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US wanted India to pip China to N-test

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  1. Contrarian

    Contrarian ELITE MEMBER

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    US wanted India to pip China to N-test: Report

    TARAPUR: The US may now want India not to conduct nuclear tests, having built it in as a condition in the 123 agreement. But more than 40 years ago, a number of US state department officials were keen that India carry out a nuclear test before communists China did.

    This is revealed in a September 13, 1961 memo from a US state department official, George McGhee, to then secretary of state Dean Rusk. According to the memo, many state department officials seriously wanted to help India acquire a nuclear bomb. It quoted intelligence estimates which stated that China could detonate a nuclear device as early as 1962.

    "Such a demonstration of Chinese nuclear power would likely contribute to a feeling that communism is the wave of the future and communist China will become too powerful as a country," it said.

    To avert such a Chinese gain, McGhee proposed that it would be desirable if a friendly Asian power beat communist China to the punch by detonating a nuclear device first. "While we would like to limit the number of nuclear powers, so long as we lack the capability to do so, we ought to prefer that the first Asian one be India and not China," said the memo.

    Of course, India could not have accumulated enough fissionable material at that time to produce a nuclear explosion. Aware of that, the memo appeared to suggest that the US explore whether American technical assistance could help induce India to conduct a nuclear explosion ahead of China.

    But the plan was not accepted because of practical reasons, including former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's reluctance to acquire nuclear weapons.

    "I am against nuclear tests at any time in any place," India's first prime minister has been quoted as saying. China eventually did conduct its test well ahead of India - in 1964, the year Nehru died.

    Until almost the very end, the US state department continued to hope that Nehru could be somehow persuaded about the importance of carrying out a test.

    According to the memo, Nehru could be told that if India carried out a nuclear test, it would forestall China using nuclear blackmail against India. Also, it would reduce China's ability to bully the neighbours of India.

    But the plan was eventually dropped. Some years later, the initial phase of nuclear cooperation between India and the US began in Tarapur with the commissioning of the 160-MW boiling water reactors designated as Tarapur 1 and 2 in October 1969.

    However, the US withdrew cooperation to this project after Buddha smiled - that is India detonated its first nuclear bomb at Pokhran on May 18, 1974.

    US wanted India to pip China to N-test: Report-India-The Times of India