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Morarji threatened to smash Pakistan if it exploded N-bomb

Refusing to enter into any formal agreement with Pakistan on non-use and non-development of nuclear weapons, the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai had told the US in 1979 that if Islamabad exploded a nuclear bomb, he would act to "smash it," a declassified US memo shows.

world Updated: Dec 22, 2010 12:36 IST

Refusing to enter into any formal agreement with Pakistan on non-use and non-development of nuclear weapons, the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai had told the US in 1979 that if Islamabad exploded a nuclear bomb, he would act to "smash it," a declassified US memo shows.

The conversation that transpired between Desai and the then US ambassador to India Robert F Goheen in a one-on-one meeting in June 1979 have been made public as part of a series of declassified documents yesterday. The meeting with Desai that lasted for about 55 minutes was held at the instance of Goheen who was following the direction of the National Security Council of White House to meet the Prime Minister on an "informal, exploratory and non-committal" basis.

Starting with the premise that Washington wanted to work with New Delhi to "deflect" the Pakistani nuclear threat, Goheen could get across the idea that "India is an essential part of any solution." Desai, however, was not interested in the idea of a joint agreement on the non-use and non-development of weapons, the cable said.

Arguing that he had already made a pledge to that effect, Desai said that if Pakistan did the same "the two pledges would be as good as a joint agreement". He rejected Goheen's suggestion that a formal agreement would be more effective and dismissed altogether the nuclear weapons free zone concept.

Responding to Goheen's query about a prospective Indian reaction to a Pakistani weapons test, the prime minister was belligerent: "If he discovered that Pakistan was ready to test a bomb or if it exploded one, he would act at (once) 'to smash it," the cable said.

Desai said he had recently assured Pakistan Foreign Secretary Shahnawaz that India had only good intentions towards Pakistan and wished to do nothing to cause it difficulties, but also that "if Pakistan tries any tricks we will smash you," the cable says.

"I gather that he went on to remind Shahnawaz of 1965 and 1971 in order to emphasise India's readiness to react forcibly when sufficiently provoked," Goheen wrote in his secret cable giving details of his meeting with Morarji Desai. Pakistan finally went nuclear in 1998 after India's second nuclear test in Pokharan.

Goheen wrote Desai said India will not accept the idea of a joint non-development, non-use agreement with Pakistan. He said he had already made a unilateral pledge, if Pakistan did likewise the two pledges would be as good as a joint statement.

"When I said that governments change, and more formal agreements may have greater influence on future governments than unilateral pledges, he laughed, said that was not necessarily the case and added 'look at you and Tarapur'. "He could not bind a future government in any case, but hoped the course he had laid down would have influence, US Ambassador Goheen wrote.

Another declassified secret memo, about a June 29, 1979 meeting of National Intelligence Officer presided over by the then CIA Deputy Director Frank Carlucci said "Indians would be strongly motivated to prevent acquisition by the Pakistanis of a nuclear capability by military force".

According to another declassified document of July 1979, with the Pakistani nuclear programme moving forward, NIO John Despres believed that India was likely to move more quickly in producing an "acceptable nuclear weapon," although it would take "at least two years."

If diplomacy did not check the Pakistani nuclear programme, India was likely to "improve its unilateral military options" to take preventive action, but "pre-emptive air strikes" would not be on the table unless the production of a Pakistani bomb was imminent or Pakistan had acquired "an invulnerable capability to stockpile" fissile materials, it said.

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