Opinion

Indira Gandhi could have stopped Pakistan from attaining Nuclear Power, but she didn’t!!! Do you know why?

India and Pakistan are one of the major Arc rivals in the World. Both Nations have fought 3 Major wars and several small skirmishes in last 7 decades. Both the Nations are Nuclear powers and possess enough nuclear bombs to destroy entire South Asia in event of any escalation.

Many People ask a routine question, that why on the earth our previous governments allowed a rogue nation like Pakistan to attain Nuclear power status. Whether there were any opportunities to dismantle Pakistan’s Nuclear programme in past? Yes there were, and not just one.

Recently the US State department declassified its top-secret documents from 1984-85 which focus on the Pakistani nuclear programme. These confidential documents show a letter written by President Ronald Reagan to General Zia-ulHaq, it shows how US warned Pakistan about potential Indian military attack on the Pakistani nuclear reactor at Kahuta.

And USA wasn’t the only Super Power which raised the alarm, Soviet Union was also aware of this development and based on the declassified documents of the Eastern Block. Radchenko says that documents in the Hungarian archives show that the Soviets had shared with the Hungarians India’s plans to attack Kahuta.

These confidential documents revealed so much information about such developments at that time, it said that Indian military advisers had proposed an attack on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in March 1982 but she had rejected it out rightly.

Although the ‘Agreement on the Non-Attack of Nuclear Facilities between Indian and Pakistan’ was first verbally agreed upon in 1985, it was formally signed in 1988 and ratified in 1991. Since 1992, India and Pakistan have been exchanging the list of their nuclear facilities on January 1 every year.

But it is very interesting to know how close was India to attacking Kahuta in the 1980s? It is understood that the first time India is believed to have considered or planned such an attack is in 1981. The inspiration of any such attack was a daring Israeli attack of June 7, 1981, that attack destroyed the under-construction Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. Eight F-16s of the Israeli Air Force flew more than 600 miles in the skies of three enemy nations to destroy the target and returned unscathed. This event was considered as one of the most daring surgical strike on any Enemy state and Indian Government was also planning to orchestrate something similar.

It is also revealed that after the induction of Jaguars, Indian Air Force (IAF) had conducted a brief study in June 1981 on the feasibility of surgical attacks on Kahuta Nuclear plant. Indian Military establishment was very confident as their study concluded that India could “attack and neutralize” Kahuta but Political leadership was not in favor of any such misadventure as it feared that such an attack would result in a full-blown war between India and Pakistan. It was also observed that any such act may provoke Pakistan to retaliate in the similar fashion and conduct attacks on Indian Nuclear facilities.

As per the confidential documents, it was also found that Indian military officials secretly travelled to Israel in February 1983 to buy electronic warfare equipment to carry out surgical attacks on Kahuta and to neutralize there Air defense. Israel also provided India with technical details of the F-16 aircraft in exchange for Indians providing them with some details about the MiG-23 aircraft. In mid- to late-1983, according to strategic affairs expert Bharat Karnad, Indira Gandhi asked the IAF once again to plan for an air strike on Kahuta.

The mission was cancelled after Pakistani nuclear scientist Munir Ahmed Khan met Indian Atomic Energy Commission chief-designate Raja Ramanna at an international meet in Vienna and threatened a retaliatory strike on Bhabha Atomic Research Centre at Trombay, if India attempt any such act.

The next time India is believed to have seriously considered attacking Kahuta was in September-October 1984. By that time World was able to know the details of the Pakistani nuclear programme crossing the weaponisation enrichment threshold. The then US Ambassador Dean Hinton told Zia that if the US were to see signs that India was preparing for an attack, they would notify Pakistan immediately.

On September 22, a reliable source from a foreign country — later assumed to be the CIA Deputy Director — reported to the Pakistani top brass that there was the possibility of an Indian air strike. The same day, ABC television also reported that a preemptive Indian attack on Pakistani nuclear facilities was imminent, which was based on a briefing made by the CIA to a US Senate intelligence subcommittee.
But India did not go ahead with its plans to attack Kahuta because the element of surprise was already lost.

It has also been rumored that Israeli air force was part of the plans to attack Kahuta in 1984 because it did not want to see an “Islamic Bomb” developed by Pakistan, it could be a danger for its own establishment. Israel was supposed to lead this attack and not merely play the role of advising the IAF. But Indira Gandhi eventually vetoed the idea because of the fear of any retaliation from USA.

But isn’t she was considered an Iron Lady? Then why she didn’t attempt to destroy Pakistani Nuclear Plant? Today due to this Nuclear Power, Pakistan has become an annoyance for India.


Manish Sharma

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