India’s sub-optimal nuclear weapons capability

Pallava Bagla’s ‘New Frontiers in Science and Development’ video, May 11, 2018

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.
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19 Responses to India’s sub-optimal nuclear weapons capability

  1. Vishnugupt says:

    Prof. what is you take on “vela Incident”? Can Indian MI and R&AW pull of something like that if they want to?

    • No. Vela was the flash picked up by US satellite in Fall 1979 at the South African testing site and is attributed by some to an Israeli/Pretoria N-device. It had Washington’s blessings. What India has to do is in the face of US/West European/Chinese opposition.

  2. US adversary Putin’s Russia would sell thermonuclear design blue prints for the right amount of dollars. Modi needs to start on this, one or the other way.

    Russia is the only nation which leases nuclear subs to India and one who provided full consultancy to make INS Arihant at home. Russia & Korea del Norte are 2 best sources for India to procure its needs on its Hydrogen bomb albeit clandestinely through diplomatic pouches.


    “But the project was still not getting anywhere,” says V. Koithara in the book Managing India’s Nuclear Forces. “India then sought and got much more substantial Russian help than had been envisaged earlier. The construction of the submarine’s hull began in 1998, and a basically Russian-designed 83 megawatt pressurised-water reactor was fitted in the hull nine years later.”

    Ashok Parthasarthi, a former science and technology adviser to the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, sums up the extent of Russian assistance: “India’s first indigenous nuclear submarine, INS Arihant…would have just been impossible to realise without Russia’s massive all-round consultancy, technology transfer, technical services and training, technical ‘know-how’ and ‘show-how,’ design of the submarine as a whole, and above all numerous operational ‘tips’ based on 50 years of experience in designing, building and operating nuclear submarines.”

    According to Bidwai, “Scores of Russian engineers were sent to India to aid the DAE and DRDO….It was the Russians who supplied the vital designs, precision equipment based on their VM-5 reactor, and the technology of miniaturising the reactor.”


    India has the ingredients in the form of Uranium/Plutonium/Tritium/deuterium. All it needs is a pure design/building blocks or know-how know-why and show-how.

    Where there’s a will there’s a way – or the highway in this case.


    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Even if Putin is ready to sell designs, how will you be sure about those designs without testing? The same holds true of the indigenous efforts on this front, presuming there are any. And what would you gain by having these designs? You won’t be able to extrapolate anything into your own designs without needing further tests.

      There is no alternative to testing. You cannot seriously expect a nation of 130 crore to rely on untested designs received from elsewhere.

      Even a small neta of a mere 2.5 crore north koreans (equal to Delhi NCR) ensured his equipment is tested. How much more pitiable can the whole situation get for us.

      This small neta is net-net equivalent to Kejriwal in terms of his people power. You can hate him you can rant against him but he is a true patriot who has stood up and gotten counted for his country.

      • Vishnugupt says:

        Kim did it because he had nothing to loose. His country men are already eating and smoking grass.
        They can’t hold a candle light vigil or protest in front of Jantar Mantar like we do. Remember “Tienanmen square”?
        People’s immediate demand comes first to an Indian PM’s agenda.
        Perils of democracy my friend.

      • Tests can not be done without abrogating 1-2-3 nuclear agreement and thereby suffering damages as India must return the Uranium imported.besides other serious stuff as per article 14 (4) of the “right to return” which reads:

        {{{Following the cessation of cooperation under this Agreement, either Party shall have the right to require the return by the other Party of any nuclear material, equipment, non-nuclear material or components transferred under this Agreement and any special fissionable material produced through their use.}}}

        India can, by doling out cash to Russia, ask for actual innards/cutout of hydrogen bomb design beside blue prints and Russian computer nuclear explosion simulation tests records.

        By not testing India would remain at the same level with an “impotent bomb” (as said by Brahma Chellaney) anyway. But the BARC community would have learned much more for the future or actually building weapons on those devices. The deterrence factor for India would remain at the same level.

        Supercomputer simulates nuclear explosion down to the molecular level << Read this:

        {{{Sequoia (supercomputer) will simulate nuclear explosions to a degree that was previously impossible, but it will also give researchers insight into what's happening to weapons in the country's weapons stockpile without actually testing nuclear bombs}}}

        On Kejriwal I found you to be 100% right though.

