Indian Intel on Pakistani Nukes

While we’re talking about Pakistan lately, there’s an interesting article at The Diplomat about the history of Indian analysis of the Pakistani nuke program. As we seldom get insights into Indian intelligence, it’s worth reading in depth. A taste:

India, for instance, has taken a keen interest in Pakistan’s pursuit of a nuclear device going back to the 1970s and even earlier. Based on newly declassified Indian documentation I was able to access, what follows is an account of what Indian external intelligence knew about Pakistan’s intentions between the 1970s leading up to the 1990s – the decade that would end with both countries coming out as the world’s sixth and seventh declared nuclear powers.

For Indian intelligence in the 1970s, the focus in Pakistan was about its reprocessing capacity and centrifuges. This shifted in the 1980s to focus on the capability to produce an explosive device, and, finally, in the 1990s, focused on the nascent Pakistani missile program routed through China, which was eventually outsourced by China to North Korea.

Soon after the 1998 tests by both countries, Indian intelligence was looking at supply chains for Pakistan’s Shaheen-II ballistic missile, almost four years ahead of its first test in 2004.There was already specific knowledge available with India on Shaheen-I, including on the hardware that was involved in steering the missile. Additionally, New Delhi was not entirely convinced that Pakistan would not use choose to use non-nuclear chemical warheads for its missiles

The author of the post, Vivek Prahladan, has a book-length exploration of these declassified Indian documents coming out. In his post, he also reveals discussions he had with Indian government officials that hinted at the degree to which India had eyes on the Pakistani weapons program. Further, it’s interesting to see how US officialdom at the highest levels (President Reagan and advisor Thomas Eagleburger) dismissed Indian concerns.

And then there’s the whole “Abdul Qadeer Khan ran a rogue operation” cover story, which most of the world pretends to believe.

38 thoughts on “Indian Intel on Pakistani Nukes

  1. DominicJ

    “Further, it’s interesting to see how US officialdom at the highest levels (President Reagan and advisor Thomas Eagleburger) dismissed Indian concerns.”

    Even if Pakistan has 150 nukes, and even if it could deliver them where it wanted to and when it wanted to, its actual ability to harm India is quite limited.
    The combined population of Russia and the United States is less than half of that of India, and they had several thousand weapons to throw at each other, plus weapons for each others allies, and then battlefield usage as well.

    Obviously it sucks to be an Indian at a ground zero, but thats going to be a small number, relatively speaking.

    1. Kirk

      Obviously it sucks to be an Indian at a ground zero, but thats going to be a small number, relatively speaking.

      Well, they are just little brown people, far away, and not a fit subject for concern by the enlightened…

      One of these days, all this blithe stupidity about nuclear proliferation is going to bite us firmly in the ass, in the form of a few major cities converted into smoking hellscapes. And, ya know what? I’m not gonna be too upset; we kinda-sorta deserve it. If only for the sheer stupidity we’ve demonstrated on this issue.

      Not directed at DominicJ, more at the dipshit morons we’ve had running this country and the rest of the West these last few generations. Technology transfer control is going to be one of the big things a future Gibbons hangs about the necks of our era’s politicians and business leaders. Assuming that there’s anyone left to write history a few dozen generations down the line…

        1. Kirk

          I keep forgetting that I’m about three generations out of sync with my peers, and most of the references I think are completely clear… Aren’t, due to the continual self-immolation our educational system has been conducting. They really should just come out and do it openly, and start burning the damn books, instead of “de-accessioning” them… At least that way, we’d be aware of what they were actually doing.

          The reference to Gibbons is a reference to a seminal work of the 18th Century, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, written by one Edward Gibbon. In it, he details the causes and the effects of the various events and social movements that presaged and caused said decline and fall. There is a good deal to be argued, with his work, but the reference to Gibbon I made would have been fairly clear to anyone with a high school education prior to about 1950.

          After? Not so much… And, that’s not a lick on you, but on your teachers and the administrators of the bureaucratic state apparatus that lied to you and your parents about the quality of the education they were providing you. And, don’t feel insulted that I’m saying that, either–I’ve met commissioned officers with degrees from prestigious Ivy League universities I had to explain that and similar other references to, as well.

