Did the CIA plant nuclear-powered spy device in the Himalayas in the 60s?
By Ali Hassnain
The rumours about possible radioactive material left by CIA and Indian intelligence during cold war in Uttarkhand, India in a high altitude glacier sounded like a piece from a spy thriller. It is assumed to be buried deep in ice in up in the Himalayas. It was put there by the Americans with the cooperation of India in the 1960s. Purpose was to spy on the Chinese, locals claimed. There was talk of a cover up. Some people remembered a small protest in front of American Embassy back in the day. Locals swore about the Americans carrying it to high altitude in cover of mountaineering. They linked a recent avalanche in Uttarkhand India and to the nuclear material. It sounded like a perfect conspiracy theory, a rather far-fetched one.
Famous satire writer Mushtaq Yousafi once said “The problem with rumours in Pakistan is, they often turn out to be facts”. Apparently same happened in India; at least part of the rumour is alarmingly a true incident from the cold war era. It is very alarming, indeed.
It is difficult to go into nifty gritty details about the murky incident and the extent of cover up. After some basic research it turned out that the Indian PM in 1978, disillusioned by war mongering of previous governments, told the parliament that Indeed the Indian intelligence and CIA planted some nuclear powered devices in the said area, whereabouts of which are now not known.
From multiple sources it appears that during the height of cold war and in the days of SEATO, CENTO, U2 and Pakistan America brotherhood, CIA was working closely with the Indian intelligence. They carried some 24 kg plutonium (not weapon grade by a long shot) to a high altitude mountain; they then put it there and lost it to extreme weather or counter intelligence. Little is known. It appears the spy equipment was there to spy on possible Chinese nuclear test.
However I do not agree with the locals, that plutonium caused the glacial burst or the radioactive material is dangerous. If anything, it is probably buried deep in ice. However some things are horrifying.
- Secret Indo-CIA cooperation at the height of cold war and US-Pakistan and Indo-Soviet alliance.
- The apathy of CIA and Indian Intelligence for nature. As a person who supports green peace and who cares about carbon foot print and interest in renewable energy, I find it appalling and horrifying.
Indian government decided to attack Siachen in 1984 and Pakistan counter attacked and both militaries have presence in Siachen Glacier to date making it highest altitude ever where an armed conflict took place. One hopes and prays for rationality and that the Indian Government responds to Pakistan government’s desire to protect the environment and the region is demilitarized even before the Kashmir dispute is settled. However it is an unlikely scenario at the moment, at best for a few more years, unless bold steps are taken which are in order but nowhere in sight.
We, the humans are wreaking havoc to environment and destroying possibilities of research by current and future generations. What legacy are we leaving for future generations? An area in France, for example, has so much unexploded ordinance from WW1 that even after more than 100 years there are no go areas. From Himalayas to Saharan desert, what are we doing to the planet?
- The third aspect is probably the most alarming of all. Despite the disclosure in Indian Parliament, it has been conveniently ignored by the press. It is shocking. What more would go unreported? This was a forgotten incident of cold War; what about Industrial lobbying to suppress data for corporate interests?
We live in an age when smoking is legal but masks are mandatory to protect one’s health and wellbeing. The apparel of FLOTUS (first lady of The United States) is a matter of interest but not the missing two dozen kilograms of plutonium on some peek in Himalayas for practically no good reason is not worthy of a mention in a short news report? What else has been covered up?
The US has reported 32 incidents of broken arrow (military term for WMDs considered missing), at least 6 of them nuclear bombs. For the sake of argument I chose to agree with the US government that none of them poses any risk of being found and being used by some government or a non-state actor. However what about the lack of transparency and other such incidents? It is alarming that main stream media chooses to ignore this topic and there is little research on what to do with all the collateral damage to nature and humans by conventional ordinance left in previous wars, spy craft and espionage let alone the radioactive material and untested technology like high frequency microwaves among others.
Perhaps one day in distant future there would be a truth and reconciliation commission in a body like UN and the world would work to analyse and rectify the unfortunate misdeeds of the past. Till then, one may apologize to nature as a human and say
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”