Saturday, May 10, 2008

How DRDO and Vajpayee fooled CIA and the US Govt

JAI HIND !!! This article is a tribute to all DRDO scientists and Vajpayee's statesmanship and leadership. We, as Indians are proud to celebrate 10th year of Pokhran blasts. This thrilling article explains how DRDO and Vajpayee intentionally deceived CIA satellites to ensure nuclear test went ahead unhindered in May 1998. I composed this article after collecting and analyzing several articles from websites, magazines and newspapers. This is a revealing, mind gripping saga of our achievement in joining the nuclear elite of the world.

Rarely in independent India have leaders exhibited extra-ordinary skill to show the world that we are not a poor third world country. Only 2 leaders gave a befitting reply in a befitting manner at a befitting time to international pulls, pressures and criticisms. One was Indira Gandhi and the other is Vajpayee. What Indira Gandhi did will be mentioned in the end, the article now focusses on Vajpayee.

Let's go back in TIME MACHINE. Fasten your seat belts. Get set, go!!!

It was in 1964 when China conducted the first nuclear test. Vajpayee, in Parliament said -"अनु बम्ब का जवाब अनु बम्ब से ही देना चाहिए और किसे से नहीं " i.e An answer to an atom bomb is an atom bomb, alone.

The entire Parliament clapped to these words and since then nuclearization has been foremost in Jan Sangh or BJP's party agenda. It was in 1974 at Pokhran that Indira Gandhi first conducted the first nuclear test.

Advani once said the following words, in Parliament in 1974 after India went nuclear -

"Only twice in recent years in The Motherland, has one witnessed such a mood of national elation. First, when the Indian Army entered Dacca to liberate Bangladesh, and now when India has entered the nuclear club."

It is very rare to find that main leaders across different parties agreeing to the same thing in the interest of the nation. Such was the time we lived in. One also needs to take note that Vajpayee, Advani and Indira Gandhi - all co-operated with each other and stood as one. Very rare is the fact that opposition party leaders praise so vividly at the ruling govt.

Since 1974, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P.Singh and finally Narasimha Rao secretly planned for nuclear weaponisation. Narasimha Rao, in particular, wanted India to join the world elite in even tougher terms. It was Narasimha Rao who actually went ahead with the tests in 1995. Unfortunately, CIA spy satellites detected the activity and warned India of sanctions. Now, Narasimha Rao must be appreciated because he had the guts to give a green signal with topmost priority to DRDO. He was running a minority government and any sanctions or unpopular reaction could have adversely affected Indian economy and politics. Moreover India had just then begun to get rid of economic Crisis. So, he stepped back.

In 1996, he again went ahead, but this time a team of CIA and US Diplomats personally came and gave evidences and explained that they were able to detect the same. What is not clear even for CIA till now and they refuse to reveal to public is the question whether US Ambassador Wisner in 1996 revealed technical details of spy satellites to DRDO scientists or no. Any reader at this point will only say - US can't do this at all, It's a myth. Even assuming it's a myth it's not a joke for an event that took place later when Vajpayee came to power when Indians knew how they could deceive CIA spy satellites. The top DRDO officials give certain details of what they did. I am also sure they did this in this manner only after Vajpayee gave them instructions. Otherwise no organization can do take such a big step to execute in a covert manner without the agreement of the Government. And hence in this context I appreciate Vajpayee and his team.

Later that year, Vajpayee came to power. He ordered tests to go through. But 2 days later, the Government fell. The plan stopped there. Now CTBT was signed by 149 countries. It forced India also to sign, but never did India sign. Next, Deve Gowda was the PM and what else can you expect from this politician? There was no progress,whatsoever. Even I.K.Gujral never wanted to test as he believed it was not in India's interest.

Finally, in 1998, Vajpayee Govt came to power with majority. On Mar 7th, Vajpayee was made the PM.

Around Mar 19th, Nawaz Sharif sent an international message about possibility of nuclear test by India. This was sent mainly because in all media, BJP announced that making India nuclear is their priority. But no one knew with what intensity was India really going ahead except for these few people mentioned above.

