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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 06:39 GMT 07:39 UK
Top Indian nuclear scientist dies
Dr Raja Ramanna
Dr Raja Ramanna masterminded India's first atomic test
A top Indian nuclear scientist and the scientific mastermind behind the country's first atomic test, has died in the western city of Bombay (Mumbai).

Raja Ramanna, 79, who had been unwell for some time, died in a city hospital early on Friday.

Dr Ramanna was the head of India's premier nuclear research centre when the country exploded its first nuclear device in 1974.

India conducted nuclear tests again in 1998, which resulted in US sanctions.

The website of India's upper house of parliament where Dr Ramanna served as a nominated member describes him as the "leader of the group which successfully conducted (the) peaceful explosion... in 1974".

Critical role

India's first atomic device was designed by the Bombay-based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc), which Dr Ramanna headed.

Dr Ramanna, who was a respected scientist and a professional pianist, also headed India's Atomic Energy Commission and served a term as the country's junior defence minister.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting, said Dr Ramanna was associated with India's nuclear programme at a critical stage of its development, the Press Trust of India news agency reported

Mr Singh said the scientist contributed to putting India's own nuclear capabilities on a firm footing.

India and Pakistan stunned the world with back-to-back nuclear tests in May 1998, sparking fears of an arms race on the sub-continent.

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