News

May 13 Indian N-tests may have `failed': NYT

ASSOCIATED PRESS OF PAKISTAN NEWS SUMMARY (11-October-1999)

ISLAMABAD, Oct 11 (APP)- The rumours, swirling amidst nuclear experts and in national security circles for a while, burst out in the open in Washington when a leading US daily, the New York Times, citing some of these sources alleged that what failed on May 13, 1998 was not the global monitoring system but the two Indian nuclear tests. While the three nuclear blasts at Pokhran on May 11 were registered by seismometers, not even faint rumbles or blips were detected on May 13. The growing perception in Washington, if these reports are to be believed, were India may have ``faked'' the 4th and 5th test. While doubts are now being cast on the Indian tests, there is no mushroom cloud of confusion in the fact that Pokhran-ll has become inextricably entangled in the epic struggle now being waged in the US Senate, in television and other public forums between pro- and anti-CTBT votaries in this country. The NYT which had first quoted `earth scientists' and `geologists' casting doubts on the Indian tests, once again poses a bunch of questions: Had India faked the explosive tests? Were they flops? Or had small blasts eluded the eavesdroppers? And if they had, what did that mean for a global ban on nuclear blasts in which compliance was to be assiduously verified? All of these questions inevitably have a bearing on the increasingly strident debate in the Senate to ratify the test ban treaty where President Clinton has staked the prestige of his administration. Confronted by Republicans, Clinton has been forced to back off and seek a postponement of the vote. Instead, the GOP factions are determined to press forward with the vote and deal a decisive blow to the controversial treaty. Amongst others, a South Asia specialist, George Perkovich, author of India's Nuclear Bomb to be published shortly, is quoted as saying: ``The Indian claims were exaggerated''. He reportedly argued that the problems were so ``great'', that India had another nuclear device in the ground that it left undetonated. However, even as recently as last month, Indian scientists had been quoted in the Indian press as stating that five tests were adequate enough and it was then felt that there was no need for a sixth test. The equation here is fairly straightforward. If the May 13 pair of Indian tests had indeed failed, it reinforced the arguments of the pro-test ban group who can say with conviction, the world's monitoring system, were foolproof.

On the other hand, if the tests were a success as claimed by New Delhi, those who argue that the international monitoring network were deeply flawed, would have concrete evidence. Policing the globe for ``clandestine blasts'', the CTBT seeks 321 monitoring stations 171 to detect underground shock waves, 80 to ``sniff'' the air for incriminating radioactivity, 60 to eavesdrop on revealing sounds and 11 to track undersea ``booms''. Backing its claims, the daily-featured charts alongside showing the intensity of the two Indian nuclear tests on May 11 and 13 as recorded at a monitoring station in Nalore, Pakistan. On May 11, an explosion of the magnitude of 5.1 on the Richter scale was recorded; on May 13, it was blank with no signals being recorded. These allegations will now simply add more fuel to an already incendiary debate if the US had a hard time detecting ``small blasts'' set off by other nuclear-capable nations. When the May 11 Pokhran tests were announced to the world, startling Capitals like Washington DC, the Central Intelligence Agency and other espionage agencies had egg on its faces for falling asleep at the switch and for failing to detect the tests. The CIA chief came in for intense grilling by Senate intelligence panels and their monitoring of South Asia--specifically India--have been substantially enhanced--through spy satellites, sensors and of course `Humint'--human intelligence. As to how Indian scientists react to these innuendoes and allegations that the May 13 tests may have failed will be watched closely here in Washington. The Indian tests have figured repeatedly in the intense debates over the merits and demerits of the CTBT. The outgoing Senator from New York and former ambassador to India, Daniel Patrick Moynihan alluded to the ``hydrogen bomb'' test conducted by India when he maintained: ``it is not clear that Indian tests last year were successful. They probably did not achieve a hydrogen bomb that they proclaimed...they want to test more. They need to, as it were to show the Pakistanis that they have the weapons that they have claimed to have''.