bomb.
In Santhanam's view, India needed to conduct more atomic tests and should not rush to sign the controversial Nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT).
Santhanam stuck to his position that the yield of the atomic tests was "lower" than what was claimed indicating certainly the need to refine the designs in order that the country has "assured performance" from the thermonuclear designs.
Admiral Sureesh Mehta said, "As far we are concerned, we go by the views of the scientists. They have given us certain capability and that is capable enough to provide deterrence and they are proven."
Santhanam has contended that the international seismological community had made measurements and come to the conclusion that the yield from the device was below what was claimed by India.
He said no country in the world has ever managed to get its thermonuclear weapon right in just one test.
"I believe in the option that if the opportunity comes we should conduct another test. That has been my stand...I have made it very clear for years," he said.
Santhanam got some support from fellow nuclear scientist Subramaniam who said "there was something wrong with the seismic signals which seemed pretty weak to me then...So I would tend to agree with Santhanam".
Gopalakrishnan, another senior nuclear scientist, claimed that it was P K Iyengar, a key player in developing the nuclear device, who had first raised doubts.
Govt Dismissive of Scientist's Claims Over Pokhran-II
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