Essay on the Nuclear Programme of India and Pakistan


Nuclear programme of India-Indian nuclear policy is revolved around two principles: promotion of research and development for harnessing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and attainment of self sufficiency in the nuclear programme.

The key architects of this policy were Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Homi Bhaba. Based on these principles India designed a three stage nuclear strategy. Its main elements were as follows:

(i) Building of heavy water moderated reactors which could produce power as well as plutonium needed to start the breeder reactors;


(ii) Utilising the plutonium produced from the first stage reactors in the fast breeder. This stage was to continue until suitable thorium-uranium 233 reactors become available;

(iii) To run the second type of breeders on the thorium-uranium 233 cycles. The Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the Indian debacle in the war brought in some rethinking about defense policy. However, the direction that defense rebuilding took was essentially in the area of conventional weapons systems.

The detonation of the Chinese nuclear device in 1964 led the Indian decision makers to look at the nuclear option. Homi Bhaba, then the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) stated that India could produce a bomb within eighteen months, if it so wished. Prime Minister Lai Bahadur Shastri admitted to the Parliament that he was willing to consider the use of nuclear blasts for peaceful purposes.

In late 1964, Shastri is reported to have authorised the Indian Atomic Energy Commission to go ahead with the designing of a nuclear device and preparing the non-nuclear component so that the lead-time required to build an explosive could be reduced from eighteen to six months. The decisions of 1964 were followed by a protracted debate on the Nuclear Non-Proliferaticn Treaty.


Both, Shastri and Homi Bliaba died in 1966. The early years of Indira Gandhi’s Prime Ministerial tenure saw a lot of political uncertainty in Inoia. At the level of technological capabilities, there remained some uncertainty. Indian decision of not signing the NPT confirmed the end of the uncertainty of the sixties. In the early seventies, Indian nuclear agenda began to take a definitive direction. In September 1971, the Chairman of the Indian AEC announced at the Fourth Atoms for Peace Conference that India had been working, on top priority basis, in the field of nuclear explosive engineering for peaceful purposes. Prime Minister Mrs.

Indira Gandhi also made it clear that the AEC was constantly reviewing the progress in the technology of underground nuclear explosion from, both, the theoretical and experimental angle. Mrs. Gandhi, however, denied that there was any schedule fixed for a nuclear explosion. India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 at Pokhran in Rajasthan. This was an underground test.

This test has been called a Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) as its purpose was to pursue research in peaceful applications of nuclear technology and not to construct a bomb. It was after the nuclear test in 1974 that India finally developed a coherent nuclear doctrine to suit the changed circumstances.

The test had demonstrated the Indian capability of producing a nuclear explosion. India now had the raw materials, the scientific and technological know-how and the personnel to construct an atomic bomb. What remained in question was the intent. India made it clear that his test was not conducted for production of a nuclear weapon and that India had no intention of going in for nuclear weapons. At the policy level, the earlier Shastri position of peaceful uses of nuclear energy with a go ahead for research in PNE was now further expanded. The test did not divert Indian stand on nuclear disarmament and peac; policy.


In her statement to the Indian Parliament, Mrs. Gandhi went at great length to stress that the test was part of the research and development work, which the AEC had been carrying out in pursing the national objective of harnessing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Ey conducting the Peaceful Nuclear Explosion, India demonstrated its capability to produce a nuclear bomb. But it simultaneously stated that it would not produce a nuclear bomb.

This created a sense of uncertainty about India’s real intentions. It is because of this that one can describe Indian policy as being a deliberately vague nuclear posture. This was to remain the ‘oasis of Indian nuclear policy for a long time. This underwent a change in the early nineties following some important initiatives taken by the nuclear weapons states, namely to, indefinitely extend the NPT in 1995, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996 and to begin discussions on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

Nuclear debate in India in the first half of the nineties focused on the need to enhance nuclear capability. On 11 and 13 May 1998 India conducted series of tests at Pokhran. India declared that it was now a nuclear weapon power. In his statement to the Parliament Prime Minister Vajpayee spelt out the nuclear policy of his government in the post Pokhran II phase: One, India would maintain a minimum but credible nuciear deterrent.

