The secret story of Kahuta attack ::
India and Pakistan have come dangerously close to a nuclear conflict several times. About 930,000 declassified documents posted online by the CIA provide interesting insights into India’s increasing concerns over Pakistan’s nuclear programme in the early 80s.
One such set of documents pointed out how India had planned to bomb Pakistan’s nuclear plant at Kahuta. This was a covert operation planned by India that was shelved after international pressure.
The Pakistani target ::
In 1981, India planned to bomb Kahuta, inspired by a daring attack done by Israel on under-construction Iraqi nuclear reactors.
The Israeli jets flew all the way to Iraq, over several enemy nations, bombed the plant and returned safely. For India, it could have been much easier than that as Pakistan was a neighbour. But it could lead to a full-blown nuclear war.
India’s inspiration ::
Operation Opera also known as Operation Babylon was a surprise Israeli air strike carried out on 7 June 1981 that destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction.
Secret documents revealed that the US Ambassador to Pakistan handed over a letter by President Ronald Reagan to General Zia-ul Haq which warned Pakistan about a possible Indian military attack on the Pakistan’s nuclear reactor at Kahuta.
But the plan never happened ::
Even the USSR was aware of India’s plans. Indeed, rumours had started flying thick and fast. An article in Washington Post in 1982 revealed Indira Gandhi was advised by the Indian military to target the Pakistani nuclear plant.
The covert plan ::
Israel, according to reports, wanted to use Gujarat’s Jamnagar base to launch its jets and another base for refuelling. In March 1984, Indira okayed the operation, bringing India, Pakistan and Israel within striking distance of a nuclear conflict.
But Gandhi backed off after the Regan administration warned of action, say reports.
Message from Pakistan ::
Some reports also say India’s plan was shelved after a Pakistani nuclear scientist met Indian Atomic Energy Commission chief Raja Ramanna (in pic) at an international meet in Vienna.
The Pakistani scientist warned of a retaliatory strike on India’s nuclear plant at Trombay.
But this did not deter India to junk its plan to attack Pakistani nuclear plant. It again planned a strike in 1984.
Bad press ::
The ABC television of the US said that India was about to attack the Pakistani nuclear facilities.
The TV report cited a CIA communication to a US Senate committee. The CIA director in Pakistan had also informed the country about India planning to attack the Kahuta plant soon.
When India found that Pakistan had immediately increased air defences around the Kahuta plant, it had to shelve its plan because the chief element of the strike plan was surprise, which was now lost.
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Source: Defence Update