A lot has been said about AQ Khan. However, as a country which was most directly threatened by his illegal procurement, the Indian state failed miserably in correctly identifying the Pakistan's nuclear trajectory in the late 1970s. Its miscalculations were enormously costly.
Until mid-1970s, one of the major arguments within the Indian establishment against going nuclear was the security dilemma it would create for Pakistan. Report after report at the highest level made this argument against going nuclear. This was true even after the 1971 war.
India had no inkling of Pakistan's decision to pursue the bomb in 1972. Pakistani argument that 1974 was the reason for its nuclear decision is highly erroneous. It was the Bangladesh war.
I do have a theory but no evidence of why Gandhi conducted the test but it had no military significance neither was it intended to have military signaling. In fact, when the MoFin. proposed the MoD to cut defense budgets owning to the 1974 test, the Indian military was horrified.
For three reasons: 1) The military was unware of any deliverable nuclear weapons program 2) its strategy was purely conventional 3) it would generate a lot of international opprobrium. Check the documents here: wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/…
Indian started getting some reports of Pakistan's fervent nuclear activities in France, Canada and China by late 1974 and early. The first Joint Intelligence committee (JIC) assessment was made in early 1975. Check documents here: tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.10…
However, JIC believed that Pakistan will take at least 20 years to build the bomb why 1) bcz of the emerging nuclear denial regime stoked by India's tests particularly the NSG. 2) Bcz Pakistan had no pu. reprocessing capability 3) it was indeed hard to devise implosion-type weap.
So Indian intelligence agencies relentlessly tracked any Pakistani attempts to get plutonium reprocessing technologies. However, enriched uranium fuel cycle was considered to be a improbable route. Why?
BCZ even India could not master Uranium enrichment even when Sarabhai had started a pilot program in the DAE in 1967. This was nothing but some Brahmanical Hubris (not my words but of a senior Indian nuclear scientist). Homi Sethna couldn't even entertain such a scenario.
So until late 1978, the Indians were tracking the wrong end of the Pakistani program. No clue of AQ Khan network. Morarji Desai's decimation of Indian intelligence also added to the burden. For these facts, check out global.oup.com/academic/produ…
The JIC finally revised its assessment in April 1979 under the Chairmanship of K Subrahmanyam. Details here: tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.10…. This was a a shock to Morarji Desai.
Within a few weeks of the JIC report, FM Vajpayee travelled to the US and met President Carter. He asked, "how despite all the sanctions and technology denial regimes, Pakistan has acquired enrichment technology?" Desai was delusional.
He wrote to Carter a letter claiming that Pakistani nuclear weapons program is not against India but against Israel. Carter admonished Desai's naivety. Once the extent of Pakistani program became apparent, even a Gandhian like Desai vowed to "smash" the Pakistani program.
How India missed the track of Pakistani program is a very important case study on intelligence studies both theoretically and empirically. Nothing else but bias emanating out of one's experiences and ridicule for other's capabilities can explain this miscalculation.
Which was extremely costly given that in mid-1970s preemption would have been very easy. Both Balance of power and the international politics favored India.

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More from @the_nuclearyogi

20 Sep
I have always admired Sandeep Unnithan work but I have some major issues with this article:
1) The central argument is that US will never part with sophisticated nuclear sub tech (NST), because they have never done so in the past. They just decided otherwise. confirmation bias?
2)Tweak1: Nevertheless, they will never do so for India. The same argument was prevalent for civilian nuclear cooperation before the Indo-US nuclear deal. We got there eventually. Inter. politics often springs surprises for naysayers. Just wait for the right condtns & motivations
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18 Sep
Why is Paris so angry about AUKUS?

Yes, losing the Australian deal and few billion dollar sucks but there are bigger worries:
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2) Market run by a few monopoly vendors now faces competition from a player which has both the tech and money but was hamstrung by its normative commitments. Not a great day for market leaders.
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18 Sep
Few thoughts on AUCUS:

1) For the 1st time since the US helped the Brits in nuclear sub tech beginning in late 1950s, US has made a decision to share it's nuc propulsion tech with any other state.
2) Rickover agreed to help Brits bcz of his cultural affinities; but declined to help Even other NATO members such as Italy and Netherlands. Nonproliferation norms did the rest.
3) US decision has finally opened the nuclear military tech market which otherwise gave advantage to states such as Russia and France. There were no other vendors available. What is being offered to a treaty partner today, may be offered to a strategic partner tomorrow.
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