NEW DELHI (TIP): Just two days before announcement of results of the 1996 general election, then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao had directed A P J Abdul Kalam, scientific adviser to the defence minister at the time, to keep his team ready for a nuclear test. However, with the poll outcome throwing up a change in government, Rao ensured his impending successor Atal Behari Vajpaee was briefed in his presence on the nuke test plans and so enabled a smooth takeover of the nuclear programme. This was revealed by Kalam himself while delivering the 7th R N Kao Memorial Lecture, organized by the Research and Analyses wing of the Cabinet Secretariat, here on Thursday. “I still remember a scene during May 1996. It was 9 ‘o’ clock. I got a call ….that I should meet Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao immediately,” Kalam said. According to the father of India’s missile programme, who later went on to become the President of India, Rao told him, “Kalam, be ready with the department of atomic energy and your team for the N-test and I am going to Tirupati. You wait for my authorization to go ahead with the test. DRDO-DAE teams must be ready for action”. Recounting Rao’s plans were not meant to be as “the election result was quite different from what he anticipated”, Kalam said he received yet another call from the then PM asking him to meet him along with Prime Minister-designate Vajpayee.
This was “so that the smooth takeover of such a very important programme can take place,” he elaborated. However, the nuke test plans could not be carried out as the Vajpayee government lasted barely 13 days. Noting that Rao’s act of ensuring continuity of the nuclear programme “reveals the maturity and professional excellence of a patriotic statesman who believed that the nation is bigger than the political system,” Kalam revealed that the first task he was assigned after Vajpayee embarked on his second stint as the PM in 1998 was to conduct the nuclear test at the earliest.
The Pokhran tests were finally carried out in May, 1998. Placing the focus of his lecture on cyber terrorism and counter measures, Kalam on Thursday suggested an empowered coordinating agency be set up to receive information about all cyber attacks. Apart from calling for continuous upgrade of technical capabilities by the intelligence agencies, the former President insisted that hacking skills be imparted by scientists, computer software and hardware experts, on the lines of China where virus writing is taught in its military schools. Kalam suggested human intelligence and electronic intelligence be used as a tool to penetrate terrorist groups, besides building offensive and defensive cyber capabilities on the lines of nuclear capabilities. “Technology-driven covert operations are becoming the order of the day and inflicting collateral damages through critical information infrastructure is threatening to change the conventional wisdom in warfare,” he said and sought crippling of the ability of terrorists to use technology for communication.
Kalam also recommended creation of an intelligence cadre, like the Indian Intelligence Service, by recruiting specifically for intelligence agencies. All these recruits, he said, must be made to pass a strict personality test based on evolved and dynamic physiological and psychological aptitude tests.