Dueling Abduls

  • Share
  • Read Later
They share a name and an unofficial title: Father of His Country's Nuclear Bomb. The similarities don't end there. Both men are Muslims, and both regard themselves as men of peace. They certainly have pacific hobbies: India's A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, 67, writes poetry and plays the veena, a stringed instrument not unlike the sitar; Pakistan's Abdul Qadeer Khan, 59, feeds wild monkeys. Khan says they have one other thing in common: He is a patriot, and I am a patriot. In separate interviews, the two men shared their views on their life's work--and its possible consequences--with TIME correspondents. Excerpts:TIME: Why does India need nuclear weapons?
Kalam: Two of our neighbors have nuclear weapons. We didn't have an alternative. For national security reasons, we had to explode nuclear devices.TIME: Should India sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty now?
Kalam: The tests we conducted in May generated sufficient data for nuclear weaponization. So we need no further tests. As for the CTBT, it is for the nation to take a holistic view on this. Actually, we had planned six tests in May. We stopped the last one as we felt we had got the data we wanted.TIME: Some Western experts say India exaggerated the strength of its tests.
Kalam: Measuring nuclear yield depends on multiple parameters--the location and number of instruments, the geology of the area, the location of the seismic station in relation to the test site. The New Scientist took data from 125 seismic stations, and their analysis closely matches ours. We measured it at 5.4 on the Richter scale, which is equivalent to a yield of 58 kilotons, plus or minus 5 kilotons.TIME: Will the U.S. sanctions and the blacklisting of a number of Indian scientific organizations affect your work?
Kalam: Actually, the sanctions have ignited young minds. Every day a new software or hardware product is coming out of my laboratories. No sanction can stand against ignited minds.TIME: Can India pursue its missile development program while sanctions remain in place?
Kalam: We are self-reliant in our missile program--90% of our items are made in India. We do not depend on any country for any critical technology.TIME: Why is it that India and Pakistan have so much in common, yet are at each other's throats?
Kalam: Europe fought for 100 years. It's a process. One day on the subcontinent a transformation will take place.PAGE 1  |  
 
TIME: Has the threat of war increased after the tests?
Khan: You are still expecting us to go to war? We are a bit naive, but not stupid. Nor are the Indians. This is a very old civilization, and people are intellectually very sound. So I do not think that the two nations would get involved in a nuclear war. The aim has never been to use these horrible weapons of mass destruction. India and Pakistan both know that neither will come out alive if there is a war. I call [the bomb] a peace guarantor.TIME: And yet in Kashmir, both sides are shooting at each other across the border every day.
Khan: You can lob a few shells from this side and few shells from that side. You can kill a few people, and they can kill a few people. O.K. There is a war of liberation going on. People do not like Indian occupation in Kashmir, and our sympathies are with them. But I do not think that India and Pakistan would go to war over Kashmir.TIME: India and Pakistan, both poor countries, have been criticized for spending too much money on weapons.
Khan: It does not cost much. We have learned from other countries, so we do not have to reinvent the wheel. The money that I need for my program is less than the cost of a modern aircraft. You need more brains than money.TIME: Did Pakistan and India exaggerate the size of their nuclear blasts?
Khan: We keep some cats in the bag. It does not matter how many. We had to demonstrate that we could manufacture and explode a nuclear device.TIME: The Indians say they built a bomb using their own technology and the Pakistanis borrowed or bought theirs.
Khan: The Indians are big liars. They got these things from abroad just as we did. Nowadays, it is a global industry. If you stop me from buying for Pakistan, then I will buy it through somebody else. But I will buy it because I need it.TIME: Indians and Pakistanis come from the same land, speak the same language. Yet they have been fighting for years.
Khan: There are some similarities, but we are basically different. We are Muslims, they are Hindus. We eat cows. They worship cows. That we lived on the same land and spoke the same language does not make us the same people.  |  2