To achieve this India did net require further testing and hence it was accepting a voluntary moratorium on further nuclear testing. Second, India would adhere to a ‘no first use’ doctrine as regards nuclear weapons. Finally, India continued with its commitment to global nuclear disarmament.


The Indira Gandhi line about a deliberately vague nuclear doctrine had been continued by successive Congress governments of Rajiv Gandhi and P.V.Narsimha Rao. It was I.K.Gujral, Prime Minister of the United Front government who sought to end this ambiguity. Gujral wanted to keep the nuclear weapons option open as a security measure. However, he refused to define the exact nature of threat that forced him to articulate a clearer position on the nuclear issue.

The BJP in its National Agenda was still more specific about keeping the option open. The 1998 nuclear tests ended the lingering ambiguity in Indian posture. A lot of discussion took place about Indian nuclear policy after the tests. Questions came to be asked about the exact nature of Indian nuclear policy and its long term direction. The Draft outline of Indian Nuclear Doctrine was prepared by the government and released on 17 August 1999. It argues for autonomy in decision making about security for India.

It takes the long established Indian li ne that security is an integral part of India’s developmental process. It expresses concerns about the possible disruption of peace and stability and the consequent need to create a deterrence capability to ensure the pursuit of development.

It argues that in the absence of a global nuclear disarmament policy, India’s strategic interests require an effective credible deterrence and adequate retaliatory capability should fail. It continues to hold on the ‘no first use doctrine’ and the civilian control of nuclear decision-making. It also expresses India’s strong commitment for global nuclear disarmament.


Nuclear programme of Pakistan

Pakistan began focusing on nuclear development in January 1972 under the leadership of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development program was in response to neighbouring India’s development of nuclear weapons.

Bhutto called a meeting of senior scientists and engineers on January 20, 1972, in Multan. It was here that Bhutto rallied Pakistan’s scientists to build the atomic bomb for national survival. At the Multan meeting, Bhutto also appointed Pakistani nuclear scientist, Munir Ahmad Khan (a U.S trained scientist), as chairman of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), who till then had been working as Director of Nuclear Power and Reactor Division at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in Vienna, Austria.

This marked the beginning of Pakistan’s pursuit of nuclear capability. Following India’s surprise nuclear test, codenamed Smiling Buddha in 1974, the first confirmed nuclear test by a nation outside the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council, the goal to develop nuclear weapons received considerable impetus.

Consequently, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, a metallurgical engineer, working at the Dutch research firm URENCO, also joined Pakistan’s nuclear weapons- grade Uranium enrichment program. The uranium enrichment program had been launched in 1974 by PAEC chairman Munir Ahmad Khan as Project-706. A.Q. Khan joined the project in the spring of 1976 and was made Project- Director in July 1976 after taking over from another nuclear scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. In 1983, Khan was convicted by a Dutch court in absentia for stealing the blueprints, though the conviction was overturned on a legal technicality.

Through the late 1970s, Pakistan’s program acquired sensitive uranium enrichment technology and expertise. The 1975 arrival of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan considerably advanced these efforts. Dr. Khan is a German-trained metallurgist who brought with him knowledge of gas centrifuge technologies that he had through his position at the classified URENCO uranium enrichment plant in the Netherlands.

He was put in charge of building, equipping and operating Pakistan’s Kahuta facility, which was established in 1976. Under Khan’s direction, Pakistan employed an extensive clandestine network in order to obtain the necessary materials and technology for its developing uranium enrichment capabilities.

On May 28, 1998, a few weeks after India’s second nuclear test (Operation Shakti), Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices in the Chagai Hills in the Chaghai district, Balochistan. This operation was named Chagai-I by Pakistan, the base having been long-constructed by provincial martial law administrator Rahimuddin Khan during the 1980s. Pakistan’s fissile material production takes place at Kahuta and Khushab/Jauharabad, where weapohs-grade plutonium is made by the scientists.

The Pakistanis are believed to be spiking their plutonium based nuclear weapons with tritium. Only a few grams of tritium can result in an increase of the explosive yield by 300% to 400%. Citing new satellite images of the facility, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said the imagery suggests construction of the second Khushab reactor is “likely finished and that the roof beams are being placed on top of the third Khushab reactor hall.

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