‘Legacy & sanctions made Rao decide against nuke tests’


The prospect of a crippling economic sanctions, “improving” electoral chances and his “desire” to be noted as the architect of India’s economic revolution might have prevented the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao from going for nuclear tests in the winter of 1995-96.
This was the conclusion that the Bill Clinton administration had arrived at, which for weeks in December and then in January, mounted pressure on India by itself and through its allies warning New Delhi against going ahead with nuclear tests in Pokharan, in support of which it provided satellite imageries to the Indian Government.
According to the classified American cables released yesterday by the National Security Archive, which it obtained from the federal government under the freedom of information act, it was by December 10, 1995 that US intelligence agencies informed the Bill Clinton administration about impending Indian nuclear tests at Pokharan resulting in a flurry of activities by the US.
And it was by January 24, 1996, that the Bill Clinton administration concluded that Rao had decided against conducting the nuclear tests.
“Prime Minister Rao probably will not authorise a nuclear test in the near future despite indications that a site in western India is being upgraded for that purpose,” a State Department cable concluded on January 24, 1996.
“Though a nuclear test might boost his re-election prospects in April, it would almost certainly provoke international sanctions against India and further jeopardise his government’s economic liberalisation program,” the cable said.