Kalam wants India to go ahead with N-deal
In a rare interview, the former president speaks out in favour of the civil nuclear deal that has been the subject of so much debate in India.Updated: May 09, 2008, 12:17 IST
Former president APJ Abdul Kalam, one of the principal figures behind the May 1998 nuclear tests that shook the world, has said that India should "go ahead" with the civil nuclear deal with the United States as it does not compromise the country's sovereignty.
In a rare interview, Kalam told IANS that if at any time there was a fear that national security would be compromised by going ahead with the deal, "we can at any time withdraw (from it)".
This was the first time that Kalam, who was among a handful of scientists who were at the nuclear explosion site at Pokhran on May 11 and 13 a decade ago in what was a highly secretive operation, has spoken out in favour of the deal that has been the subject of so much debate and political controversy in India. <b1>
Kalam, who was then chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, was feted as a national hero, applauded and besieged for autographs though the tests drew widespread censure in the rest of the world then.
Ten years later, Kalam - who was later appointed head of state by the government of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee - believes the five nuclear tests detonated in the Rajasthan desert was the right decision and said the tests were among the most memorable moments of his career.
Excerpts from the interview:
You once said that "Unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. In this world, fear has no place. Only strength respects strength". Do you still believe in this maxim?
Yes. The philosophy of strength respects strength is valid any time, as long as earth orbits around the sun.<b2>
Ten years after, do you think the nuclear tests were a good idea? It did polarise the world and there were economic sanctions against India.
Yes. I think. India had made the right decision in the nuclear area in continuation of economic reforms in 1991. If you look back, you can see though we faced technological and economic sanction after 1998, the confidence in the country increased that "we can do it".
Our scientists in multiple scientific departments have worked for self-reliance and have succeeded in making the cryogenic engine, flight control system for LCA and carbide fuel processing in the nuclear area. Similarly, the industry and service sectors have shown marked growth and our economy is in the ascent path right from 2003. All world leaders converged on India. It has been consistently growing at 8 to 9 per cent every annum, which has never been experienced before. All this clearly shows that our decision was a landmark decision for the country.
In today's world would it be a good idea to conduct nuclear tests? Or has the dynamics of geopolitics changed?
We do not have to keep on reproving ourselves in view of new technology demands.
Should the government go ahead with the civilian nuclear deal with the US? Do you share the view that it compromises India's sovereignty?
We should go ahead with the civilian nuclear deal. It does not compromise India's sovereignty. We can at any time withdraw, if any national security need arises in future.
You are widely regarded as the central figure in India's drive to join the small club of nuclear-armed nations. Where do you see India in another 10 years?
We will see India as a developed nation. The people below poverty line will become near zero. The literacy level could go beyond 90 per cent. There will be employment opportunity for all both in the urban and rural areas. We will have a number of operational PURAs (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) in various parts of the country. A number of students from abroad will come for studies and work in India. Our youth will have world-class skills and higher education.
You have never hidden your passion for a powerful India. Can you count the 1998 tests as one of the most memorable moments in your career?
First memorable moment was the SLV3 launch in 1980 putting the Rohini Satellite in orbit using an indigenous rocket system. Second memorable moment was the Agni missile launch in 1989 reaching the target. Third memorable moment was acceptance of India Vision 2020 by the government. Fourth memorable moment was India in 1998 becoming a Nuclear Weapon State.