Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

25th anniversary of Pokhran-II


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pokhran-II nuclear tests

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central Idea: The article provides a historical context for India’s nuclear program and focuses specifically on the Pokhran-II nuclear tests conducted in 1998. This year is special, marking 25 years since we started celebrating National Technology Day.

India’s Nuclear Journey: A quick recap

  • India conducted nuclear bomb test explosions at Pokhran Test Range in 1998.
  • Codenamed Operation Shakti, these tests showcased India’s capability to build nuclear weapons.
  • The tests marked the culmination of a long journey that began in the 1940s-50s.
  • Physicist Homi J Bhaba played a crucial role in laying the foundations of India’s nuclear program.
  • Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru supported Bhaba’s efforts and established the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 1954.

Reasons: Threat of China and Pakistan

  • India’s perspective on nuclear weapons changed after the 1962 Sino-Indian War and China’s nuclear bomb test in 1964.
  • The political establishment realized the need for self-sufficiency in the face of an unfriendly China and Pakistan.
  • India sought nuclear guarantees from established nuclear weapons states but was unsuccessful.
  • The path to obtaining nuclear weapons became a priority for India.

The “Discriminatory” NPT

  • The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was established in 1968, creating a divide between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear states.
  • India refused to sign the treaty, as it felt it did not address its concerns about reciprocal obligations from nuclear weapons states.
  • The NPT gained widespread international acceptance, but India remained one of the few non-signatories.

Pokhran-I and its Aftermath

  • In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test at Pokhran, known as Pokhran-I or Operation Smiling Buddha.
  • The test was described as a “peaceful nuclear explosion” but faced international condemnation and sanctions.
  • Political instability, including the Emergency in 1975, hindered India’s nuclear program’s progress.
  • Clamor for nuclear weapons resurfaced in the 1980s due to Pakistan’s advancing nuclear capabilities.

The Period between the Two Tests

  • India faced challenges due to domestic political instability and changing international dynamics.
  • The fall of the USSR in 1991 weakened India’s military alliances.
  • The US continued to support Pakistan despite concerns about its nuclear program.
  • India faced pressure to quickly develop nuclear weapons as the window of opportunity appeared to be closing.

Pokhran-II: Projecting India’s Strength

  • In 1998, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  • Operation Shakti, conducted as a response to Pakistan’s missile launch, marked the culmination of India’s nuclear weaponization.
  • India declared itself a nuclear weapons state following Pokhran-II.
  • The tests faced some sanctions, but India’s growing economy and market potential helped it withstand international pressure.



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