Pakistan's nuclear weapons: A Failure of Indian Intelligence ?

When it comes to making sure no nuclear threat emanates to its nation, no other nation has done more than Israel. While Israel has had nuclear weapons for a long time though it neither denies not confirms it, it has made every effort possible to make sure none of its neighbors or state inimical to it acquires nuclear weapons. It attacked the Iraqi nuclear site in Osirak in a daring raid, it has used high tech viruses to set back Iranian nuclear program recently and remains committed and prepared to strike at Iran if need be.


Compare this with Indian response to Pakistani attemptst o acquire nuclear weapons. After India conducted it first nuclear test, Pakistan decided it had to acquire nukes as well by hook or crook. Well it has been that way ever since and as famously said by their PM Bhutto, ready to eat grass if required. AQ Khan set out to collect technology and equipment to produce nukes in Pakistan. While it became open knowledge world wide of such attempts, there were no attempts by Indian security agencies to mount any counter operation to sabotage such attempts one way or the other by using diplomacy as well intelligence ops. The Siachen operation comes to mind as to how an intelligence operation preceded the actual operation that pre-empted a similar Pakistani move. Why did India fail to undertake intelligence operations to stop or sabotage Pakistani attempts?

Israel, after the Osirak attack put together a plan to bomb Kahuta circa 1982. It required Indian bases for this and wanted a joint Indo-Israeli operation. But Indian leadership refused to make it look like a joint operation and also refused to provide Israel any bases to stage the attack. The reason was to not provoke Pakistan and start another war. Hardly becoming of a major power which had more to lose from a nuclear armed rogue neighbor than a short war if it did happen. Why did India not provide to Israel even bases for a unilateral strike? The same prime minister was in charge who so triumphantly won the 71 war against Pakistan and conducted India's first nuclear test. Was it our intelligence agencies that failed us and didn't advise the PM properly? Was it our armed forces that advised the PM against it for say lack of preparation for another war? Well highly doubt the armed forces were not ready as India had Siachen taken under its control and under Gen Sundarji organized the most massive exercise of the time which almost came to the brink of war.

The Pakistanis, once they got the F-16s in the eighties immediately warned India of taking out Trombay if India in any way helps Israel or undertook a strike operation itself. Once this threat was conveyed, it completely put Indian leadership in a shell and allowed Pakistan a full decade of unimpeded time to develop  the bomb culminating in the 98 tests.

India's lack of cohesive and sustained action to scuttle the Pakistani nuclear program and also the refusal to allow even the Israelis to undertake an operation didn't make any sense. Today the bungling of that time is costing India dearly as Pakistan keeps wielding the nuclear threat and continues to sponsor and carry out terrorist activities while the risk averse politicians keep coming up with knee jerk reactions. But the question remains, was it a combined failure of Indian intelligence,  diplomacy and political leadership or was it just the political leadership that failed or did our Intelligence did not have the wherewithal to undertake operations to finish off Pakistan's nuclear weapons program ?

About Yusuf Unjhawala

Editor, India Defence Analysis. Admin,


  1. Soumik Pyne 21 March, 2013 at 23:01

    I’d rather say it was a failure of Indian Political Decision making and the result of shoddy government strategic planning rather than any intel failure.

  2. Robert 22 March, 2013 at 14:55

    The failure can be put in a nut shell. Intelligence failure, political and deplomatic bankruptcy and of curse, the military’s unpreparedness were the consequence that India cowed down in her nation building. A nation’s [ India’s]cowardliness has endangered the whole world. Why India fails to understand the threats around her is a mystery. Israel understood it very clearly and has taken brave steps to secure her sovereignty, where as India faced with the similar scenario, watched it with pathetic in action.

