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HindustanTimes Tue,25 Nov 2014

Pokhran II row: Nuke scientist slams Kalam

PTI  Mumbai, September 01, 2009
First Published: 22:25 IST(1/9/2009) | Last Updated: 02:03 IST(2/9/2009)
Homi Sethna, a former top atomic boss, on Tuesday waded into the 1998 Pokhran row when he backed ex-DRDO scientist K Santhanam's assessment that the nuclear test was not a full success and slammed former President APJ Abdul Kalam for rubbishing the claim.

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"I fully support Santhanam and I stand by his statement that India needs more nuke tests to be conducted ," Sethna, the guiding force behind India's first nuclear test in 1974, told PTI.

Sethna now in his eighties suggested that Kalam, who was heading the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) when Santhanam was coordinating Pokhran-II, suggested that the missile man was no qualified authority to rubbish his former colleague's claim.

Simultaneously, another former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) P K Iyengar alleged that the 1998 tests were done in haste at the bidding of the government of the day. A BJP-led NDA government headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee had just assumed office when India conducted the tests.

The comments by Sethna, who was the AEC chairman in 1974 came notwithstanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kalam setting at rest the controversy over the 1998 nuclear tests.

Kalam said the only thermonuclear device (hydrogen bomb) tested produced the "desired yield".

But Sethna said "former president APJ Abdul Kalam was not a scientist and Santhanam is a physicist and he knew what he was talking.

"What does Kalam understand about physics. He can say anything as he was the President and a politician?."

"What Santhanam said was absolutely correct," he added.

"What did he (Kalam) know about extracting, making explosive grade? He didn't know a thing. By being a president he appeared to wear the stature. He relied on atomic energy to gain additional stature," said Sethna about Kalam while talking to a TV channel.

"I don't like politicians to interfere specially lay politicians to interfere any more. I firmly believe that they should stay out. When we did the test... The first test there was no politician. It was a raw one. We were lucky that the whole thing collapsed," said Sethna, who in his days in the atomic establishment had the reputation of being a blunt, plainspeaking organisational leader.

Kalam had on August 27 said Pokhran II was a success rubbishing Santhanam's claim that the tests were a "fizzle".

Iyengar, who was among the three top atomic scientists who oversaw the 1974 tests, has already shared Santhanam's assessment and questioned official claims of success.

Iyengar suggested that in March 1998, two months before Pokhran-II, India's intelligence must have found out that the Pakistanis were about to test and that they were serious.

"Therfore, they (the new government in India) asked these people (scientists) to hurry up, do as fast as possible in all this extra pressure to be one up politically because BJP had just come to power," he said.

"If Pakistan fired an explosion before India what a common man in India would have thought," Iyengar added.

The Principal Scientific advisor of Government of India Dr R Chidambaram, who led the team of scientists for Pokhran-II, denied Santhanam's statement and said he had to explain scientifically why the tests were not fully successful.


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