Doubt from a skeptical mind.
Anil Kakodkar: No, I think this is a totally erroneous conclusion. The yield of thermonuclear tests was verified, not by one method but several redundant methods based on different principles, done by different groups. These have been reviewed in detail and in fact I had described the tests in 1998 as perfect and I stand by that.
He had a perfect opportunity here to spell out, these multiple redundant methods and to which organization these groups belonged, but he did not. It would have gone a long way to clarify that the results were indeed verified by multiple methods and organizations, raising the credibility of the claimed test results.
Anil Kakodkar: Well, let me first of all say that that DAE and DRDO we both work together as a team. DRDO did deploy some instruments for measurements but the fact is that the seismic instruments did not work. I myself had reviewed all the results immediately after the tests and we concluded that the instruments did not work.
All the seismic instruments, including the ones being used by the ARC did not work? Who is this we? AK at that time represented the BARC and the DRDO did not agree to the view of AK, that the instruments did not work. So, there is no question of “we” concluded that the instruments did not work. If the discarding of results based on DRDO instrumentation is not brushing it aside then what is? Did they have similar instrumentation at the site? Why rely on seismic instrumentation in Karnataka?
Anil Kakodkar: Well that's not true because the instrument measure and the ground motion at the place where the instrument is located - we had to separate out the information which was coming out from the thermonuclear and which was coming from the fission test. So the point that I am making is that the seismic instruments did not work.
So there is no question of the yield of the fission test being right and the thermonuclear test being wrong because no conclusion can be drawn from those instruments either ways.
Discard and be done with it making any external validation and doubt of the test results moot? Is this how, BARC will get credibility?
Anil Kakodkar: Well, it's unfortunate but it doesn't worry me because facts are facts and there is no question of getting worried about this. The point is that the measurements which have been done, they have been done--as I mentioned earlier--by different groups.
People who carry out the measurements on seismic instruments is a different group. People who carry out the measurements on radiochemical instruments are a different group. There are other methods that you can use, for example the simulation of ground motion. That's another group and all these groups have come to their own conclusions which match with each other.
The results from the agency/group responsible for seismic and ground motion sensors were discarded, so who were these other groups, and where was their instrumentation. While at it, why not discard the ARC results also?
Anil Kakodkar: That's a layman’s way of looking at it. The fact of the matter is the fission device yield was 15 kilotonnes, not 25 kilotonnes.
AK is on national TV, a layman’s medium. Instead of explaining, Why KS is wrong, he is only sticking to his earlier claims. It was a perfect opportunity to discredit KS on any of his data points, such as the instrumentation being faulty, resulting in showing a higher yield than designed, the DOB of S2, crater size, etc. But, he chooses not to.
Anil Kakodkar: Well, I think you must understand the phenomena of ground motion when a nuclear test takes place. Depending on the depth of burial and of course the medium in which it is buried, you could get several manifestations on the surface.
You could get a crater and there are different kinds of craters that one could see. You can just get a mound - the ground rises and remains there and on the other extreme it can vent out. So in case of the thermonuclear device, the placement was in hard rock—granite--and with the depth and the yield for 45 kilotonnes, one expects only a mound to rise, which is what happened.
Another perfect opportunity, to discredit any of the KS data points on the DOB of S1. Must be one amazing change of topology between the S1 and S2 shafts within 1.5 KM, at similar depths?
Anil Kakodkar: Yes, yes, it has been seen in detailed simulations and by the way I must tell you that this simulation, which I am telling you about, is done on codes which have been actually verified in 3-D situations on the test data available from abroad and validated and these have been published in international journals.
“test data available” from public sources abroad (from the blotched US test, that is), validated in simulation and published in international journals, but unable to convince his own partners in the test?
Anil Kakodkar: Well, first of all I respect everybody. I respect Dr Iyenger, I respect Dr Santhanam, but the fact is that Dr Iyenger was nowhere involved in the 1998 tests. He was of course a key figure in the 1974 tests. Also, the fact is that before the 1990 and 1998 tests, all work was done under cover - we were not in the open - and we required a lot of logistical support and all and that all was being provided by DRDO.
But things were still being done on a need to know basis. So to assume that Dr Santhanam knew everything is not true.
Who is exactly claiming that KS knew “everything”. He knew enough since he was director of the test program since 1996. If Dr. Iyengar enjoys his respect, why did RC et al, refuse to meet him and clarify the issue?
Anil Kakodkar: He knew everything within his realm of responsibility.
Again, hiding behind, the iron fence around which “all things nuclear weapons” is the realm of one institution. The right thing to do, when you have a partner, who is not convinced and is not on the same page as you are is to convince that partner, through evidence and facts and reason, not brush aside their work.
Karan Thapar: You are also saying that Dr Iyenger isn't fully in the picture and therefore his opinion is not necessarily valid.
Anil Kakodkar: He is not in the picture as far as the 1998 tests are concerned.
Karan Thapar: So he doesn't really know about the 1998 tests.
Anil Kakodkar: Well, he knows only as much as has been published and nothing more.
Karan Thapar: His comment therefore is not backed by knowledge and insight.
Anil Kakodkar: Well, that's for you to judge.
Some way to deal with a person, you respect!
Anil Kakodkar: Immediately after the tests, we carried out a review with both teams present: BARC team as well as the DRDO team.
We looked at the measurements done by the BARC team and we looked at the measurements done by the DRDO team and I told you the conclusions and on the basis of that review, it was clear that what basis we could go by and what conclusions we could draw.
Now, the question is that if the instruments didn't work, where is the question of going by any assertions which are based on ... what is the basis of any assertions?
