60 Savingram from Plimsoll to Department of External Affairs

New Delhi, 13 November 1964

82. Secret

Nuclear Bomb

Vice Admiral Chatterji1 (Commandant of National Defence College) has told me that on the day after the Chinese nuclear test the students and staff at the College had devoted half a day to discussing the implications. 25% had favoured India making a nuclear bomb and 75% had been against. This week another half a day had been devoted to the same discussion and now the proportions were reversed namely 75% for and 25% against. Chatterji himself thinks that the main argument against the cost and complexity of India making the means of delivery.

  1. I have had further discussions with R.K. Nehru2 (see my memorandum 1758)3 who said:
    1. An important body of opinion here thought that India's contention that it could make nuclear weapons but chose not to do so was not believed by Afro Asian countries. It was therefore, being argued that India should conduct a nuclear test to prove its capacity but that after doing so India should renounce nuclear weapons.
    2. R.K. Nehru said that Jawaharlal Nehru had not committed India for all time against making nuclear weapons. His approval of the plutonium plant was evidence of this. The plutonium process admittedly had some industrial uses but its main significance lay in its availability if needed for military manufacture. The late Prime Minister had known this when he authorized the plutonium project.
  2. Chester Bowles4 told me that the United States Embassy has been making the point to the Indian Government that India would be behind scratch with Communist China in any race to get missiles. China would need missiles of only 800 miles range in order to hit Indian cities as it could fire them from Tibet. But India would have to be able to fire the missiles 2,000 miles in order to hit key Chinese Cities. Bowles told me that United States assessment is that China is working actively on a missiles programme and that it will have the necessary missiles capacity to threaten India within four to seven years.
  3. I understand that when Parliament meets the Parliamentary Scientific Committee (which has representatives from all political parties) will summon Bhabha (Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission) to give evidence on technical capabilities and costs for India to produce its own nuclear weapons.

[NAA: A1838, TS695/5/5]