New Delhi, April 26 ; India's former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam has credited former prime minister Indira Gandhi and former Odisha chief minister Biju Patnaik for prodding him to initiate the programme which has now reached a pinnacle with the successful launch of Agni V, India's first inter continental ballistic missile.
Kalam told top bureaucrats on Civil Services Day on April 21, how Indira Gandhi, way back in 1983 pointed towards a world map and asked him to make a missile that could reach China, reports Mail Today.
Recalling the incident when he was the director of DRDL (Defence Research and Development Laboratory) in Hyderabad, Kalam said: "She came to DRDL to review the integrated guided missile development programme that she had sanctioned.
" When we were presenting the progress of the programme, Indira Gandhi saw the world map at the conference hall. She asked us to stop the presentation and said 'Kalam, look at the map, look at the distance in the eastern side of the map.
"When will the laboratory launch a missile which will be capable of reaching that spot? That spot was 5,000 km from Indian territory."
"Of course, our DRDO scientists have achieved this great target envisioned by Indiraji", said Kalam.
The former president also recounted his encounter in 1993 with the then Odisha chief minister Biju Patnaik, when the latter extracted a promise from him before handing over the state's Wheeler Islands to the DRDO.
"To get the island (to launch test missiles), we needed a political decision from Patnaik. The indications were that the island cannot be given to the DRDO because of several reasons. However, an appointment was fixed with the CM. When I reached his office, the file was in front of him. Patnaik said: 'Kalam, I have decided to give all five islands to you (DRDO), but I will sign on the file only when you give me a promise.
"The chief minister held my hand and said: 'I have an invitation to China. I will visit China only when you promise that you will make a missile that will reach China.'
"I said, 'Chief Minister Sir, definitely we will work on it'"
Kalam said Indira Gandhi and Biju Patnaik were visionary leaders, but there were far-sighted bureaucrats too. He praised the then Cabinet Secretary C R Krishnaswamy Rao for putting his weight behind the integrated guided missile project in 1982-83, when the armed forces were opposing the programme.
"Today the production agency for Prithvi, Agni, Akash and Brahmos missiles has a total oder valued at over Rs 93 lakh crore. Such is the power of vision of our political and bureaucratic leadership", said Kalam.
On India's Pokharan nuclear test, Kalam said: "I still remember a scene during May 1996. I got a call to meet PM Narasimha Rao.
I met him just two days before the general election results. He told me: Kalam, be ready for your nuclear test. The election result was different from what he anticipated.
"I got a call saying I must meet PM-designate Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Narasimha Rao.
Narasimha Rao asked me to brief th details of the nuclear programme to Vajpayee so that a smooth takeover of such a very important programme could take place", said Kalam.