India need not have had to make desperate efforts now to get membership of elite NSG had former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru accepted the then US President John F Kennedy’s offer of helping the country detonate a nuclear device much before China did in 1964, according to former foreign secretary Maharajakrishna Rasgotra.
He also said that if Nehru had accepted the offer, not only would have India tested the nuclear device first in Asia, before China, but it also “would have deterred China from launching its war of 1962 and even imparted a note of caution to (Pakistan’s) Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s plans for war in 1965,” according to a Observer Research Foundation (ORF) release.
Rasgotra was speaking at the release of his new book “A Life in Diplomacy” at ORF.
“Kennedy, who was an admirer of India’s democracy and held its leader Jawaharlal Nehru in very high esteem, felt that democratic India, not Communist China, should be the first Asian country to conduct a nuclear test,” he said.
Kennedy’s hand-written letter was accompanied by a technical note from the chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, setting out the assistance his organisation would provide to Indian atomic scientists to detonate an American device from atop a tower in Rajasthan desert, the release said.
In the letter, Kennedy had said he and the American establishment were aware of Nehru’s strong views against nuclear tests and nuclear weapons, but emphasised the political and security threat China’s test would spell for Nehru’s government and India’s security, it said, adding the American leader’s letter emphasised that “nothing is more important than national security”.
Nehru discussed the entire matter with Dr Homi Bhabha and GP Parthasarathy, and rejected the offer.