Security Issues

Pokhran-II’s 25th anniversary

The article gives historical context for India’s nuclear programme, focusing on the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998. This year is noteworthy since it marks the 25th anniversary of National Technology Day.

A Brief History of India’s Nuclear Programme

  • In 1998, India conducted nuclear bomb tests at the Pokhran Test Range.
  • These tests, codenamed Operation Shakti, demonstrated India’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.
  • The tests marked the culmination of a long journey that began in the 1940s-50s.
  • Homi J Bhaba, a physicist, was instrumental in building the groundwork for India’s nuclear programme.
  • In 1954, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru backed Bhaba’s efforts by establishing the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

Reasons: China and Pakistan pose a threat

  • After the 1962 Sino-Indian War and China’s nuclear bomb test in 1964, India’s attitude towards nuclear weapons shifted.
  • In the face of an unfriendly China and Pakistan, the political elite recognised the need for self-sufficiency.
  • India attempted but failed to obtain nuclear guarantees from established nuclear armed states.
  • The pursuit of nuclear weapons became a top priority for India.

The NPT’s “Discriminatory” Provisions

  • The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1968, dividing nuclear-weapon states from non-nuclear ones.
  • India declined to sign the deal because it did not address its worries regarding nuclear weapon states’ reciprocal commitments.
  • The NPT was widely accepted internationally, but India remained one of the few non-signatories.

Pokhran-I and Its Repercussions

  • Pokhran-I, also known as Operation Smiling Buddha, was India’s first nuclear test in 1974.
  • Despite being characterised as a “peaceful nuclear explosion,” the test drew international condemnation and penalties.
  • Political unrest, especially the 1975 Emergency, hampered India’s nuclear program’s growth.
  • The threat of nuclear weapons revived in the 1980s as Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities advanced.

The time interval between the two tests

  • India experienced difficulties as a result of domestic political instability and shifting international dynamics.
  • The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 undermined India’s military partnerships.
  • Despite reservations about Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the US has maintained its backing.
  • India was under pressure to build nuclear weapons swiftly since the window of opportunity appeared to be closing.

Pokhran II: Projecting India’s Might

  • The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was formed in 1998 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  • The pinnacle of India’s nuclear weaponization was Operation Shakti, which was carried out in reaction to Pakistan’s missile launch.
  • Following Pokhran-II, India declared itself a nuclear weapons state.
  • Some sanctions were imposed in response to the tests, but India’s burgeoning economy and market potential helped it survive international criticism.
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