Are Indian Nukes in Unsafe Hands?

In the recent years, various conferences and seminars have been held regarding the security of nuclear weapons and radioactive materials, as the participant countries were worried that terrorist outfits like the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL) may get these fatal weapons and can use against a state actor or any country to create misunderstanding, which may culminate into an atomic war.

Indian nuclear weapons

In this regard, the US former President Barack Obama had hosted the fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on March 31, 2016 to check the spread of nuclear weapons, showing concerns about the ambitions of terrorist groups such as the ISIS in acquiring a nuclear weapon or radioactive materials.

In this respect, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is organizing the third International Conference on Nuclear Security: Sustaining and Strengthening Efforts (ICONS 2020) at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, from 10 to 14 February 2020. The previous conference, held in 2016, attracted over 2000 participants, including 47 government ministers, from 139 Member States and 29 intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The conference provides a forum to formulate and exchange views for nuclear security.

It is notable that in its report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) disclosed on June 18, 2018 that estimated 110-130 Indian nuclear bombs are stored in six or so government–run sites across India. Within the next five years to one decade, as many as 60 reactors will also be functional in India with the active cooperation of the US led Western and far eastern allies.

In the past, several incidents of leakage and theft in addition to alarming episodes of lax security on existing nuclear sites in view of a history of civil tumult have occurred in India. India is notorious for highly lax security of its nuclear facilities. The episode of October 8, 2014 at Kalpakkam, when a soldier of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) responsible for protecting nuclear materials, went on a rampage to destroy the security of the facility leading to nuclear material theft by criminals. 

Indian media reported on July 5, last year that the Kolkata police have arrested five men with 1 kg of uranium valued at around Rs. 3 crores ($440,000).

The Times of India elaborated that the men had come to Kolkata in the state of West Bengal to try to sell the substance. Police were quoted as saying that two packets of a “yellow-coloured substance” were seized.

By pursuing the double standards of America and some Western countries in its worst form, the US President Donald Trump has favoured India, while opposing the nuclear weapons of Pakistan. Trump has brushed aside the ground realities that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi led by the ruling extremist party BJP has been implementing anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan agenda.

While, Indian past record proves various kinds of security and safety lapses regarding various nuclear plants and the related sensitive materials, including events of leakage, nuclear theft, smuggling and killing.

In November, 2009, more than 90 Indian workers suffered radiation due to contamination of drinking water at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka. 

On July 27, 1991, a similar event occurred at the heavy water plant run by the Department of Atomic Energy at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan. Nuclear radiation had affected and injured many laborers there.

In July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seized eight Kg. of nuclear material from three engineers in Chennai, which was stolen from an atomic research center.

On November 7, 2000, IAEA disclosed that Indian police had seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men for illicit trafficking of radioactive material. IAEA had revealed that Indian civil nuclear facilities were vulnerable to thefts.

On January 26, 2003, CNN pointed out that Indian company, NEC Engineers Private Ltd. shipped 10 consignments to Iraq, containing highly sensitive equipments entailing titanium vessels and centrifugal pumps.

In December 2006, a container packed with radioactive material had been stolen from an Indian fortified research atomic facility near Mumbai.

In June 2009, India’s nuclear scientist, Lokanathan Mahalingam missed from the scenario and after a couple of days; his dead body was recovered from the Kali River. Indian police concocted a story that Mahalingam had committed suicide by jumping into the river. It is a big joke to hide some real facts behind his death because wisdom proves that if an educated person decides to commit suicide, he will definitely adopt a soft way to eliminate his life. Afterwards, Dr. Haleema Saadia said that death of the scientist was a conspiracy.

However, such events in connection with nuclear material continued unabated in India, putting the security of atomic weapons and their related components, including the lives of workers at high risk. 

In this context, the more dangerous development is that in the start of November, 2019, international media pointed out cyber-attack on an India nuclear power plan. 

In this connection, The Washington Post wrote on November 4, 2019: “The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has now confirmed that there was a cyberattack on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu, India, in September. The nuclear power plant’s administrative network was breached in the attack…KKNPP plant officials had initially denied  suffering an attack…The KKNPP is the biggest nuclear power plant in India…VirusTotal, a virus scanning website owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has indicated that a large amount of data from the KKNPP’s administrative network has been stolen. If this is true, subsequent attacks on the nuclear power plant could target its critical systems more effectively. Cyberattacks on nuclear power plants could have physical effects, especially if the network that runs the machines and software controlling the nuclear reactor are compromised. This can be used to facilitate sabotage, theft of nuclear materials, or—in the worst-case scenario—a reactor meltdown. In a densely populated country like India, any radiation release from a nuclear facility would be a major disaster”. 

Nevertheless, it has raised serious questions and worries—hacking of India’s nuclear information and its repercussions for the world?—sensitive information now available to hackers in black market— is the world safe?—sitting on the edge of catastrophe—IAEA must look into command and control system of India, recommending an action against New Delhi.

