Manipal, India — At precisely the moment that U.S. President Barack Obama is returning to the road travelled by Bill Clinton – trying to "persuade" India that nuclear weapons would make the country less, rather than more, secure – top scientists within the country have stated publicly that India’s 1998 nuclear test was a dud, and that the declared yields were false.
The assertion is not surprising – it dates back to the day of the test – but what is surprising is that this important question remains unresolved 11 years after the event.
The majority view among India's nuclear scientists has always been that the 1998 nuclear test was unsuccessful. Only a single scientist and his superiors in the Prime Minister's Office believed then – and still do – that it was a "great success." Understandably, the Manmohan Singh government is reluctant to conduct a serious peer review, preferring instead to rely on the opinions of a few in-house scientists on a matter critical to national security.
The "success camp," led by that determined scientist, R. Chidambaram, insists that the “yield” – or destructive capacity – was satisfactory. It relies on statements published in journals by the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, which made the bomb, to prove its point.
Its primary source is the internal BARC newsletter, which has no peer review process, is circulated only within the BARC/Department of Atomic Energy family, and has been known to publish practically anything that carries any senior BARC functionary’s name on it. In the case of the 1998 explosion results, the "proof" is the printed view of Chidambaram himself, as then director of BARC.