Vikram Sarabhai, the doyen of Indian science who led the country's nuclear research, might not have been in favour of conducting an atomic test, a book has claimed.
As word about India planning a nuclear test spread in 1970, the United States had sent a diplomatic note warning to New Delhi that the use of plutonium from the CIRUS reactor, built with Canadian aid, would violate the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement.
"There is a suggestion that Vikram was deeply concerned about the potential fallout of these factors on his beloved space programme," says the book Vikram Sarabhai: A Life written by noted journalist Amrita Shah.
In 1970, a view of expression of India's might through a nuclear test or developing a long-range ballistic missile was fast gaining ground.
Then prime minister Indira Gandhi had expressed her reservations about a weapons programme but was veering towards conducting a nuclear explosion and had asked Sarabhai, who was chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), to prepare for it in the mid-1970s.
"What the politicians, bureaucrats and senior scientists at the AEC wanted was a show of India's might. And there was no question of Vikram's stand on that," says the book.
"At the very outset Vikram had made his views on a demonstration clear, going so far as to call it a paper tiger. Those who knew Vikram well maintain that he would not have disobeyed a direct order from the prime minister," it adds.