  3. shailesh 23 March, 2013 at 23:33

    I think you are making a quick judgement about an extremely complicated issues. Israel has highly trained intelligence network. The dedicated sleeper agents work for years to stay quiet, and gather information. The weapons used by the Israeli armed forces are probably more advanced and FUNCTIONAL than the more expensive US products. Finally Israel has a major backbone of donors from USA. The Jewish community in USA cares about Israel with PASSION, and so the US leadership will not sway from supporting Israel’s cause.
    Indian leadership in general remains overly cautious ( except last 1 week, Italian marines case). The politicians enter politics not because they want to serve people, but to build an empire of power, a family dynasty and of COURSE WEALTH. Until the youth of India starts becoming more savvy, motivated, caring and honest, the complacency is going to be pervasive. The USA knew about Dr.Khan’s illegal money making ” nuclear technology” machine. Today the short sighted support they got from Pakistan is causing a giant headache for them. The centrifuge technology acquired from Holland and sold to Iran, China and North Korea is giving a major grief to USA. The US GOV had all the resources to stop Pakistan’s nuclear development, but it chose a short term goal ( I think Soviet invasion of Afghanistan prompted the US to look for a retaliation, a “tit for tat”, Vietnam). The middle class of India has the power to force more honest and dedicated political leadership. It will only come with some sacrifice!

  4. W.G.Ewald 27 March, 2013 at 21:28

    The article asks pointed and relevant questions, and the comments are thoughtful. My response is to what shailesh says:

    “The Jewish community in USA cares about Israel with PASSION, and so the US leadership will not sway from supporting Israel’s cause.”

    President Obama has appointed Chuck Hegel to be SecDef, and Hegel’s history on US support of Israel does not square with the idea of US leadership loyalty to Israel.

    In my opinion, of course. If requested by anybody, I can point you to relevant Hegel remarks re: Israel.

  5. lakshmi 28 March, 2013 at 00:09

    What about missile re-directing weapons. Directed energy weapons (DEW) that costs couple of thousand rupees to burndown any incoming missile?? what use is a 100cr weapon to the adversary if india knows to track it down at start and burn it with lasers/ DEW at speed of light for a ost of 1000 rupees??? how many missiles can pakistan fire??? what about directing an asteroid to fall on pakistan??? what about using KALI to disrupt missile communications systems thereby blowingup the nucelar missile at initation inside pakistan soil. no one can blame india for pakistan destruction by its own nukes… More nukes pakistan has… more they destroy themselves

  6. HEILTAMIL 28 March, 2013 at 01:48

    It is merely a perceptional failure by the majority of readers,
    let us not forget India follows a defensive policy not an offensive one.India refused to operate with Israel cos it knew it means acting against its own brother with whom it had a few fights over trivial issues. India has made a clever move by not attacking its neighbors site, where the negative elements using Islam as its cover will gang up and attack India for eternity,this brilliant political move is one of the reasons why diplomats survive STILL in both countries and leave doors open for discussion.

    • Yusuf 28 March, 2013 at 19:50

      Absolutely ridiculous comment. Pakistan is a sworn enemy of India and will go any extent to harm India. There are no minor irritants but absolute ideological divide.

  7. Abhay 1 April, 2013 at 00:02

    It has been one of another incident showing congress do not have guts to anger its muslin vote even in cost of nation intrest as now over srilanka issue

      • Raghav Dua 29 September, 2013 at 03:21

        110-Nukes or 110 pieces of useless junk.

        If u think you are protected due to your nuclear arsenals than you are the biggest fool on this Earth.India have a nuclear triad(Nuclear ICBM,fighter jets with aircraft carriers and Nuclear submarines).This means we are more capable in launching nuclear attacks on Pakistan(Due to much stronger warhead delivery Mechanism). Secondly we have a better Ballistic missile defence system than Pakistan so if Pakistan attacks us we will be able to defend us and Pakistan would end up with nothing.Even after that since we have large population and better economy than Pakistan therefore we have better shock absorbing and counter striking capability.Pakistan do not even have Ballistic missile defence system-What will save your country from an Indian counter Nuclear Strike.In short all your nuclear arsenals are nothing more than garbage on which you spent crores of rupees

        • Alpha1 29 September, 2013 at 04:01

          We have a nuclear triad too ALCM Ra’ad and Babur can be launched from the torpedo tubes of the Augusta-90b and of cource we have, Land based missles too. FYI nuke tip missile subs are still under development in your case.
          As for your ABM well its not deployed anywhere and when AAD and PAD is deployed it wont be able to stop a full nuckear barrage and we are developing MIRVs too

          • Raghav Dua 29 September, 2013 at 14:20

            1)India’s nuke tip missile sub is not under development,it is undergoing sea trials and will inducted in 2014.We already have a nuke sub which we leased from Russia.

