‘Brajesh Mishra, Pakistan prime drivers behind 1998 n-tests’

May 7th, 2008 - 9:13 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Manish Chand
New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) Former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra was the prime driver behind the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s decision to conduct nuclear tests in May, 1998, says K. Subrahmanyam, the country’s pre-eminent strategic expert who has advised successive governments. “Brajesh Mishra has consistently advocated the need for India to go nuclear. When Pakistan tested Ghauri missile on April 6, 1998, he called me and asked, “What should India do?” Subrahmanyam told IANS in an interview days ahead of the tenth anniversary of the Pokhran-II tests.

The tests at Pokhran, in the Rajasthan desert, took the world by surprise and let to retaliatory tests by Pakistan later that month leading to the Americans calling the subcontinent a “nuclear flashpoint”.

“Why don’t you ask (A.P.J. Abdul) Kalam, the then chief of Defence Research and Development Organsiation (DRDO), to do a missile test to counter Pakistan. I suggested,” Subrahmanyam recalled the heady days in the summer of 1998 that saw India conduct five tests on May 11 and May 13 and declare itself a nuclear weapon state in the teeth of international opposition.

“I believe the then government, under the influence of Mishra, decided to test nuclear weapons soon after Pakistan conducted Ghauri missile test,” he said.

“But I didn’t realize then that the BJP-led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government will conduct the test so soon after coming to power,” said Subrahmanyam, who was appointed the convenor of the National Security Council Advisory Board (NSCAB) established by the first Vajpayee government.

“The decision to test was in the BJP’s manifesto, but not many took it seriously,” he said.

“That’s why senior politicians in the then ruling dispensation also didn’t know about the planned tests.

“Krishan Kant (then vice-president) called me from Cairo where he had gone to attend G-15 meet and asked me whether I knew anything about India’s nuclear tests. (Even) He was surprised,” Subrahmanyam recalled.

“Krishan Kant and I have been campaigning since 1968 for India to go nuclear,” said Subrahmanyam, who served as chairman of the Kargil panel, a commission set up by the Indian government to analyze the aftermath of the India-Pakistan conflict in Kargil in 1999.

In November 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointed Subrahmanyam to head a task force on ‘Global Strategic Developments’ to examine various aspects of global trends in strategic affairs.

China’s decades-long assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear programme, which started in 1976, proved to be the main rationale behind India testing nuclear weapons in May 1998, he said.

“Way back in 1979, as chairman of the joint intelligence committee, I had argued for the need for India to test nuclear weapons. Pakistan was going to go nuclear and therefore India will have to go nuclear,” he recalled.

“The testing by the BJP-led NDA government was a continuation of the policy of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government which in turn flowed from Rajiv Gandhi’s decision to develop nuclear weapons,” Subrahmanyam said.

“What was started by Rajiv Gandhi government was fulfilled by the Vajpayee government when it tested nuclear weapons,” he said.

One of the reasons why the Vajpayee government decided to test so soon after coming to power in March 1998 was because they thought it was better to test before American pressure caught up with them as well, he stated.

“Rao wanted to conduct a nuclear test in 1995, but the American pressure prevented him from doing so. Indira Gandhi also wanted to test in 1983, but could not do so due to American pressure,” he said.

“In fact, the Vajpayee government owe a lot to the Rao government for keeping India’s nuclear option alive. After Rao died in 2004, Vajpayee admitted it when he said Rao told him to conduct the nuclear test,” he recalled.

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