The BARC will conveniently judge, if the DRDO instruments worked or not and the nation is supposed to believe in BARC’s objective assessment because?
Anil Kakodkar: No, they were not brushed aside.
Where is the question of not brushing it aside if the instruments themselves were being claimed as faulty. Instruments that were being prepared, since at least 1996, at the site. An explanation of the actions taken, based on the 1998 DRDO report would have gone a long way, to explain to the layman, the credibility of the process and hence the results.
Anil Kakodkar: There is no hiding. There are limits to what can be revealed. These have been discussed in the Atomic Energy Commission in not one but four meetings after the 1998 tests. And there are people who are knowledgeable. Dr Ramanna was a member of the commission at that time. So where is the hiding?
Why hide behind Dr Ramanna, who cannot speak for himself. Are the other stalwarts of AEC/BARC not “respectable” enough? There are indeed limits to what can be revealed but folks, such as Chengappa and Ramachandran can seemingly get preferential access to BARC/AEC but not its ex heads.
Anil Kakodkar: Well, let me first repeat what I said earlier. There are methods through which one has assessed the test results. Each one of them is a specialisation in itself and there are different groups, not just individuals but groups, which have looked at these. The fact is that this is also on a need-to-know basis. Now, if all of them come to conclusions which are by and large similar, what other things can you do in terms of forming a peer group of scientists?
All these groups, operate within the purview of the BARC? These groups operate independently and on a need to know basis, as claimed. So, who takes these results and compiles and cross matches them? Who provides instruction to these groups about their scope of activities?
Karan Thapar: So there is no need for a peer group review yet again?
Anil Kakodkar: That's what I would say.
A person party to a dispute, says, there is no need for a review, is akin to an accused charged for something saying, there is no need for a trial.
Anil Kakodkar: Well, I would say no because the important point to note is that the thermo nuclear test, the fission test and the sub-kilotonne test all worked as designed. They are diverse.
In terms of detailed design, their content is quite different. And so we think that the design which has been done is validated and within this configuration which has been tested one can build devices ranging from low kilotonne all the way to 200 kilotonnes. And that kind of fully assures the deterrence.
Anil Kakodkar: Well if you go by Dil Maange More, that's another story. But we are talking about a time where the knowledge base has expanded, the capability has expanded and you carry out a design and prove you are confident that on the basis of that design and that test, one can build a range of systems right up to 200 kilotonnes.
“One can build a range of systems right upto 200 kilotonnes”? Can mean multiple things. Why not come out straight, India has built a deployable TN weapon in the range of X-X KT?
Must be the only weapons designing team in the world, not needing a test, just after a total of 6 tests, only one of them being a weapon and only one TN test, that too of not a weaponized design. BARC is to only be partially blamed for this, the serious lack of a strategic culture, shows through.
Karan Thapar: I want to pick up on that last point that you have just made. Given that doubts continue and given that there are going to be no further tests and you are not saying that there is any need for further tests - can you say India has a credible thermonuclear bomb?
Anil Kakodkar: Of course.
Karan Thapar: We have a credible thermonuclear bomb?
Anil Kakodkar: Why are you using singular? Make that plural.
How does one define a credible TN bomb? It seems, BARC has a unique definition. First, this “bomb” has not been tested. It seems to be based on “simulations”. The one test of a full TN device, is disputed (at least by other agencies). The military is nervous on the “credibility” of this device – due to lack of tests and DRDO not being on the same page as the BARC. To make matters more interesting, the claim is we have not one but multiple “credible” TN bombs.
Karan Thapar: The reason I ask is because Dr Santhanam writing in ‘The Hindu’ says that the thermonuclear device has not been weaponsied even 11 years after the tests.
Anil Kakodkar: How does he know? He is not involved.
Hiding behind the iron fence the BARC has created for itself? Some way to deal with ALL scientists and partners he “respects”, who doubt. He could have simply clarified by saying, if these respected individuals have any doubts, he will do X and X to convince them. No, nothing, shut them out, because, he has the power to do so. No one, except for the few in BARC/AEC and the PMO are supposed to “know”, is quite clear from the structure we have. However, when such a level of secrecy is in place, it becomes more critical to prove it beyond all reasonable doubt, to all concerned.
Anil Kakodkar: Yes. I told you we have the possibility of a deterrence of low kilotonne to 200 kilotonnes.
Again obfuscation. Who the hell wants a low KT TN weapon for deterrence? A perfect opportunity to shut everyone’s mouth by saying, we have a deployable TN weapon of X-X yield. Did not even have to be precise, a weapons range would have been sufficient. It is statements such as these, that raise doubts, if the person recognizes the difference between a device in a lab and a weapon.
Anything is possible, in a lab is the expectation. No one doubts that in the labs of BARC, there are multiple TN weapons of varying yields, “credible” in the eyes of the BARC, through “credibility” tools, as defined and validated by themselves. On a larger point, this is where India’s polity has failed by not involving other stake holders in a crucial area of national security.
Karan Thapar: So when people like former Army chief, General Malik say, that because of the doubts in the public arena, the Army wants assurance of the yield and the efficacy of India's thermonuclear bomb, what is your answer to them?
Anil Kakodkar: I think that is guaranteed. The Army should be fully confident and defend the country. There is no issue about the arsenal at their command.
The army has in addition to other weapons of varying yields, TN weapons of x-x range at their command, would have been a direct answer. The above, can go multiple ways, and hence not clear.
On Karan Thapar: His biases are well known and hence would have preferred the interview to be with a less biased individual. It would have helped the overall image.
Overall, An opportunity to refute any key data points of KS not taken advantage of leading credence to the statement Austin made, that AK/RC know, KS is not lying.
Hence, the saga continues.