Due to first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s rejection of a US offer, India lost in the nuclear race. US President John F Kennedy had offered India the chance to develop and detonate a nuclear device much before China’s test in 1964. According to former Foreign Secretary Maharajakrishna Rasgotra, if Nehru had accepted the offer, fifty years later India would not have to make desperate attempts and struggle to seek an entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>“Not only would we have tested the nuclear device first in Asia, before China, but it would have deterred China from launching its war of 1962 and even imparted a note of caution to Pakistan’s plans for war in 1965,” said Rasgotra, while speaking at the release of his new book A Life in Diplomacy at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). The book was formally released by former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha.In the book, Rasgotra revealed that Kennedy had made the extraordinary gesture towards India after learning through American intelligence in the late 1950s that China’s nuclear programme was progressing towards a weapons’ detonation in 1964. The former Foreign Secretary said, “Kennedy, who was an admirer of India’s democracy and held its leader Jawaharlal Nehru in very high esteem, felt that democratic India, not Communist China, should be the first Asian country to conduct a nuclear test”.Kennedy’s handwritten letter was accompanied by a technical note from the chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, setting out the assistance his organisation would provide to Indian atomic scientists to detonate an American device from atop a tower in Rajasthan desert.In the letter, Kennedy had said that he and the American establishment were aware of Nehru’s strong views against nuclear tests and nuclear weapons, but emphasised the political and security threat China’s test would spell for Nehru’s government and India’s security. “Nothing is more important than national security”, Kennedy’s letter had emphasized.However, after discussions with Dr Homi Bhabha and GP Parthasarathy, Nehru finally turned down the offer, though he was not disinclined to the offer initially and had instructed Dr Bhabha to “work out a plan of action on most urgent basis, should we finally accept Kennedy’s offer”.The book tells the story of India’s foreign policy formulation from the initial years till towards almost the end of the 20th century. After being one of the country’s top foreign secretaries, Rasgotra retired in 1990. He was the foreign secretary under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.Describing the book as a “great work with lots of wisdom”, Yashwant Sinha said he wished the book also provided a picture of the global economy then and the economic relationships. He also impressed on the need for Indian leadership to focus more on Africa and Latin America to further the country’s interests.Comparing diplomacy to geology, Sinha said that the surface may be soft but even as one keeps digging, the soil gets harder and harder and finally hits hard rock. The diplomats should find out where the hard rocks lie and guide the leadership in drilling through them.