Pakistan retaliates with nuclear tests
May 28, 1998
Pakistan carried out at least two nuclear tests earlier today in Chagai region of Baluchistan province, close to the Afghanistan border. According to Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, the failure of the international community, particularly Europe, to support sanctions against India led Pakistan to conduct the tests. Unlike India, Pakistan has not exploded a nuclear device before. Meanwhile Indian scientists have started a campaign against their country's atomic programme.
Sharif claimed on national television that the country had exploded five nuclear devices. Presently only two explosions -with 12 and 25 kiloton yields - have been confirmed by seismic monitoring stations. The other three tests are suspected to have been subkiloton devices. "Had India been penalised for its actions we would not have conducted these tests" he said. Although sanctions have been threatened by Japan and the US, Europe has repeatedly refused to implement sanctions against India. As Pakistan has been under US sanctions since 1990, exploding a device will have a limited effect on its economy.
The tests have come two weeks after India claimed it had exploded five nuclear devices. Some researchers believe that India's hydrogen bomb was a hydrogen-boosted fissile bomb rather than a fusion bomb. "This is not the first time a country has announced it had a hydrogen bomb while simply boosting an atom bomb, " said Tom Milne of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. "The UK did something similar in the 1950s".
Concern is growing among India's physics community over the effect of possible sanctions on their research. And some, like M. G. K. Menon, the physicist who is a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, are worried that basic science may be downgraded in the country as more money is pumped into "strategic" science.
Meanwhile 75 scientists funded by the Department of Atomic Energy have condemned the tests on ethical grounds in a joint statement. These include members of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Institute of Physics in Bhubaneswar, and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research. A number of the scientists have been labelled unpatriotic by their countrymen.