A judgment call

If you’re seeking the truth when writing history, rather than expressing a view as in a polemic, it can be difficult to judge your references. Bharat Karnad is a research professor in New Delhi, with impeccable credentials including many governmental assignments and roles. In 2005, he published his 575-page magnum opus on India’s nuclear weapons history and status, titled Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy. I make extensive use of his deeply researched historical narrative.

Bharat Karnad book

But here’s a paragraph I found myself unable to use:

‘Sir John Cockcroft and WB Lewis, Bhabha’s friends from his Cambridge days and counterparts from the British and Canadian nuclear programmes respectively, Pierre Joliot-Curie and Bertrand Goldschmidt, heading the French programme, and Members of the US Atomic Energy Commission were, however, quick to know, as had most of the Indian scientists recruited by Bhabha, that the Indian programme was attempting to gain an all-round capability, including in nuclear weapons. Indeed, a few of them covertly helped achieve the latter aim, in tune with what some of the leading scientists believed at the time, that the spread of the Bomb would make for a more secure and stable international order.

Above reference, p. 188

For this paragraph, Karnad references an interview with “a former chairman, AEC,” i.e. a former head of the Indian commission. This is one bold statement. Now, it turns out I largely agree with Karnad’s assertion, but I can’t match its assertiveness with research material available on Cockcroft and the other three. And it’s likely that Cockcroft, Lewis, and Goldschmidt had more nuanced views than Karnad claims. So I haven’t used this paragraph as a direct quote. Whether I’ll refer to it to bolster my own views is another question as yet unanswered.