            2)Phase 1 of ABM SYSTEM CALLED Prithvi Air Defence have been completed and a demo was given in 2006 at PADE (Prithvi Air Defence Exercise).Now we are deploying advance ABM System called PDV,it was tested successfully in 2010,and was expected to become operational by 2013.So right now it might have become operational(I do not have any official data to confirm whether this new system is deployed or not but there wasn’t any delay in the project).India is also planning to develop a laser based weapon system as part of its defence to intercept and destroy missiles soon after they are launched towards the country.We along with USA are also developing a new BMD System.So your missiles will face lots of hurdles if they ever tried to touch the Indian soil.

            3)A nuclear triad refers to a nuclear arsenal which consists of three components, traditionally strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).Pakistan does not have ICBM Neither nuclear capable SLBM so how can Pakistan have nuclear triad ?Go to Wikipedia,you will find Pakistan in non nuclear triad nuclear power.

            Basically India not only have a better first strike capability but also have much better second strike capability + better defence system.

        • Sunil 5 October, 2013 at 04:07

          I do not agree with your comments in full some points I do agree with. The issue is not if India has the capacity to defend it’s self or not BUT more if there is political will. We have thwarted our armed forces and their response is limited by political considerations.

          We also have to have the political will to ensure we continue to upgrade our airforce capabilities and develop a technological base to develop the aircraft and other military equipment. An arms race will see Pakistan spending more and more money on arms and this will in fact cause the country to bleed financially. Indians can afford an arms race if we have good governance and black money is accounted for and gotten back.

          The following conclusions from various sources are mentioned.

          It would appear that the IAF is still the superior force. And while accounting for the exogenous items in this model would further lower the gap than the massive 39% gap shown in the table, depending on how it is discounted it is still decidedly in India’s favor. However given the short nature of any conflict between India and Pakistan the gap does not lend credibility to India attaining air superiority over Pakistan under any scenario as could be concluded if we took the 82% gap in numbers. I believe that the gap has to at least be 100% to have a reasonable chance of achieving air superiority over Pakistan. Nevertheless, the PAF would likely sustain significant causalities but would be able to deny the IAF any semblance of air superiority over Pakistan, at least for any conflict lasting up to a few weeks. As long as the PAF can deny the IAF air superiority it can be considered to have done its job and would be ready to pick the pieces up from where it left it in the last conflict over Kargil.

          Read more:

          In numerical terms, the IAF has to confront two adversaries, Pakistan and China, who routinely maintain close to 700 combat aircraft—equivalent to the IAF’s own strength—in the territorial regions contiguous to the Indian border. Although Indian superiority over Pakistani air power will continue in the foreseeable future. However, superiority of the IAF will diminish as the capability of the PAF improves. China poses a greater challenge. Not only is the IAF poised to lose forever its traditional numerical superiority where advanced combat aircraft are concerned, this segment of the PLAAF alone is likely to exceed the size of the entire IAF by 2020. When the larger transformation of the Chinese military is taken into account, the situation becomes serious indeed.

          In terms of pure numbers, by 2020, the IAF will have to confront around 1,500 fourth- generation Pakistani and Chinese fighters not to mention cruise missiles, UAVs, ballistic missiles, electronic warfare, cyber and space warfare.