On Mar 20- just barely 13 days after being in power (This is what I call - demonstration of commitmment in making India strong in the world. He did not sit and enjoy the power. Usually everyone has a honeymoon after they come to Government, Vajpayee did not. Such a demonstration was seen earlier by Indira Gandhi and Sardar Patel), Vajpayee asked 3 people - DRDO chief Kalam, Atomic Energy Chief Chidambaram and BARC Chief Anil Kakodkar were called to South Block. The only other people present were National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra, L.k. Advani and Vajpayee himself. No one else knew this secret meeting. It was strictly confidential. Vajpayee asked about preparations of a nuclear test and asked the top scientists to get into ready mode. It is a well known fact that we were ready long before, but Vajpayee wanted to cross check and confirm everything.

On April 6, 1998, Pakistan test fired GHAURI missile which has the penetration range of 1500 km (while that of India's Agni is 2500 km). Vajpayee was subdued and he now wanted something very quick. Brajesh Mishra told Vajpayee it is now the question of India's credibility.

On April 8th, 2 days after the Ghauri test firing by Pakistan, Vajpayee asked again for a secret meeting with Kalam, Chidambaram and Anil Kakodkar. He gave them "green-signal" as he was disturbed by Pakistan and Chinese help in it. Kalam writes that it was one of those happiest moments as he got to demonstrate what skills India had.

By April 27th (which was the first agreed date to conduct tests), Chidambaram had to attend his daughter's marriage. Now, in obvious terms if he was not there in his own daughter's marriage, it would have lead to suspicion. Hence the test date was postponed.

At this point I would say only one thing. Such operations are usually done in such a clandestine manner, but the fact that only selected people in the Government were informed of it and the world never knew about this is amazing. Vajpayee truly wanted to surprise the world as he knew if the world knew, it would stop him. Even the then Defense Minister, George Fernandes did not knew this.

On May 7th, The equipment was taken out of BARC(Baba Atomic Research Center), Mumbai and was flown to Jaisalmer Airport and then taken via trucks to Pokhran. By 1995-96, underground camps were made to keep such equipment. In Jodhpur, a team of handpicked scientists from DRDO and DAE held a meeting to conduct the tests in Pokhran. The President, Venkataraman Narayanan was touring Latin America. It was only he apart from the mentioned above people who were appraised of the test

The only problem which both DRDO and Vajpayee compounded was how to trick or deceive CIA spy satellites. Vajpayee was also aware of the grave economic sanctions as a consequence of the test and the fact that CIA spy satellites hover around India. So, there was hectic discussion going on about this between these selected top officials. The top DRDO officials carefully determined the timing of satellite position over India and decided to do activity only at the time when it is not over it. One needs to understand the fact that CIA was spying so intensely was a fact known to India in 1996. It was very essential to deceive because on one side was self-pride and need to prove our capability and on the other not to bow down to the great powers in doing what we think is right. India had to bow down to such pressures in 1995 and 1996 and now no way Vajpayee wanted to be stopped and blackmailed by US.

If one goes by what CIA veteran J. Ransom Clark (25 years experience in CIA) remarked it is clear that Indian scientists knew that every 6 hours in a day the satellites were spying and it was at those times when it was not hovering around, the activity took place.

Only breaking of the fence and presence of bulldozer was the activity detected by spy satellites. This was 6 hours before the actual test took place (9:47 am on May 11th Indian Time, 00:17 in Eastern Standard Time).

Even Santhanam who was the top DRDO scientist personally in the team of Abdul Kalam also revealed in a leading magazine just a few days ago about the deception. He says

"The logic was simple: as the Pokhran range was swarming with army personnel, we decided to dress in battle fatigues so as not to raise unnecessary eyebrows. Since it was a border area, there was a high likelihood of informers in the place. Scientists in trousers would have attracted unwanted attention. Some scientists were also potbellied. The locals would not have thought them to be soldiers, who are a fit and sprightly lot. All this was done to avoid the stealthy gaze of spy satellites, particularly the American ones. Compared to the 1974 tests, we were more knowledgeable about surveillance systems. That's why we avoided any movement during the satellite hours. We normally worked at night and carried on till the small hours without any sleep. Chances of detection in the night are zero and the quality of satellite images is very bad.One month of tiring, sleepless nights paid off in the late afternoon of May 11. The earth trembled a little. As the blasts were in a shaft deep down, we couldn't feel much. I called it a bum tickle."

The above image shows the nuclear scientists clad in soldiers' outfit so that there is no suspicion by any local people (many of whom could be spies to Pakistan).

