While Chinese people are eagerly looking forward to the Chinese New Year festival, people in India’s Uttarakhand state, located on the other side of the Himalayas, have been hit by a catastrophic disaster: monstrous floods broke down a hydroelectric dam, nearly flattening a settlement downstream and disrupting road traffic in 13 villages along the way, up to the India-China border. Curiously, many local victims do not want to believe that this is a “natural disaster” caused by glacial breakage, but prefer to think that this is a “man-made” disaster created by the United States and India.
According to the BBC (BBC) 21 reported that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) about half a century ago tried to use the Himalayas’ favorable terrain to install a “nuclear device” to monitor the progress of China’s atomic bomb development, but in a series of failed attempts to plant a major hidden danger for the Indian mountains, which still makes the local people fearful.
“Nuclear device exploded?”
According to the “Indian Express” reported on the 20th, as of the 19th, the sudden flooding in the Chamoli region of India’s Uttarakhand state caused at least 62 deaths and 142 people were unaccounted for. Through satellite imaging and related meteorological data, meteorologists generally believe that the floods are caused by the breakup of glaciers in the Himalayas, resulting in the disintegration of “glacial lakes”, and the underlying reasons seem to be related to global warming. But the people in the affected areas do not seem to buy this explanation, and many are convinced that this is a “nuclear device” buried in the local mountains has “exploded”. In the village of Rini, where the disaster was most severe, the village chief, Rawat, questioned: “How could the glacier fall off in the middle of winter? We think the devices may have had an effect. The Indian government should intervene to investigate and find the whereabouts of those devices.”
Many villagers from nearby villages also told The Times of India that they smelt a “very irritating smell” on the day of the floods. The smell was so strong that one could hardly breathe,” said Devi, a villager. If it was just building debris and snow, it would not have been the same smell. The older generation in the village told us that there is a long lost radioactive material buried in the mountain and it could be what triggered the disaster”.
U.S. and India jointly launch espionage campaign against China
According to the BBC, the “nuclear device” mentioned by the victims is a nuclear weapons monitoring device, which was involved in a high-risk and covert spying campaign against China in the 1960s by the U.S. In 1964, the West was shocked by the major success of China’s atomic bomb research. The U.S. CIA quickly contacted Indian authorities and attempted to install surveillance equipment on the second highest peak in India, Nanda Devi in the Himalayas, in order to spy on the progress of Chinese nuclear weapons research.
According to the report, the U.S. government conducted this unusual alpine espionage campaign against China three times between 1965 and 1967, and each time it was assisted by the Indian side. In several attempts, the CIA hired professional mountaineering teams and offered them a hefty $1,000 monthly salary. To avoid arousing suspicion, the U.S. climbing teams disguised themselves as scientific research teams on spy missions, claiming to be studying the effects of low oxygen conditions on the body; members also wore special “tanning creams” to make their skin look like that of the locals. Before the mission, the team members received “accelerated training in nuclear espionage” from the CIA, but during the training they often allegedly got together to play volleyball and got drunk.
On their first mission, the team carried a nuclear-powered surveillance package that weighed 57 kilograms and included antennas, power supplies, two sets of radios, and seven plutonium capsules. Affected by a snowstorm, the summit of Nanda Devi ended in failure. Worse, the team had left the whole set of monitoring equipment on the mountain, with the intention of returning the next spring to find and take it to the Summit, but the whole set of equipment was lost in the snow and wind, and its whereabouts are still unknown. In subsequent attempts, the team also failed to accomplish the original goal, and eventually succeeded in putting only another set of surveillance equipment in the lower elevation of the Nanda Devi Mountain.
“Blindly following the CIA”, India had to suffer the consequences
The operation was not “declassified” until the late 1970s, when Prime Minister Desai dropped the “bombshell” in Parliament in April 1978, but did not reveal the results of the operation. The revelation led to security concerns, and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi was surrounded by protesters with signs reading “CIA out of India” and “CIA poisoning our water”.
According to the Times of India, the government of the day “blindly” followed the CIA in the spying operation, and the latter concealed the truth from India after the plutonium capsules were lost, and then changed its story several times. Since the 1970s, Indian authorities have been organizing “nuclear monitoring” in the region every ten years to check for abnormalities in radiation indicators, but the missing equipment has never been found. Until 2018, the tourism department in Uttarakhand was calling on the Modi government to continue the search.
According to The Times of India, the nuclear equipment lost by the climbing team has a “shelf life” of about a century and still has a life expectancy of about 40 years today. Experts explain that its outer layer is so hot that it melts ice and snow and keeps sinking, and may radiate into the water and the surrounding environment. It is certain that this “time bomb” will continue to plague the local Indian community as long as it is not searched. However, the U.S. climbers who talked about this matter already have a carefree attitude: “God knows what impact it will have”.