          December 27, 2012: The Pakistan Air Force is losing nearly two percent of its 900 aircraft each year to accidents. This is more than ten times the rate of Western air forces. These losses are caused by aircraft that are too old and a budget that is too small to properly train pilots and maintain the aircraft. Most of Pakistan’s 520 fighters are over 20 years old. This includes 157 French made Mirage IIIs and 5s, 178 of 186 MiG-21s (the Chinese F-7 version), and 31 of 77 U.S. made F-16s. There have been some new aircraft put into service. Since 2000, Pakistan has received 46 F-16s and 100 Chinese made JF-17s (similar to the F-16). These planes are pretty safe. Older aircraft tend to crash more often.

          Pakistan does not have enough money to buy enough new aircraft to replace all those becoming inoperable because of age. You can refurbish old aircraft and keep them flying for half a century or more.

        • Raghav Dua 5 October, 2013 at 16:04

          Conducting a nuclear test is a different thing and using nuclear weapons on some other country is totally different. To use nuclear weapons You need to have some very awesome delivery mechanisms which Pakistan doesn’t have. How can you say that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals poses better deterrence even when pak do not have nuclear subs, SLBM and ballistic missile defence system. Range and other specs of every pak missile is very less than it’s Indian Counterpart.(If you want I can compare specs for you because I like to debate on the basis of facts).

          Now as far as nuclear tests of 1974 are concerned. It will better if you do some research before writing such useless comments. There was no sanctions imposed on India after 1974 test in fact some countries(including western countries) sent congratulatory letters to us. You must know that china conducted nuclear test in 1964.This means our nuclear test were aimed at china not pak. Our 1974 test was not only beneficial for us but also for USA because the tests applied USA’s power balance strategy. ( After China tested its first nuclear weapons on 16 October 1964, at Lop Nur, Xinjiang, India and the USA shared a common fear about the nuclear capabilities of China.) It was neither a tactical failure nor intelligence failure. Kahuta is the site of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Pakistan’s main nuclear weapons laboratory as well as an emerging centre for long-range missile development. The primary Pakistani fissile-material production facility is located at Kahuta, employing gas centrifuge enrichment technology to produce Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). RAW first confirmed Pakistan’s nuclear programs by analysing the hair samples snatched from the floor of barber shops near KRL; which showed that Pakistan had developed the ability to enrich uranium to weapons-grade quality. RAW agents knew of Kahuta Research Laboratories from at least early 1978.That’s why I say Mr Robert u need to do some research.
          You have said PAF has an edge of IAF. I am giving an open challenge. Compare the specs of IAF’S Planes. Helicopter etc with PAF’s. Let’s see who is better. Again-It’s a challenge.

          A country which have already divided Pakistan into 2 parts and force pak army to surrender. even when USA,UK,china was against it need not prove anything against Pakistan. And do u no what during that war India was weaker than pak,In terms of numbers of troops,some weapons and foreign support. Pak was getting support from their neighbours whereas our neighbours were against it.

          “Two underwater platforms, Arihant and the sidu..which is now buried beneath the sea canno0t be considered into nuclear deterrence.”

          This statement of your shows your foolishness. You must know that in history nuclear subs have prevented nuclear wars. Cuba missile crises is an example. I think you believe that nuclear subs are work under sea so they cannot harm any country or it’s land. Then let me tell you their is something called SLBM. This type of missile can be launched from submarines to hit enemy country.

          “Pakistan shows of what it is capable of within a week”
          Well that’s not a big thing. Nuclear test requires lots of preparation which takes time but their are many countries which have nuclear reactors. Many of such states are in stand by mode. They poses technology,raw materials and capital to conduct nuclear test within few days and some cases even in some ours. Japan is an example. Such countries are called De facto nuclear states. In 1998 Pak was a De facto state. In fact India was also a De facto nuclear state at that time .We had prepared for the test in 1974 but the program was halted as Indira Gandhi declared internal emergency. We were again ready for the tests in 1991 and became a De facto nuclear state but the tests were conducted in 1998.These tests declared us as a nuclear power. And we did all that when America’s spy satellites were spying on us. We fooled American satellites. We knew the limitations of you satellites. Bomb shafts were dug under camouflage netting and the dug-out sand was shaped like shaped dunes. Cables for sensors were covered with sand and concealed using native vegetation. They would not depart for Pokhran in groups of two or three. They travelled to destination other than Pokhran under pseudonyms, and were then transported by the army. Technical staff at the test range wore military uniform, to prevent detection in satellite images.

