NEW YORK, NY: India has as many as 20 nuclear devices and will try to test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile next month, according to the Newsweek magazine.

India has maintained officially that it does not have a nuclear weapons program, but has consistently refused to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. It exploded its first nuclear device in 1974 in the Rajasthan desert.

The article identified Pakistan as possessing 4 nuclear devices. It identified Israel and South Africa also as countries which have the nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. “The weapons them ves have grown in sophistication from the first crude Indian bomb in 1974, so unwieldy that delivery would have required a truck. India now has smaller warheads that fit into intermediate range missiles. Pakistan has a bomb thought to weigh no more than 400 pounds: light enough to strap into the belly of one of its U.S. supplied F 16 fighter bombers,” the report said.

The report mentioned that India had stockpiled 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of plutonium to build more nuclear bombs in its arsenal,” it added.

“Western intelligence experts ~ say that India has now produced as many as 20 atomic bombs, mostly in the past three years. New Delhi strenuously denies possessing nuclear arms. But some Indian experts say there is no longer any doubt. “My assessment is that within two to three weeks we could assemble 20 to 40 nuclear weapons”, says Dhirendra Sharma, an expert on India’s nuclear program with the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“Our aim is to have ballistic missile capacity by 1990s”, he adds. “There is no other reason except that India wants to become a superpower.”

A report in the Wall Street Journal on June 21 said that India which has repeatedly denied buying heavy water clandestinely was now suspected of acquiring almost 6 tons of Soviet heavy water in such a manner in 1984. A West German nuclear materials broker was reported to be involved in the “disappearance” of heavy water.

Heavy water or deuterium oxide is used to run Nuclear reactors on natural uranium and a byproduct of the nuclear reaction its plutonium which can be used to make N bombs. It can be imported legitimately but then its use is governed by the International Atomic Energy Commission.

A “diversion” of 15 tons of heavy water to India had been reported earlier by the New York Times (WSN May 13). Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi had on June 9 addressed the U.N. special session on disarmament even though his government has repeatedly refused to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (WSN June 17 and the editorial “Watch the Forked Tongue”). The permanent Indian representative to the United Nations C.R. Ghare Khan clashed with Pakistani delegation which on June 13 repeated Islamabad’s stand in favor of a regional approach to nucleus proliferation in South Asia.

Ambassador Shah Nawaz also mentioned Pakistan’s willingness to sign the nonproliferation treaty. The Indian delegates, however, called the Pakistani offer as a “propaganda” ploy. India has also been one of the three countries that voted against a proposal for South Asia as a nuclear free zone, 95 countries including the U.S. voted for the proposal on November 9. 1987.

Article extracted from this publication >> July 15, 1988