FORMER EXTERNAL affairs minister Jaswant Singh's sensational claim of a US mole in P.V. Narasimha Rao's PMO is based on a letter detailing the agenda of a top-secret meeting the then PM had convened to resume nuclear testing.
"We may be faced with a situation where we'll have to choose between respecting the confidence of a person with direct access to PM who, in the past, has helped diffuse pressure to resume nuclear testing… before the upcoming election," noted the 'unidentified' author of the letter -- purported to be addressed to a US senator.
He said he was sworn to secrecy by the "senior person" who spoke to him before departing for a "secret meeting" in Bangalore where "the issue of nuclear testing will be put before the PM by his advisers who favour this step".
In excerpts reproduced in Singh's book "A Call to Honour", the mole is quoted as telling his American handler that he might not win the battle: "The PM has called the meeting to debate whether India should resume nuclear testing, deploy Prithvi missile and take other steps. I assumed this would take place before the elections." The BJP leader claims to have received the letter in 1995, the year before the Congress was voted out. From the contents of the letter, it seems the mole was not a CIA recruit and could have been passing on the secrets to a career US diplomat. "At this stage, please do not show this to the President. I have not shown it. I need your advice on how to proceed….
"(The credibility of the messenger is crucial. People throughout the government know I have no respect for the (US) administration's strategy of trying to bring stability to the region by starting with military assistance to Pakistan. I have no doubt that the CIA will question the sources as well as the unconventional methods used)," he said.
Singh refrains from drawing any conclusions in the chapter "Pokhran II: The Implosion Of Nuclear Apartheid" that details events relating to India's May 1998 tests. But he does reveal in the course of the narrative that on demitting office, Rao took aside his successor, A.B. Vajpayee, and said: "I could not do it (the tests) though I wanted very much to, so it is really up to you now."
It can be inferred on the basis of Singh's narrative that information leaked by the "senior person" in Rao's PMO reached the top echelons of the US administration and the then PM gave in to their pressure. In contrast, the BJP-NDA proceeded with utmost secrecy to accomplish Pokhran II. And for that, the author compliments Brajesh Mishra, the PM's principal secretary, who has to be "credited" for so "irreproachably" safeguarding the secrecy of the nuclear tests.