India’s Nuclear Shopping List

India still looks to foreign suppliers for equipment to advance its nuclear program. Though it has strong capabilities in most areas of the nuclear cycle, India needs help with fissile material production, materials processing and fusion research, according to an annual Pentagon study which ranks countries’ military capabilities. India would particularly benefit from outside assistance to enrich uranium, extract plutonium or weaponize nuclear material. India is especially lacking in sophisticated electronic and testing equipment, the Pentagon study says.

Topping the list of needed products are computers. High-speed computers are critical to India’s nuclear weapon development, but according to the Pentagon study, India has “limited capability” in digital computing, “no capability” in hybrid computing, and “capabilities in some critical elements” of advanced computing.

From 1988 to 1992, according to a U.S. General Accounting Office report, “sensitive” nuclear end-users in India tried to buy over $30 million dollars in U.S. computer equipment, but got licenses to import only half that. The recent decontrol of computers may have helped India fill more of its orders.

The GAO study says the second-largest category of Indian requests was specially designed pressure measuring instruments for lasers and optical equipment. Then came applications for photosensitive components, lasers, and optical equipment. India also tried to buy measuring and test equipment, and special materials such as lithium and beryllium that are useful in both reactor and nuclear weapon development.