      • The 123 Ag is no big deal — the country would have been better without it. A country can do only so much with simulation as basis for N-weapons. Moreover, the country doesn’t have the quality computing at scale and with speeds required for the stuff you are referring to. So, that’s no go. Russia will not sell India any remotely relevant tech considering the Modi government is over-tilting to the US side. Conclusion: there’s no escaping resumption of testing for credible and reliable hydrogen weapons.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      The living conditions of many if not most Indians in the hinterlands is about the same level as those in NoKo (or perhaps even worse). India has quite a few designs. All this GDP BS doesn’t affect them. BTW, I would discount Koithara here,

  3. &^%$#@! says:

    Agni-VI with 6,000-7,500 km range and ability to carry a larger multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) payload capability over Agni-V will send shockwaves not only in Bejing but also in all European countries which will be put them under Agni-VI range. Speculation is also there that Upgraded lighter Agni-V might be tested with MIRV Capability with under reported range to pass it off as just an improved Agni-V to keep nerves calm in many countries with whom India is working in trying to secure its entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

  4. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Re. manav
    Supercomputer simulates nuclear explosion down to the molecular level << Read this:

    {{{Sequoia (supercomputer) will simulate nuclear explosions to a degree that was previously impossible, but it will also give researchers insight into what's happening to weapons in the country's weapons stockpile without actually testing nuclear bombs}}}

    I don't doubt if somebody else is willing and capable of doing it. I do doubt if BARC is capable of doing it.
    Molecular level predictability (for a secondary) being built into a model will require data of that kind. Secondary predictability is doubted.
    You can sure source equipment from anywhere but without testing it is neither deployable nor does it enter into deterrence perceptions. People test out rifles and ammo which has hardly changed in last 100 years. A secondary working at extremes of conditions, conditions that are not available except through destructive testing, will require testing even to gather test data that will feed into the models to be predicted.

    There is an alternative too in that the Shakti TN test was itself a result of received wisdom, meant to be tested only once. But personally I would regard it a fantasy.

    Today we have at least 2 nuke powers (China and Pakistan) needling India. No other nuke power does that to any other nuke power.

  5. {{{Conclusion: there’s no escaping resumption of testing for credible and reliably hydrogen weapons.}}}

    Not gonna happen in foreseeable future.
    Writing is on the wall.

    Its not Modi’s cup of tea aka Jumlebaaz.

    • Vishnugupt says:

      As Gen. Sundarji would put it “the blind men of Hindoostan” dropped the ball……again.

      Having said that, i can’t see why the blind men in Delhi are shying away from testing & inducting agni-6 with MIRVs. And doing away with the so called “no first use” policy.

      There a lot a country can do with 20KT warheads, assuming the planners know what to do with it. Like the saying go in hindi “Tezi goli me nahi, chalane wale me hoti hai”

      You are whining over thermo nuclear weapons and on the other hand the army doesn’t even have a reliable assault rifle & basic BPJs, the navy don’t even have mine sweepers, and lets not talk about the state of submarines. The situation is dire my friend.

      The 20KT ones are enough to scare the Paki sissys, but even a 50MT thermo nuclear device won’t deter the Chines mark my word.

      You know why? That is because the Chinese are ” the masters of weiqi “, they are playing the game of encirclement, and eating away our territory and sphere of influence inch by inch.

      Their strategy is way too sophisticated for thermo nuclear devices to act as a deterrent.

  6. &^%$#@! says:

    Computer simulation somewhat over-rated. It may be absolute truth to pseudo-scientists and charlatans like RC and KS,…When China was preparing for s first A -bomb test it needed to test the Monte Carlo simulations given by the Russians. They used a huge abacus – a 3 ton monster which today resides in a museum.

  7. Sir can Our Country conduct an underwater N-Test ? i watched some videos of it & countries have done it,so can India do that or we can improve our Thermonucelar designs via testing done by Vietnam ?

  8. abhi says:

    India has more incentive to test after India has thorium based reactors (stage 3). When India will test is speculation, but there is an upper bound in the later half of this century.

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