          Oddly, no West Pointers, though… It’s sadly indicative that the last bastion of a true liberal education in this country is arguably our military academy. Dunno about Annapolis, or the Air Force Academy, but the folks from West Point and the Merchant Marine Academy would likely have gotten that reference without me needing to get into explanations.

          Harvard? Princeton? Stanford? Yeah, I’d probably need visual aids, charts, and about thirty minutes worth of background information they’d never been exposed to, in order to get the point across…

          1. John M.

            We now jam 8 years worth of education into 16 years. Nice work, educrats!

            And google “Classical Conversations.”

            -John M.

          2. SPEMack

            Snicker. I gotcha. As a recently retired officer, I feel like I should I have known that. How ever my history studies concentrated post 1865. Not a West Pointer. Green to Gold guy.

          3. Cattus Borealis

            Gibbon was barely mentioned at USMA (1999-2003) except by people in the History Department. Maybe people in the past learned more about his tome. Most cadets that I knew did all they could to get away from the mandatory History and Military Art Classes. Some of us actually like learning about military things, but sadly many were more worried about future political careers and family legacies. Tragically, many became lawyers.

            I smile at the word Gibbon, it is the second most annoying primate!

          4. jim

            It saddens me every time I realize I am one of about 5 people born since 1980 that are aware of classic literature and historical materials, like Gibbon. Fortunately I know 3 of the other ones, so my constant references and comparisons of modern America to Gibbon’s work aren’t always met with blank stares.

            BTW I still need vols I, II, IV, V, and VI of the 1854 printing…if anyone runs across any of them in decent condition at a decent price.

        2. morokko

          I guess its about honorable Edward Gibbons-Siamang, the author of The Fall of Human Empire, first edition from year 3978.

          1. Kirk

            LOL… I just got that “Siamang” reference… Good on you!!

            I’m just curious as to which version of the canon you’re referencing, there… Is it the original historical work, with Charlton Heston, or the derivative ones?

            Gotta tell you, at first I was like, oh, yeah… That’s straight out of Pournelle’s CoDominium future history, and then I went looking to see if I was right. Nope, you’re fully original.

            This is why I consider myself humor-impaired, ya know?

    2. John M.

      India has 46 cities with > 1MM population, to USA’s 9. India has about 1 billion people in an area of ~1.3MM square miles. USA has about 370MM people in ~3.7MM square miles.

      So, yeah, it takes a lot of nukes to wipe out a billion people. But with 46 of them they could wipe out 115MM. Plus all the survivors’ hair and teeth would fall out. Plus all the folks in Bangladesh. But hey, not many folks in what used to be called West Pakistan will cry too much for the folks who live in what used to be called East Pakistan.

      -John M.

      1. Kirk

        I think you’re underestimating the deaths from follow-on second- and third-order effects.

        You might get a few hundred million direct casualties; the subsequent famines, floods, and death due to destruction of infrastructure required to support human life…?

        Consider the effect of an Israeli or Iranian bomb impacting on the Aswan dam complex, and triggering a release of the reservoir: Direct kills? Not that many. Follow-ons? Sheesh… You’re basically talking about a depopulation of Egypt. Similarly, and probably a lot less dramatically, the destruction of Indian infrastructure would be equally massive in effect–Just taking longer. Aswan going bye-bye might actually be more merciful, as the majority would die from drowning and other causes, while most of the Indians would likely starve to death.

        1. John M.

          That wasn’t a scientific analysis of the probable death tolls of 46 Pakistani nukes aimed at all the Indian cities > 1MM people. It was just a recounting of how densely-populated the subcontinent is. If Pakistan had 150 nukes (original commenter’s number), they could essentially make “India” cease to exist. India just doesn’t have room for analogues to Wyoming and Alaska.

          -John M.

      2. morokko

        I would think the Pakistanis would rather aim at infrastructure to impair India industrial and agricultural abilities and thus cripple the country in the foreseeable future – destroy the electrical grid or dams and whatnot. But You maybe right, if they would be desperate enough to get themselves again into full blown war, they could just go for the highest killing score. The Pakis do not have strategic depth, population or economy sufficient to make plans for attrition war against India, like Chinese could. So results could be picturesque: Pakistan became a radioactive wasteland with few Talibs roaming the fringes on motorbikes under the banner of Mullah Humungus, Hindus pushed back into era of Maharajas and Chinese comrades partying wildly with their wives and concubines.

