59 Savingram from Plimsoll1 to Department of External Affairs

New Delhi, 2 November 1964

79. Confidential

Consequences of Chinese Nuclear Explosion

Explosion of a Chinese nuclear bomb2 has stimulated discussion inside India on whether India should also manufacture a nuclear bomb. Some of the discussion is like discussion in Australia but is more widespread, and support here for manufacturing a bomb seems stronger. It also parallels discussion in the United Kingdom about the desirability and feasibility of having an independent nuclear deterrent, but the crucial difference is that in Britain an Anglo-American alliance is widely accepted on both sides of the argument whereas in India non-alignment remains the desire of most parties.

  1. The Government and the Congress Party are still sticking to the line that India will not manufacture nuclear weapons and will continue instead to try to bring about world nuclear disarmament and, as the most urgent step, to prevent the dissemination of nuclear weapons among countries which do not at present possess them. This is partly an emotional inheritance from Ghandi and Nehru,3 but also reflects the facts that construction of nuclear weapons would mean a diversion of resources from economic development and in any case might be of only marginal value for defence or even as a deterrent. The Indian Government has aimed, too, to have the active support of both the United States and USSR against any Chinese attack or, at the least, to have the USSR refrain from aiding China, and consequently the Indian policy of non-alignment has had some military as well as political justification. But now the Chinese explosion and the uncertainties as to USSR policies after the removal of Khrushchev4 are leading more Indians to ask whether India can remain safely both without an independent deterrent and without defence understandings with other countries.
  2. After the Chinese explosion, Dr Bhabha,5 F.R.S. (Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission) said that, if it wished, India could make a bomb within eighteen months, and that a ten-kiloton explosion would cost only Rs 1,750,000 each and a two-megaton explosion only Rs 3 million. This begs many questions as to what is included in 'cost' of manufacture, and also what would be involved financially and otherwise in resulting changes in defence and industrial dispositions. It also seems to ignore that the plant obtained from Canada should be used only for peaceful purposes.
  3. Of the political parties, Congress Party leadership is still in the main against India's having its own nuclear bomb, though some members favour it. The Communist Party of India has come out against an Indian nuclear bomb and in favour or continuance of non-alignment. Of the right-wing parties, the Jan Sangh is calling for India to manufacture its own nuclear weapons, while the Swatantra Party is leaning towards a defence alliance with the West.6

[NAA: A1838, TS695/5/5]