According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) India has a stockpile of more than a 100 warheads. Its desire to match the nuclear warhead capabilities of China and Pakistan has prompted Indian planners to invest in a top secret project of establishing a nuclear city at Chellakere, Karnataka.
It had been exposed in 2012 that apart from many facilities, India has built the ‘secret nuclear city’. It was confirmed by independent researchers and Indian media that two secretive agencies were behind this project which is believed to be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories, weapons and aircraft testing facilities.
New Delhi has generally kept all information pertaining to its nuclear capabilities under wraps. Whatever information on the Indian nuclear city of Chellakere is available, has been gleaned from international and Indian media reports.
As a military facility, it is not open to international inspection. Since 2009, organs of Indian government managed to discreetly acquire more than 10,000 acres of land in Chellakere. News leaked out, when the residents of the area, poor shepherds were deprived of grazing grounds for their cattle, filed a report in the court for the deprivation of their livelihood. Chellakeretaluk has been home to Amrit Mahal Kavals or grazing grounds, on which more than 250,000 goats, cows, bulls and sheep found food. About 300,000 people depended on these grounds for their source of revenue.
According to Raksha Kumar’s Op-Ed of May 18, 2018 in The News Minute, Srikumar Banerjee, the then chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission in 2011, spoke about the project obliquely. He stated that the facility would be used to produce nuclear fuel to boost India’s nuclear energy sources.
When the shepherds were barred from taking their cattle to the grazing grounds, the villagers filed a lawsuit at the Karnataka High Court demanding a complete accounting of the pasture land. To their dismay, they were informed by the state land registry that of the 10,000 acres, Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) had been allotted 4,290 acres, Indian Institute of Science (IIS) was given 1500 acres, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre had received 1810 acres while Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was given 575 acres and some sundry lands were diverted to Karnataka Small Scale Industries Development Corporation.
According to news published in a US journal; the secret city being operated by DRDO is called the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR). It is being said that the nuclear scientists are secretly working here day and night. The American journal published the report about the construction of the secret nuclear city by India on the basis of the image captured by the American Space Agency “NASA”. The spokesperson of the NASA said that the captured satellite image is more similar to a nuclear plant. Quoting retired Indian government officials and independent experts sitting in London and Washington; the US journal claims that the prime motive of India behind this secret city is to give itself an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons.
It had been exposed in 2012 that apart from many facilities, India has built the ‘secret nuclear city’. It was confirmed by independent researchers and Indian media that two secretive agencies were behind this project which is believed to be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories, weapons and aircraft testing facilities
The expansion of India’s thermonuclear program would position the country alongside the United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia, France, and Israel which already have significant stockpiles of such weapons. Despite the fact that the Indian government has denied the existence of any such secret nuclear facility being under construction, Indian media and retired Indian military analysts and scientists have confirmed its existence. The project aims: to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for India’s nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of new nuclear submarines.
According to Indian media reports, the nuclear city close to Chellakere is ringed by a security perimeter of thousands of military and paramilitary guards. The existence of India’s secret nuclear city highlights India’s ambitions to become a world power. Its excuse of matching the nuclear arsenal of China and Pakistan does not cut ice, since numbers matter little in achieving a credible nuclear weapons capability. Nuclear warheads and reliable delivery systems with adequate ranges are enough to serve as deterrence; one does not have to match missile for missile, warhead for warhead, and trigger mechanism for trigger mechanism.
India is welcome to its ambitions; every country has its dreams of grandeur but these should not be at the cost of peace in the region and depriving its populace of their livelihood. Its military doctrine is definitely offensive but India should be mindful of accelerating an arms race in the region and further provoking both China and Pakistan, with whom its relations are strained. India had to draw down its forces from Doklam earlier while facing Chinese troops. With Pakistan, India is constantly indulging in cross border shelling causing casualties.
The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF. He is a columnist, analyst and TV talk show host, who has authored six books on current affairs, including three on China
Published in Daily Times, July 29th 2018.