It is noteworthy that during his first visit to New Delhi, on November 6, 2010. President Obama announced the measures, America would take regarding removal of Indian space and defence companies from a restricted “entities list”, and supported Indian demand membership of four key global nuclear nonproliferation regimes. Despite, Indian violations of various international agreements and its refusal to sign Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Additional Protocol with the IAEA, Washington signed a pact of nuclear civil technology with New Delhi in 2008. During American President Obama’s second visit to India, on January 25, 2016, the US and India announced a breakthrough on the pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology.

Notably, America is a potential military supplier to India. US also pressurized IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to grant a waiver to New Delhi for obtaining civil nuclear trade on larger scale.

Although these atomic weapons or radioactive materials seem to be mysterious, yet still could be within the reach of some Hindu terrorists with the help of Indian RAW which might have also got these destructive arms from Israeli Mossad. 

Sources suggest that with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons and their components are easier to acquire. The fears are widespread that unemployed Russian scientists might have provided expertise material about these devices to some sovereign and non-sovereign entities. Hindu terrorists could also get these destructive weapons from Israel as strong Indo-Israeli lobbies are collectively working particularly in the US against the interests of Muslims by manipulating the war against terrorism. Such chemical and radiological materials could also be smuggled inside India by the Hindu fanatics. And they can also buy nuclear devices covertly from the global black market.

Frustrated in isolating Islamabad, RAW in connivance with Mossad might have also prepared a most dangerous plan to use nuclear weapons or dirty nuclear bombs inside the US homeland or any major European country to implicate Pakistan for having allegedly used these weapons through some Taliban militants.

Particularly, RAW and Mossad may also employ these fatal weapons against NATO forces in Afghanistan, as India and Israel want to prolong the stay of the US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan which has become the center of their covert activities against Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran. Terrorists of the ISIS which are strategic assets of the CIA may be used by RAW and Mossad for employment of these unconventional weapons. While, India, Israel and America are also playing double game against one another, hence, by utilizing the vicious circle of terrorism, New Delhi can alone use these weapons through Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and ISIS which are also being backed by RAW, CIA and Mossad, and have claimed responsibility for several terror assaults inside Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the recent ones. So, RAW’s sole aim will be to provoke Americans and its allies against Islamabad which is challenging Indian hegemony in the region. Thus, RAW could create a dangerous misunderstanding in which US could use small nuclear weapons against Pakistan or could ask the latter of rollback its atomic programme.

At present, almost 100 have been passed. Indian forces have continued military clampdown in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). On August 5, 2019, New Delhi unilaterally annexed the IOK, revoking articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution which gave a special status to Kashmir. While, Indian extremist rulers are also escalating tensions with Pakistan to divert attention from the drastic situation of the Indian Held Kashmir, and without bothering for anomic war, their forces have continued shelling inside Pakistani side of Kashmir by violating the ceasefire agreement in relation to the Line of Control (LoC).

As regards Modi’s victory in the elections 2019, analysts opined, “Modi’s election win is a victory for far right Hindu nationalism…India’s secular democracy is under threat…BJP’s record in 2015-2019 has been divisive to say the least. The party has marginalised religious minorities, especially Muslims, from public life with many; as a result, being lynched by Hindu nationalists in the name of cow protection…Jingoism and Islamophobia have propelled the BJP to an even stronger showing than in 2014. A Modi victory puts India’s 200 million Muslims in danger…Modi is part of the large Hindu supremacist family…In his home state of Odisha, he furthered India’s sectarian divide, pushed the idea of Hindu supremacy and with that, violence against Muslims, Christians and other minorities…Modi is radicalising Muslims.”

Undoubtedly, we can conclude that Indian insecure nuclear programme is threatening regional and global peace. Therefore, world’s various forums such as EU, UNO and especially IAEA should take cognizance of New Delhi in this regard.

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Article Author Details

Sajjad Shaukat

I got master degrees in English and Journalism including diploma in English Learning and Teaching from the University of Punjab. I am a freelance writer and wrote a number of articles on various topics of international affairs, published in Pakistan’s English newspapers. Besides, I also wrote a book, “US vs Islamic, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations”, published by Ms. Ferozsons Pvt. Lahore in 2005. In this book, I have evolved a thesis that the non-state actors like Islamic militants are checking the world dominance of the US. However, I have condemned the old theories which support role of force and power in international affairs. Taking the ongoing war on terror as a conflict between the privileged and unprivileged status quo, I have suggested reforming the unequal world order. And I have favoured global peace, based upon idealism--which is possible by reconciling realism with idealism. Moreover, it is essential to combat terrorism by resolving various issues like Palestine, Kashmir etc., and by acting upon an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, my future assessments like failure of military paradigm by the state actors in coping with the non-state actors, increase in US cost of war, rise of more terrorism, plane plot in UK and present international financial crisis have proved true. So, central thesis of the book remains valid today.