        1. Kirk

          Past a certain point, I really don’t want to know the likely effects. The Holocaust would pale by comparison, and the sad fact is, we’re more complicit in that bullshit than not. We knew what the hell Khan was up to, and kinda-sorta looked the other way, ‘cos the Pakis were clients of the Saudis, and we didn’t want to rock the boat. A whole lot of shit that should have been stomped on, for the long-term good of the human race, was wholly ignored in favor of doing what was most effective in countering the Soviets. Pakistan should probably have been crushed, back in ’72, but since India was playing their little anti-colonial games as “non-aligned”, we supported the Pakis.

          The history of this era is going to be merciless on us about the effects of a lot of the decisions we’ve made as a nation, long-term. And, it’s all going to be crap that’s off everyone’s radar. Put people of today into a time machine, send ’em forward a few hundred years, and the likely result is that they’re going to be ranted at by our descendants (assuming there are any…) for a bunch of stuff we don’t even think about, like allowing North Korea to arm up with nukes while we stand by, fiddling with ourselves. The essential abrogation of the non-proliferation treaties in favor of these countries like Pakistan? In a thousand years, they’re likely going to think we were thoroughly fucking insane. Which, in my books? We are.

          Tech controls are something we should have slapped on, back in the 1960s. I think the idea that allowing easy access to the technologies of mass destruction will be looked at as fundamentally insane, and the most likely thing that kills off most of humanity. Imagine what happens when there is easy access to recombinant DNA technology, and someone decides to follow the trail the Australians blazed towards a human version of mouse pox? And, then releases it from some high school bio lab in Singapore? Hell, the likelihood of that happening increases every damn day, and just contemplating the ease with which these nutters can access these technologies leaves me in a state of depression. All it’s going to take is some high-IQ dipshit with the wrong ideology, and a whole bunch of people are going to die. As in, like in the billions.

          Doubt me? Go outside on a clear night, look up at the sky, and ask yourself why we’ve never seen signs of any other presence out there, people that are like us. Odds are, I’m afraid, that the answer is they’ve all managed to kill themselves once they reach the stage we’re at, right now. Superpower nuclear war, I’m not too worried about–The scale involved makes those events kinda-sorta less likely. The things I worry about are the retail-level nut jobs having access to things that could potentially kill billions, which is what you’re talking about with bio-weapons. Hell, imagine what happens if some genius eco-freak decides to take down the evil Monsanto, or something… Care to imagine the world, if all the gains made by Norman Borlaug evaporate overnight? Chilling, that one… Slow death for billions.

          1. morokko

            Ending of The Death of Grass was mildly optimistic. Hell, even The Road was not completely devoid of hope. Guess there is no other way for the fiction author to make a significant buck.

          2. Wes Dee

            to stop the proliferation of sensitive technologies you would need something like Project Socrates ?

          3. 11B-Mailclerk

            I rather doubt any significant delay of development would have derived from tech controls. Perhaps a decade or two, tops? The simple fact that we made nukes tells everyone else that you too can invent them. What we freaked out over points in some really important directions.

            Information, especially technology, is “leaky”. The really clever people who figure things out just have to tell -someone-, and that feeds right into any government that reads Sun Tsu and notices that it is cheaper to pay spies than fund a Manhattan Project. The darn boffins like to collaborate too, which really, really leaks.

            Plus, to really suppress a tech, you have to pretty much wipe it out of your own culture, including the bennies. If we have companies working on DNA-based cures, someone can pervert that to weapons. Short of a strongly authoritarian government bagging and containing scientists (probably in coffins or camps of the same effect), I see no practical way to prevent dissemination of the research.

            I wonder if we are better off having smallpox (some of it weaponized) in a couple of government labs, waiting to be stolen or deliberately released, versus samples of the native stuff in the “to do” cabinet of every cure and vaccine maker. Damn hard to cure something that is totally unknown, and is currently marching as the on-the-spot apocalypse.

            I just see no practical way to stop technological evolution, short of a really, really ugly authoritarian regime, that would wind up killing camp-loads of folks for “the good of mankind”.

