From snake charmers to nuclear arsenals. How did India become a nuclear state?

Today at 15:45 hours India conducted three underground Nuclear tests in the Pokhran range. The tests conducted today were with a fission device, a low yield device and a thermonuclear device. I warmly congratulate the scientists and engineers who have carried out these successful tests”

said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on 11th May, 1998. Two days later on 13th May, 1998 India conducted two more successful nuclear tests. The tests were named “Operation Shakti” after a Goddess.

With this development India became a nuclear power and joined the other seven nations who had publicly declared themselves as a nuclear state. 

Smiling Buddha 1974 – A Successful failed attempt!

India had started developing its nuclear programme since W.W.2. but the first successful attempt to make India a nuclear state was achieved on 18 May 1974, after the device was detonated under the leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. 

But soon after the testing a nationwide emergency was imposed and Indira Gandhi lost power. Along with her the nuclear programme “Smiling Buddha” also came to a halt. 

“India caught with her hand in the cookie jar”

Perhaps the most infamous headline among the community who follow India’s nuclear development programme, published by The NewYork Times along with the satellite pictures of the nuclear test site in 1997 when the U.S.A. had got wind of the plans for Indian nuclear tests. 

The reason behind this was the Lacrosse or Onyx satellites operated by the United States National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) which provides terrestrial radar imaging. The U.S.A. rejected its possession before 2008.

 After this scandal the D.R.D.O. learnt from its mistakes and provided a window for the Indian Government to conduct their secret nuclear tests by calculating the timing of the “blind spot” when the satellite changed orbits. The men in disguise, sandstorms of the desert and dark blanket of the night helped in outwitting the satellites or more specifically the Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S.A.

Who were the men who made “Operation Shakti” a reality?

R. Chidambaram. Chief Designer. Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Atomic energy.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Code Name – Major-General Prithviraj. Scientific Adviser to the prime minister and Head of the DRDO. President of India – 2002-2007

Anil Kakodkar. Director of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Dr. Ajit Kumar Mohanty. The Perfectionist. Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

Krishnamurthy Santhanam. The Blacksmith. Indian nuclear scientist and the field director of Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Reactions from Countries following the Success of Pokhran II

Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi- Sanctions were imposed by Japan on India and consisted of freezing all new loans and grants except for humanitarian aid to India.

U.S. President Bill Clinton – “Just last week India conducted a series of nuclear explosive tests reminding us that technology is not always a force for good. India’s actions threaten the stability of Asia and challenges the firm international consensus to stop all nuclear testing”.

China Premier Zhu Rongi – On 24 November 1998, the Chinese Embassy, New Delhi issued a formal statement – India conducted nuclear tests last May, which has run against the contemporary historical trend and seriously affected peace and stability in South Asia. India’s nuclear tests have also dealt a heavy blow to international nuclear disarmament and the global nonproliferation regime.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said – “We are watching the situation and we will take appropriate action with regard to our security”. On 13 May 1998, Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub was quoted as saying that Indian leadership seemed to “have gone berserk and was acting in a totally unrestrained way.”

23 years later, it is self-evident that the nuclear tests conducted in the Pokhran range on 11th May, 1998 and 13th May, 1998 were not meant to destabilise international peace but to protect territorial integrity of India and to discover peaceful use of the nuclear energy for the environment and mankind”.


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