URGENT URGENT URGENT URGENT
INDIA TESTS THREE NUCLEAR BOMBS
From: Bruce Hall at Peace Action
Date: May 11, 1998
Re : India's test
What you can do
Ambassador Naresh Chandra
Fax the Indian Embassy!
Embassy of India
2107 Massachussettes Avenue
Washington, DC 20008
fax: 202 265-4351
* As a non-governmental group in the United States with a long-
standing commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, we
strongly condemn India's decision to resume nuclear testing.
* We have worked hard over the years to halt the U.S. nuclear
testing program and continue urge the United States to live up to
its obligations under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty
which obligates the United States to pursue in good faith
obligations toward nuclear disarmament.
* In particular, we continue to oppose the United States' multi-
billion dollar Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program. We
have protested US subcritical experiments.
* We have appreciated India's historic leadership for a
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and for a world without nuclear
weapons. We can only look upon these nuclear tests in Rajasthan
with regret. They have tarnished your country's past leadership.
* Worse, nuclear testing may ignite a dangerous nuclear arms race
on the Asian subcontinent at a time when the world is waking up
finally to the futility of nuclear weapons.
* We strongly urge you renounce further nuclear testing and sign
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
* We strongly urge you to join the growing diplomatic movement
aimed at accelerating the nuclear disarmament process.
It is not absolutely clear what India did today, but based on a
statement by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, weapons
scientists conducted simultaneous experiments on a thermonuclear
device (hydrogen bomb), fission device, and a low-yield device.
India last conducted a nuclear test in 1974, but has tried to
maintain a sort of nuclear ambiguity since then.
Based on what I know about India's nuclear weapons program, I would say
that some of these experiments may have been to develop smaller nuclear
warheads for the long-range Agni and the medium-range Pritvhi missiles.
India claims to have the capability to strike any target in Pakistan.
With development of the Agni II, they are working on the capability to
strike targets in large parts of China.
In addition, I would bet that the fission device was an experiment
in "boosting." Boosting describes the process in which tritium is
injected into the center of the weapons plutonium core to provide
more loose neutrons during the initial stages of a nuclear
explosion. More loose neutrons means more fissioning atoms and
therefore more bang for less buck in terms of explosive power.
Almost all U.S. nuclear weapons use this boosting process which is
why the United States Department of Energy wants to resume the
production of tritium. Boosting is an essential concept for a
nation that wants to develop lighter, more efficient nuclear
weapons and was one of the major objectives of the early U.S.
WHAT THIS MEANS
We still need more information. The key question right now is, "Is
this the beginning of a series of Indian nuclear tests or an
Under a worst case scenario, expect a Pakistani nuclear test in the
coming weeks or months and a miniature nuclear arms race on the
Expect Republicans to use India's nuclear missile program to
bolster their case for the ballistic missile defense program here
in the United States.
Expect Republicans (Senator Kyl from Arizona comes to mind) to
begin discussions or even introduce legislation on the need for the
United States to resume nuclear testing. Under the 1992 nuclear
moratorium the United States is prohibited from conducting a
nuclear test after 1996 unless another country first conducts a
test. As you remember Kyl tried to undo that moratorium in the
summer of 1996. Of course our signature on CTBT commits the United
States to maintain its moratorium but that fact may not
Obviously, this is very bad news for efforts to get the CTBT
ratified in the United States Senate.
The Silver Lining
Yes, there is a potential silver lining in this scenario. India's
test might serve as a bit of a wake-up call to a public and
administration largely complacent on nuclear disarmament matters.
In this sense, India's test might provide us with an organizing
opportunity similar to, although smaller than, the opportunity
given to us by French President Jacques Chirac when he resumed
nuclear testing in the South Pacific. The repercussions of that
decision ultimately included the Canberra Commission, the zero-
yield CTBT, the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, and
General Lee Butler's decision to come out publicly in favor of
nuclear abolition. I'm sure it also had a major impact on the
World Court decision.