At 3:43:44.2 pm local Indian time {10:13:44.2 UCT (+/-0.32 sec; 6:13:44.2 a.m. EDT} as measured by international seismic monitors, the test took place. Kalam telephoned Vajpayee. Advani cheered along with Vajpayee and Kalam. This is no less than a Hollywood movie in which they show the President elated after seeing some acts done by his research and defense teams.

Just 2 minutes later, at 3:45 pm- Vajpayee announced to the world - "We are now a nuclear weapons country. We have the bomb". The news was so powerful that the entire world was shocked. Like a giant meteor that hit the Earth, the announcement hit the ears of everyone - domestic and international.

Later on May 13, the world was further surprised by 2 more tests and finally ceased the tests. Even this went unnoticed.

Sometimes we need to speak only when we are done. But, Vajpayee spoke on May 11th just to tell people that there is no further intention to carry out tests and tricked them further. On May 13th the final announcement was made.

Here's the link to how CIA and US policymakers reacted to the events

Here's another article explaining why CIA could not detect the tests.

Here's another one

In the last one above, there is a reaction -"They(India) clearly did things in a way that tried to rush it through"

The same article also says - "The Indians engaged in elaborate "denial and deception" of U.S. satellites and other spying in the weeks leading up to the three tests at the nuclear center near Pokhran, in the northwestern state of Rajasthan bordering Pakistan.

"We had zero warning," said an administration official close to the CIA."

Some officials reacted this way as quoted by S.S. Vasan, a scientist at IISC.

"The reasons, say officials in both Washington and New Delhi, are varied. India has its own satellite-imaging capability, which gives it an understanding of what can and can't be seen from space. It's nuclear program is kept separate from its military, which like many militaries is prone to boasting and leaking. And unlike many programs, India's is not as dependent on outside help. India has a large pool of trained nuclear scientists and electrical engineers and an industrial infrastructure capable of producing key equipment. Much U.S. intelligence on other nations' nuclear programs is derived from electronic eavesdropping on sales of equipment related to weapons development. India has prevented Western intelligence from recruiting spies in India by an aggressive program of counterintelligence that includes surveillance and even attempted recruitment of diplomats and suspected agents. "They are very, very good," said one official. "Remember, this is the same country that produced the scientists who designed the Pentium chips," added an official. "They don't need a lot of outside help. They can do it on their own."

I feel what a life will it be if we can shake the world by our actions.

These words below came from my heart in this context:
"कर्म ऐसा हो जीसके आगे दुनिया नथ मस्तक हो, सोच ऐसी हो जीससे दुनिया हील जाए, बातें ऐसी हो जीससे लोगों की नींद उड़ जाए।"
i.e Let us do such actions that the world bows in front of us, Let our thoughts shake the world, Let our words awaken the sleeping minds.

Vajpayee truly did this. Had it not been his audacity coupled with need for covertness and that DRDO could translate the same into action, we would not have been what we are today. Yet, we have miles to go.

Vajpayee did reveal in Parliament that Narasimha Rao asked him to conduct the tests. This acceptance is a testimony to the fact Vajpayee was so broad-minded when it came to India. He could have said everything was done by him. But he did accept in front of everyone and acknowledge Narasimha Rao for it even before anybody questioned it.

I thank the team of DRDO who did this wonderful act and created History. Very few moments in our country after 1947 have made us proud and gave us a confidence to stand up and match eye-to-eye in the world's eyes. This is one of them.

As I promised at the beginning, here's what Indira Gandhi did

1) When US President commented about India's inability to be self-sufficient, she took it as a challenge and then Green Revolution happened. It was a befitting reply.

2) When US questioned India's ability about space research, Indira Gandhi gave full support and funding to DRDO and we launched our first space satellite Aryabhata in 1975.

3) When US President Raegan warned India of direct consequences if India invaded Dacca, she said - "The President of one country need not tell the other what it has do in such circumstances" and very boldly she went ahead with 1971 like Goddess Kali and made Pakistan face its worst and most humiliating defeat.

4) When US sent its warships to Indian ocean to serve as a warning, Indira Gandhi asked DRDO to explode a nuclear bomb in 1974

Truly, Vajpayee and Indira Gandhi did something impossible in an ordinary man's mind..

Vande Mataram!!!


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