Monday, September 23, 2013

In reply to the article - “Is India’s nuclear arsenal safe?”

Recently, I came across an article in Pakistan Tribune which questions the safety of Indian nuclear program and facilities. More than asking questions, what this article is trying to do is to create an atmosphere of doubt. So I would like to answer the questions posted by the author - “Hasan Ehtisham”.

For reading Hasan Ehtisham’s full article ->

Please see my answers in italics.

It confuses me immensely as to why the mainstream media and Western governments are constantly generating a hype about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal

--- because of many insurgent attacks in key military facilities; some time back Taliban fighters conquered huge parts of Western Pakistan; suspicious nuclear relations of Pakistan with more than three countries; AQ Khan’s proliferation cases and the strong suspicion that he was not acting alone; no ‘not first use’ policy; political chaos etc are enough for neighbours and other countries to have concern about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

they don’t seem concerned at all about the highly startling condition regarding the nuclear capabilities of India. Ever since the India-US nuclear deal has taken place, India has signed civil nuclear deals with more than half a dozen countries. Hence, the most precarious lie is advocated, that India has a strong track record of nuclear safety, to materialise these nuclear deals.

---- India's track record is clean; we have ‘no first use’ policy in place; Indian nuclear command structure is very much straight forward and firmly under the control political leadership. By the way according to reports amount of fissile materials – that can be converted to bombs – by Pakistan is more than that of India.

Electronic media reports lead us believe that India has a strong nuclear non-proliferation track record.

---- Yes, indeed an extremely good track record.

largely ignored history of Indian illegal nuclear procurement, poor nuclear export controls and mismanagement of nuclear facilities. For instance, India diverted Canadian-supplied fuel for research and generating power to make nuclear weapons. But there is more to the nuclear program than meets the unsuspecting eye.

---- what is that ‘more to the nuclear program than meets the unsuspecting eye’? what are that alarming situations?

There are numerous hazardous nuclear installations in India that could lead to a major disaster with extraordinary bearing on the lives of large populations around these facilities. According to an Australian newspaper (The Age), there is no national policy in India on nuclear and radiation safety. Despite all this, India has never made an effort to adopt world standards and best practices for nuclear safety.

----- I think you are yet to read the latest press releases from GoI. We indeed have a structured mechanism for nuclear wastes - recycling, treating with active charcoal. For knowing more about these policies please go through the recent press releases from GoI.

Radioactive waste disposal in Indian rivers is an undocumented environmental tragedy in India.

---- In which river?

There are huge nuclear security issues in India because it is prone to insurgent groups and separatist rebels. According to the Daily Mail’s reports, most of India’s top nuclear facilities are located in exceedingly Naxal terrorist struck districts of India or in the “Red Corridor”. Some of the sensitive nuclear installations situated in this “Red Corridor” are, Uranium Corporation Of India Limited, Talcher Heavy Water Plant, Institute of Physics, Ceramatic Fuel Fabrication Facility, Nuclear Fuel Complex, Seha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Atomic Minerals Directorate and many more.

---- Central East India is rich in natural resources – ores, forests etc. If one wants to mine something, facilities for the same should be located to close to that. This is the case with Uranium Corporation Of India Limited as well. By the way, its HQ at Singhbhum is not a district under the control of Naxals/ Maoists.

I would like to point out some other things as well. ‘Institute of Physics’ is located in Bhubaneswa (capital of Odisha). Even the hard core naxals won't claim that Bhubaneswar is under their control.

Ceramic Fuel Fabrication Facility, Nuclear Fuel Complex etc are located in Hyderabad (capital of Andra Pradesh). I don’t know how you bring this city to red corridor. ‘Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics’ is in Kolkata (one of the biggest cities in India and capital of West Bengal). Atomic Minerals Directorate (aka 'Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research') is head quartered in Hyderabad. None of its 7 regional centres or 2 sectional offices are in Naxal hit areas.

Around 90% of the Red Corridor areas are a ‘No Go Zones’ for the Indian troops and Air Force. The Naxal rebels are in full control and there is no writ of the Indian government in these areas.

----- One thing you need to realise is - GoI is considering Naxal/ Maoists issue as an internal problem. GoI don’t want to use Army or Air force for crushing this movement. We don't want to do a carpet bombing on our own territories. Most of Maoist influenced areas are in deep forests or tribal villages. Why we need Air Force here? You need to understand that, action against Naxals/Maoists are carried out by Indian police forces (including CRPF) which are coming under Ministry of Home, GoI or under various State Home ministries.

Air force involved in this? Yes. Because these areas are mainly located in remote jungles, so police forces need logistical support from Airforce. By the way, large scale operations started some two years back considerably reduced the influence of Maoists.

The shocking aspect of Daily Mail’s report is that some Indian nuclear scientists are reportedly assisting Naxal rebels to learn to utilise and transport uranium. On the other hand, many of India’s missile facilities are  located in either the Red Corridor or in the areas controlled by Hindu radicals and militant organisations. There are reported cases of the abduction of nuclear scientists from these areas, which is a very disturbing situation with respect to the safety and security of nuclear weapons.

---- I am very much interested to know which areas you are referring to, when you say ‘controlled by Hindu radicals and militant organisations’.

Indian nuclear facilities both civilian and military are well guarded, don’t worry about that.

Just imagine if a nuclear weapon fell in the hands of Indian terrorists; this could lead to an accidental nuclear war between Pakistan and India. Likewise, an accident at a nuclear power plant could release radiation that may not respect any borders.

--- Indian terrorists? Who are they? We (and rest of the world) are much more concerned about the situation, where Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal fell in to the hands of various terrorist organizations.

India has to take numerous steps to ensure the safety of its nuclear program.

--- We are already doing that.

Hope that this article will clear you doubts.


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