          One more thing -It was USA Who came to us with a nuclear agreement. Those who imposed sanctions on us had to accept that those sanctions failed to stop our economic growth and it is better to see India’s nuclear capabilities as a power balance against China. World is afraid that Pakistan’s nuclear weapon may fall in the hand of terrorists. India have an excellent non proliferation record and that’s why all those countries which were against our nuclear tests never had any problem when we tested our ICBM. Still if u want to blame some other country for Pakistan’s nuclear tests than I think you must blame USA because USA started this series of nuclear tests and nuclear arms race .You can also say Germany started working before USA on nuclear weapons but India should not be blamed at all.

          It will be good if you mention some weapons or some other criteria on the basis of which you can claim that any of Pakistani forces is better than it’s Indian counterpart. Learn to talk on the basis of facts and logic. Do some research before saying anything. This is not 19th century, you have services like Google available to you.

  8. ASHOK CARROL 21 May, 2013 at 11:59


  9. Pakessian 27 August, 2013 at 00:21

    Ocay dude qeep on talking bullshit widout going through the facts about greater Pakistan 😀 😛

    Don`t you ppl see the worsening situation of india ? Whats happening with you people in Kashmir and At LoC?

    And yew are talking about the Neuclear Balls of Pakistan which even US could not find 😛

    • Raghav Dua 29 September, 2013 at 03:36

      “Ocay dude qeep on talking bullshit widout going through the facts about greater Pakistan”

      What’s so great about pakistan ?

      “Don`t you ppl see the worsening situation of india ? Whats happening with you people in Kashmir and At LoC?”

      Think and name any single Pakistanis weapon better than it’s Indian counterpart.Do not forget we have a nuclear triad.We can launch a nuclear strike on you from-underwater,fighter jets or from land(ICBM Or cruise missiles)You Pakistanis do not even have a good defence system,in such situation what will save you from an Indian Nuclear attack. We also have AWACS(Airborne early warning and control) and Ballistic missile shield-This means any kind of attack on India from Pakistan(using missile or fighter jets) will fail.

      “And yew are talking about the Nuclear Balls of Pakistan which even US could not find”

      Possibly because Pakistan actually do not have any nuclear warhead.110 nuclear arsenals or so could be nothing more than false claims.

      😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛

  10. Sunil 18 September, 2013 at 16:35

    The issues are as follows? We as a people are only interested in the self and we never thought about good governance let alone making politicians accountable, we vote on sentimental grounds not national interest. We have a weak democracy because democracy is not about just voting but about responsible citizens acting for the interest of the nation.

    Further the political leaders are more interested in the self then the nation as are the babus. Surrounded by bad advisors does not mean that a good leader has to take their feedback but the leader, leads and direct. We made a very big mistake and we will pay the price in a big way and we are already doing so. Further we opened our borders to the two enemy nations Pakistan and Bangladesh, this people people to people contact is nothing but an opportunity for these nations to build sleeper cells in India.

    As a people we have but our future on the block and the head is ready to be chopped. Indians need to wake up and elect decent leaders and demand good governance. As well as stop acts of corruption that many people indulge in. We need to build a strong nation with people who have pride and have good values. This will strengthen our nation.

    We need to build our armed forces and project our might and take action when required. Our aim should be destroy Pakistan and Bangladesh.

    • Raghav Dua 30 September, 2013 at 01:08

      “We need to build our armed forces and project our might and take action when required. Our aim should be destroy Pakistan and Bangladesh”

      I do not agree-we should think of playing bigger role in the World.Pakistan And bAngladesh are destroying themselves.They have planted a big time bomb of terrorisam on their chest.This bomb will explode very soon.

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