ISLAMABAD - After the signing of the nuclear deal with the US in 2005, and the subsequent signing of an agreement of strategic partnership with the US in 2008, under the pretext of matching China’s nuclear capabilities, India has made desperate efforts to expand its nuclear capabilities. According to a report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute link (SIPRI), India already has a stockpile of more than 100 nuclear warheads. In this context, the information about the development of Challakere as India’s secret nuclear city, is very important.
In 2012, the world surprisingly came to know that apart from the other facilities, India has built a ‘secret nuclear city’ at Challakere, Karnataka. This facility is believed to be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, and atomic research laboratories. Since India has never published a detailed account of its nuclear arsenal, the world knows little about the construction of Challakere as a nuclear city and its strategic implications. Also, as a military facility, it is not open to international inspections.
The Economic Times (India), on 14 July 2018, referenced a leading American Foreign Policy journal, and disclosed that India is building a top-secret nuclear city to produce thermonuclear weapons (also called hydrogen bombs), which would upgrade the country as a nuclear power, unsettling its two major neighbours — Pakistan and China. According to the Economic Times, the Foreign Policy magazine alleged that India started building this secret city in Challakere in Karnataka, which, when completed in 2017 would be “the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities”.
The Economic Times also stated, “But another, more controversial ambition, according to retired Indian government officials and independent experts in London and Washington, is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, substantially increasing the explosive force of those in it”.
It has also been stated by the Jagran Josh in an article titled ‘Is India making a Secret Nuclear City?’, dated 12 June 2018, that, “According to the news published in a US journal; India is building a top secret nuclear city in Challakere village in Chitradurga district of Karnataka”. The American journal claims that the construction of this secret nuclear city began in 2012, and was likely to be completed by the end of 2017.
The development of India’s secret Nuclear city in Challakere, to build thermonuclear weapons, is a matter of concern for Pakistan. This discovery indicates India’s ambitious approach towards attaining more nuclear capability than what its nuclear doctrine projects. This development, along with India’s pronouncement of an offensive military doctrine, massive acquisition of conventional weapons, expansion of strategic assets, and introduction of Anti-Ballistic Ballistic Missile Systems is upsetting the strategic balance in South Asia
This secret city is being called the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR). It is being operated by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). It is being said that nuclear scientists are secretly working there day and night. Furthermore, the American journal published the report about the construction of the secret nuclear city in India after an image was captured by the American Space Agency ‘NASA’. The spokesperson of NASA said that the captured satellite link image is similar to a nuclear plant.
As discussed above, the development of India’s secret Nuclear city in Challakere, to build thermonuclear weapons, is a matter of concern for Pakistan. This discovery indicates India’s ambitious approach towards attaining more nuclear capability than what its nuclear doctrine projects. This development, along with India’s pronouncement of an offensive military doctrine, massive acquisition of conventional weapons, expansion of strategic assets, and introduction of Anti-Ballistic Ballistic Missile Systems is upsetting the strategic balance in South Asia.
Although India is acquiring the strategic capability to possess thermonuclear weapons by citing China as a threat. Moreover, the US wants India to work for the so called containment of China, in fact, the possession of hydrogen bombs will encourage India to adopt more offensive policies towards Pakistan, as this capability will erode the existing strategic balance in South Asia. Hence, under this environment, India will be encouraged to fulfil its ambition of carrying out surgical strikes against Pakistan to put it under pressure to stop providing moral and diplomatic support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their ongoing struggle for freedom.
Since any surgical strike by India will be met with a matching response from Pakistan, this might escalate to a war between India and Pakistan with the threat of the use of nuclear weapons, that will not only be dangerous for South Asia, it will also disturb world peace. Therefore, there is a dire need for the world powers to stop India from advancing its current nuclear and missile capabilities, otherwise, the continuation of such efforts will begin an arms race in South Asia as Pakistan link will also be compelled to acquire advanced thermonuclear weapons and related missile capabilities to maintain the strategic balance to avoid an outright war in South Asia.
*BY:Col (R) Hanif: The writer is an ex-Army Colonel, a former Research Fellow of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad and Senior Research Fellow, Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad*