Waiting for the Bomb: PN Haksar and India’s Nuclear Policy in the 1960s
Waiting for the Bomb:
PN Haksar and India’s Nuclear Policy in the 1960s
A recent article in The National Interest (TNI) presented archival evidence to argue that India intended to develop a full-spectrum nuclear weapons capability as early as 1969. However, other archival sources related to Indian nuclear history raise doubts about the purported provenance and significance of this source.
- Contrary to analysis of a note found in PN Haksar's files, the Indian government did not decide to pursue a full-fledged nuclear weapons program in 1968. A preponderance of archival evidence produced across the Indian government between 1964 and 1970 indicates that the note cited by TNI was not reflective of the Indian government’s nuclear weapons policy at that time.
- The note is unlikely to be written by PN Haksar, a close aide to Indira Gandhi, as suggested in the TNI article. Comparison with Haksar's contemporaneous writings and statements reveals many discrepancies with the agenda proposed in the note. Circumstantial evidence indicates that the note is a book manuscript written by an unknown author that was shared with Haksar and later deposited in Haksar's files when they were transferred to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.
- The leadership of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) rejected similar policy notes supportive of nuclear weapons produced around the same time. One paper proposed by K.R. Narayanan advanced similarly hawkish nuclear views but was not accepted by the MEA leadership. Another top-secret memo by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) also argued against a strategic nuclear force. On the whole, India's decision-makers were not confident about India's nuclear capabilities and did not support a crash-weapons program to counter China during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
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Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project is a global network of individuals and institutions engaged in the study of international nuclear history through archival documents, oral history interviews, and other empirical sources. At the Wilson Center, it is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. Read more
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