India raises nuclear stakes

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    Feb 16, 2009
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    India raises nuclear stakes -

    India can now build nuclear weapons with the same destructive power as those in the arsenals of the world’s major nuclear powers, according to New Delhi’s senior atomic officials.

    They said India had built weapons with yields of up to 200 kilotons, which would be considered a “proper strategic deterrent” by the global community. A nuclear weapon above 50 kilotons is considered high yield. India’s enhanced capability gives it a considerable edge over Pakistan, its nuclear-armed arch-rival.

    India’s declaration came as Iran launched war games on Sunday, testing short-range missiles, just days after announcing it had been building a second uranium enrichment plant. Western governments seized upon this as further evidence that Tehran was in breach of UN obligations.
    India’s move follows heated domestic debate about whether its last nuclear tests in 1998 were successful. K Santhanam, a senior scientist at the Defence Research and Development Organisation, had disputed the thermonuclear test at the Pokhran range in Rajasthan, claiming the yield was lower than had been expected.

    The debate has fuelled speculation that India might be getting ready for another nuclear test, a proposition that some in the international security community consider seriously.

    A test would also raise tensions with Pakistan and jeopardise a newly signed civilian nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington.
    India, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, started developing its nuclear arsenal in 1974. New Delhi is estimated to have manufactured weapons-grade plutonium for at least 100 warheads. Senior Indian officials have insisted that the 1998 tests were successful and deny the need for anything more than computer simulations to gauge the yield of nuclear weapons.
    “The May 1998 tests were fully successful in terms of achieving their scientific objectives and the capability to build fission and thermonuclear weapons with yields up to 200 kilotons,” said R Chidambaram, the government’s principal scientific adviser and former chief of the Atomic Energy Commission.

    Military experts expressed scepticism about whether such a powerful weapon could be successfully deployed without greater testing.
    Pakistani analysts, meanwhile, were sanguine in the face of Indian claims. “The bottom line is that Pakistan benefits from the knowledge that it has enough nuclear assets to ward off the threat of a nuclear attack,” said Shahid ur Rehman, author of a book on the lead-up to Pakistan’s own nuclear test in 1998.

    Barack Obama, the US president, appealed at the UN General Assembly for more countries to embrace the NPT. He has proposed that countries, such as India, join as non-nuclear weapons states. India vigorously rejected his proposal in a letter to the president of the UN Security Council.
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