            We were forbidden knives of any kind in OSUT. I knapped glass shards into useable cutting implements, and used stones to sharpen the edges of things like nail clippers. A really smart bio-guy could probably make a weapon out of the gunk in a sink drain.

            Suppression seems like a dead end. What about widespread awareness and research? We cant keep it away form the bad guys, but can make sure lots of good guys are thinking on the counters. Kinda like you cant fight a modern war with handguns, but you can sure as heck make conquest and occupation too costly with enough of them.

            Cant stop it, cant slow it down much, so is the answer the seeming counter-intuitive “more!”?

          4. John M.

            A common theme on this blog is that gun control is bound to be ineffective because a couple of mechanically-inclined fellows are going to make them all by themselves no matter what you do.

            Nuclear technology’s Pandora is out of the box. Even if we managed to burn every book with information on nuclear weapons, we couldn’t pull the idea out of people’s heads that they are possible, and they could thus be invented again, just like they were the first time.

            IMHO, we’re much better off dealing with the reality of nuclear-armed adversaries through things like missile-defense systems and nuke sniffers.

            It’s a foolish cop who thinks that because he walks a beat in NYC that none of the perps he’ll encounter will have guns. And it’s a foolish country that thinks that IAEA treaties and whatnot will keep the Kim Jong Ils and Imam Khamenei from getting nukes.

            -John M.

          5. Kirk

            Suppression is really easy when you have a simple policy of not teaching the inbred idiots everything you’ve learned, yourself.

            Couple that with a few judicious nukings, when you spot the indigenous types in these tribal areas trying to grow their own?

            Yeah, it would work, at least until we get sophisticated enough to have automatic bio-defenses everywhere. My worry is that we’re not moving fast enough for the defense aspects we need, like massively parallel immune system boosters. And, then, there’s the lovely prospect of things like the “gray goo” problem moving out of science fiction and into “accomplished fact”. Nanotech is a really lovely thing to contemplate in the hands of some inbred moron like Osama bin Laden. Imagine someone like him, in a generation or two, deciding that it would be really neat to bring on the Twelfth Imam via mouse pox…

            I don’t mind the idea of folks being able to “roll their own” when it comes to this stuff, but I shudder at the consequences for unlimited access to the tech, when we don’t have good countermeasures yet available. And, we won’t, either, for a considerable time. Hell, the damn CDC is more worried about private firearms ownership than it is private recombinant DNA ownership, or even monitoring what the hell is going on out in the viral world of Africa and Southeastern Asian duck farms…

            Enjoy 7.5 billion fellow humans while you can, boys; I think we’ve probably reached “peak human” this century, and there’s nowhere to go but down. My guess is that we’re going to be an endangered species by the end of it all, and that we’ll probably see some really desperate countermeasures, like birth quotas coming in. We’ve lost contact with some very fundamental truths, and are about to have those truths rammed forcefully up our asses. Not the least due to really feckless leadership like Mr. Obama’s…

          6. Kirk

            @ John M and 11B-Mailclerk,

            I’m with you on the analogy to gun control, here. The problem here, however, is we’re rapidly entering a period where insane people are going to have access to the fruits of modern technology, and we’re not going to have any countermeasures available to deal with what they come up with.

            We need a bridge from “We can do this stupid shit” to “We have a means of countering said stupid shit that actually works…”. Right now, we don’t have one, and may face the consequences of handing matches to what amount to dangerously immature children who have no regards for what they do with them.

            Philosophically, I’m sure that a policy of suppressing technology is not going to work, in the long term. However, comma, in order for there to be a “long term”, we’re going to have to figure out how to survive the initial era when some dipshit with a smattering of education and a kit of high-school bioscience supplies can wipe out a significant fraction of the human race and/or our biome. The issue is, can the majority of the world be trusted with this shit, and what, if anything, are we doing to prepare for the eventuality that it turns out we can’t?

            The really fun thing is thinking about the future, and recognizing the potential for even inadvertent self-destruction. What happens when/if the geniuses working things like bringing back asteroids for mining purposes happen to lose control of the damn things to some kid hacker in Belorussia, who has a hard-on for Moscow? And, it would not surprise me a bit if something like that happens, down the road: The folks building this stuff don’t seem anywhere near paranoid enough to me, given the fact that we built the Internet without heed to implementing real security on it, and are attaching everything and its cousin to the sumbitch… I’m just a little concerned, ya know?

