Nuclear decisionmaking 1964-74 – discussion at IDSA

As part of the nuclear history project, an hour-long video of panel discussion at IDSA, Oct 10, 2012,  chaired by Inder Malhotra and involving Joseph Pilat of the Los Alamos lab, K. Santhanam, Vice Admiral (ret) KK Nayyar, and yours truly. Recently uloaded by IDSA. May be of interest. Accessible at

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, disarmament, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, indian policy -- Israel, Iran and West Asia, Indian Politics, nonproliferation, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US.. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Nuclear decisionmaking 1964-74 – discussion at IDSA

  1. Shaurya says:

    Thank you for sharing. Now, only if IDSA could have had a transcript 🙂

  2. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    I notice a trend among many Chinese and Pakistani netizens: they openly run down our Agni program claiming Agni I,II,III are total failures (which led to the development of Agni 4/5 according to them). Any specific reason for this kind of “Psyops” ? Or is it just immature chauvinism ?

    As far as I know, Agni I has never had a failure; Agni II has had two failed user trials (though three user trials have succeeded since then after quality control was tightened), Agni III has had no failure after the first one in Jul. 2006….

    • Not sure where the psyops come into the pic, unless down-gradingthe 750 km Agni-I boosts their own confidence. The SPD takes it seriously and for good reason, and that’s whatmatters.


  3. satyaki says:

    Which means SPD views Agni II as China centric ? Certainly that will be the case with Agni III

  4. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    Besides the unproven thermonuclear warheads, do we also have higher yield (100kt +) boosted fission weapons in our arsenal ? The heavy 1.5 ton payloads of Agni 3 & 5 seems to suggest this (unlikely that even a 175 kt thermonuclear warhead weighs 1.5 tons). Probably higher yield boosted fission weapons will be more reliable than thermonuclear weapons in the absence of testing: success of the low yield test as well as the primary of S-1 indicates that DAE understood the “equation of state’ of the relevant materials in the relevant physical conditions very well even in 1998 (unlike for the secondary of the thermonuclear weapons)

  5. satyaki says:

    In that case the main disadvantage of the lack of TN (assuming we intend sticking to yields around 100-200kt) would be the higher weight of these boosted fission types: we would need 4-5 Agni III/V instead of one similar MIRVed missile for the same deterrent effect.

    Also, if it is not of the “sloika” type, more fissmat much would be required per warhead. Sloikas (fissile core surrounded by LiD and U-238 in alternating layers) can probably achieve 100-200kt yields with the same amount of fissmat a 20kt pure fission device uses (going by what is openly available about the Soviet “Joe-4” 1953 test). So, with sloikas, the excess fissmat requirement is possibly mitigated.

    Interestingly, Israel is reputed to rely on modernized Sloikas rather than true TN weapons; makes sense in their case given their lack of testing. They still would have a number of credible weapons in the 100-200kt range for sure. Maybe we too should look at this sort of solution till we are able to test and upgrade our deterrence.

    Also, confidence in boosted fission/sloika designs (as well as their credibility) explains the official statement that “we can go upto 200kt”. The officials were not lying IMHO: they were only not telling the entire truth (about our lack of a successfully tested two stage TN).

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