India building nuclear-proof bunkers for top leaders
Tuesday, 23 September 2003, 07:00 Hrs
NEW DELHI: The Indian government has begun building several hi-tech bunkers to enable its top leadership, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to survive a possible nuclear attack, official sources said. The move to build the bunkers, including one near the South Block, an imposing red sandstone building that houses the prime minister's office and the defence and external affairs ministries, was reportedly cleared at the first meeting of the Nuclear Command Authority on September 1. That meeting had taken several decisions that would "consolidate India's nuclear deterrence", a government spokesman had then said without giving details. Official sources said the bunker near the South Block would protect all those who had the authority to order and execute an Indian second strike in the event of a nuclear attack. India has committed itself to a policy of "no first use" for its nuclear arsenal and its top leadership would have to survive a possible nuclear strike to order retaliation, the sources noted. Under New Delhi's nuclear doctrine, the civilian political leadership headed by the prime minister has the final say in authorising the use of nuclear weapons. A second bunker for protecting the cabinet will be built within a 400 km radius from New Delhi, and the government is scouting sites in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh where the cabinet can be flown easily from the capital, the sources said. Work on a third bunker within the prime minister's official residence at 7, Race Course Road here is also believed to be under way. Besides Vajpayee, the bunker near South Block is meant to protect key members of his cabinet, including Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and Defence Minister George Fernandes, all of whom have offices in the South Block or the nearby North Block. It will also protect key members of the Executive Council of the Nuclear Command Authority, including National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra. This council provides inputs for decision-making by the National Command Authority and execute directives given to it by the Political Council, which is headed by the prime minister.