          7. Kamal Singh


            Thumbs up on the non-aligned India part. The anti colonial non alignment has cost India dearly.

  2. Bert

    If you have not read this list of (known/admitted to) criticality accidents from USA, USSR, UK, Japan and Euro zone- Take a quick look. Particularly at the fissionable materials processing lab incidents that make up most of the first part.

    Realizeing that the Indians and Pakistanis learned a lot of their nuclear materials processing technology by “just doing it”, same as the early cold warriors? How many “incidents” do you think they had… And will never admit to.

    1. 11B-Mailclerk

      Just knowing the phrase “criticality accident”, a smart engineering team would ask “what does that mean?” “Why (and how) is that bad?” and “how might we avoid that sort of thing?”.

      -Any- information about how it was done, or what went wrong, is a major clue to doing it right.

      I am drawn back to the whole 2nd Amendment / gun control argument. When someone with only basic cooking knowledge can 3D print or plastic-cast firearm receivers, or darn near any other parts, from kits and plans sold online, how the heck does “gun control” even have any practical meaning anymore?

      1. Bert

        (Quote 11B-Mailclerk)

        Considering the number of these incidents where technicians were deliberately disregarded SOP, written protocols, and explicit instructions from their management.

        How about an explicit and frequently stated policy of taking such technicians out back and shooting them in the head when discovered, as they are risking everyone else on site by their actions?


    So the Khan nuclear tech story is bogus? I’m just about to give a presentation about Australian export control laws (ie our ITAR equivalents) that starts off by using Khan as an example of what happens when sensitive tech goes astray. Am I going to look like a dummy if I do that?

    1. Kirk

      The part that’s bogus is the part where he was doing his thing “under the radar”, and that there was no involvement of the Pakistani government.

      1. Sommerbiwak

        i never understood how pakistani government was supposed to be not involved. it is a nuclear weapons programme after all. Did they stumble over the nukes one morning getting up? of course not. they wanted the bomb.

    2. Greg

      You’re with DECO? Australia has to be the only country in the world that looked at ITAR and thought “let’s get us one of those!”

  4. Wes Dee

    Couple that with a few judicious nukings, when you spot the indigenous types in these tribal areas trying to grow their own? Have you ever considered running for office ?

    1. 11B-Mailclerk

      Wes Dee rather well makes my point. We have a much more clear path to suppressing unwanted behavior, than we do troublesome technology.

      Kadaffi annoyed Reagan. Reagan expressed his annoyance rather directly. Kadaffi moderated his antics. Applied consistently, over decades, and it tends to deter all but the most dedicated ones. Those can receive a more …. energetic response.

      But we pride ourselves, instead, on “civilized” responses, where “civilized” tends to mean “not really very scary or discomforting”. This is ultimately in the service of barbarity, as it fails to deter the idiots, and thus produces a magnified body count regardless of who wins the subsequent fracas. The whole “might not win” thing is especially troubling in “civilization versus barbarian” situations.

      So yes, I think electing folks with a more … direct response to barbarians would be a civilized plus. I am hoping our current President Elect is a bit more on the “scary” side to the various barbarities of Earth.

  5. Murphy Magnet

    ’01 guy from Air Force Academy. It rang a bell, but not loudly. Ordered the book (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) to refresh. We had plenty of holdouts, but even the military academies have been heavily influenced by the regressives. It is safe to say that there are plenty of grads who do their little part to pass along the old lore and proper mindset.

    Kirk et all, any other classical literature you might recommend?

    – Murphy Magnet

    1. Hognose Post author

      I’ll stick an oar in to recommend Caesar’s Gallic Wars. It was a political more than historical document, but it’s good reading. As an SF guy I always took the parable of Ariovistus to heart.

  6. Docduracoat

    I went to an English prep school in Brooklyn, New York
    Latin was a required course and we read Caesers book in the original Latin
    Galliard est omnes divisa in partes tres…
    Veni, vidi, vici
    These are the first and last lines as written by Caesar himself
    I can assure you that my 3 brothers and I and everyone who attended Poly Prep are all acquainted with Gibbon
    I do believe that I am the only one of all these who carries a concealed gun every day.

Comments are closed.