Indian army chief calls our strategic and tactical nuclear capability `a bluff’. His view may be rooted in India’s own bitter enrichment experience (1980-1985). Ramana points out during initial operations that India’s enrichment plant `had frequent breakdown as a result of corrosion and failure of parts’. `Many leaders of Indian Department of Atomic Energy held that uranium enrichment was very difficult and were skeptical of Pakistani claims that they had succeeded in enriching uranium to weapons grade levels’. 

From day one, India’s nuclear programme has been dual-use oriented. Nehru never ruled out the nuclear option for India. He wrote to Homi Bhabha `Apart from building power stations and developing electricity there is always a built-in advantage of defence use [of nuclear enrichment] if the need should arise’.(2) According to Srinivasan, former head of Indian Atomic Energy Commission, `Nuclear technology was developed by a country for its own benefit, whether for peaceful purposes or military applications’. 

India’s Uranium reserves (excluding thorium) are estimated at 199,428 tons. 

India’s current enrichment capacity is 4200 Separative Work Units per year (SWU/yr). (4) It is based on combined capacity of Rare Materials Plant (RMP) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (excluding experimental laser-enrichment facilities).The RMP’s pilot gas centrifuge facility at Rattehalli has a maximum estimated capacity of 42,000 SWU/yr. The enriched uranium from this facility is sufficient to fuel entire fleet of Indian nuclear-powered submarines (INS Arihant and SSBN submarines). 

India’s latest enrichment facility at Karnataka is exclusively dedicated to developing nuclear weapons. It’s unsafeguarded reprocessing capacity has enabled to separate about 5.1 tons of plutonium sufficient to make 356 to 493 nuclear weapons (144 kg of weapon grade plutonium for about 28 nuclear weapons). India also intends to make thermo-nuclear bombs through its plentiful stock of thorium (after failure of her first fizzle). 

Let us not dismiss Indian army chief’s boasting as that of a swaggering braggart. Let us stay watchful of India’s nuclear capability. 

AMJED JAAVED,  

Rawalpindi, January 20.