Threat to destroy Indian N-plant stopped attack on Kahuta

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Pakistan had warned India in the early 80s that an attack on nuclear assets in Kahuta would evoke a retaliatory strike on its Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Trombay.

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan had warned India in the early 80s that an attack on nuclear assets in Kahuta would evoke a retaliatory strike on its Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Trombay.This has been revealed by the then Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal M. Anwar Shamim, in his book “Cutting Edge PAF” launched here on Thursday.

Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of the Staff Committee Admiral (retd) Iftikhar Ahmad Sirohey, former Air Chief Air Marshal (retd) Tanvir Mahmood Ahmad, Lt-Gen (retd) Kamal Matinuddin and former foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan attended the ceremony.

According to Air Chief Marshal (retd) Shamim, he was called by the then president Gen Zia Ul haq in 1979 to discuss air defence of the nuclear assets in Kahuta. Gen Zia had reliable information that India was planning to attack and destroy Kahuta.

He says he told the president that Kahuta was an indefensible site because it was at three minutes flying time from the border. The reaction time was about eight minutes and by the time the PAF aircraft would reach the area the enemy would have completed the job and would be safe in their territory.

Gen Zia asked how could the most vital deterrent in the country’s armoury be defended and the answer was to acquire most modern aircraft and advanced weapons and the PAF would destroy India’s advanced nuclear facility at Trombay, if they embarked upon this rash course of action.

“We will inflict more damage to them than they can do to us”.

He says he told the president that the multi-role F-16 aircraft with the latest weapons were the best and most suited to meet PAF’s needs.He says that in 1981 the US administration offered F-5Es to be later augmented by F-5Gs, but Pakistan refused to accept any aircraft other than F-16s. This was finally accepted by the United States.

Pakistan received the first batch of F-16 aircraft in January 1983, and he wrote a letter to the president about the task given to him.

“I am now in a position to confirm that Indians will not attack Kahuta because it is amply clear to them that we will retaliate and launch an attack on their atomic station in Trombay, and knowing that they will suffer much more devastation than us, will desist from taking any unwise action”.

He says he told the then secretary of science and technology, Munir Hussain, who was going abroad to attend an international conference on atomic energy, to inform his Indian counterpart of consequences of any adventure to attack the nuclear assets of Pakistan.

When he talked to his Indian counterpart, he said: “No brother, we know your capability and we will not undertake such a mission.”

He says that he also requested Lt-Gen Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, the foreign minister at that time, to declare at an appropriate time the intention of retaliating if any action was taken against the country’s nuclear assets.

“I think he did that while he was in New York. I also invited senior editors of newspapers to inform them of the capability that we had acquired and safeguarded our nuclear assets. They asked pertinent questions and I answered them. As expected the news was published in Indian newspapers next day”.

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