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Rajya Sabha TV In Depth Pokhran II

Rajya Sabha TV In Depth Pokhran II

India completed 20 years of its journey as a nuclear power on 11 May 2018. The nuclear test on Pokhran was conducted by then Prime Minister Mr. A.B. Vajpayee. It was greeted with jubilation in India while it proved to be a surprise for rest of the world which reacted by putting several sanctions to India in the coming years. But, India has now not just overcome the international obstacles, it has been successful in striking nuclear deal with the United States. It also got a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and became members in 3 out 0f 4 Multilateral Export Control Regimes.


Map of Rajasthan showing location of Pokhran

  • Pokhran II refers to India’s second round of nuclear tests that were conducted in Pokhran, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. It was codenamed ‘Shakti’ which means ‘power’.
  • The tests were conducted in 5 explosions which involved a fusion device, a hydrogen bomb (thermonuclear) and 3 tests of miniaturised weapons.
  • The 1998 tests were conducted in collaboration of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Indian Army had raised a special unit of scientists for the purpose.
  • By the successful tests in Pokhran II, India displayed a few things. It showed its technological capability to the world and also the secrecy of its operations as no international agency or satellite could get a hint that the tests were being conducted.
  • This lead India into the nuclear powers club. Although India became the sixth nuclear power state after United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France and China in 1974 itself, but Vajpayee’s statement after the Pokhran II formalised the status.
  • India had conducted its first nuclear test on 18 May 1974 in Pokhran in an operation codenamed ‘Smiling Buddha’.
  • In 1974, India had conducted peaceful nuclear explosion which was allowed in international law. This had been done by many countries. Thus, purpose of 1974 test was technology demonstration and not weaponization. But, the purpose of 1998 test was weaponizing India’s capabilities.
  • Timeline of India’s development to a nuclear state:

Efforts towards building a nuclear bomb, infrastructure and research on related technologies were undertaken by India since World War II.

1944: India’s nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha persuaded Congress to harness nuclear    energy.

1945: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research was established.

1950s: Preliminary studies were carried out at BARC on plans to produce Plutonium and other bomb components.

1962: India faced heavy casualties in Sino-India war.

1966: India’s nuclear program was consolidated.

1974: India’s first nuclear test ‘Smiling Buddha’ was conducted.

  • After the wars with its neighbouring nations- China and Pakistan- strengthening national security became essential for the Indian Government.
  • Although the Pokhran II tests made India face obstacles in terms of economic, military and international isolation, it was a timely success that made India breaking the nuclear monopoly of five nations.
  • There are 4 Multilateral Exports Control Regimes:
  1. Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls and Dual Use Goods and Technologies. India became its member in 2017.
  2. Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for the control of nuclear related technologies. India has got a waiver in 2008, but its permanent membership in NSG is not supported by China.
  • Australia Group (AG) for control of chemical and biological technology that could be weaponised. India became its member in 2018.
  1. Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) for the control of rockets and other aerial vehicles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. India became its member in 2016.
  • India’s nuclear doctrine has been:
  1. Credible minimum nuclear deterrence.
  2. Never use nuclear weapon first.
  • Never use nuclear weapons against non nuclear nations.

Way Ahead:

Since the formation of India’s Atomic Energy Commission in 1948, India’s nuclear power has managed to reach only 6780 MW with 22 nuclear reactors. But with NSG membership and subsequent opening of the market, India will be able to achieve 60,000 MW power by 2030.

While the US, Japan and Germany have supported India’s bid for India’s NSG membership, China remains the biggest obstacle. China should reconcile itself to India’s growing role in the world and look at a very positive nuclear doctrine India has.

Thus, starting from the tests of Pokhran which led India to isolation, with NSG membership India would be a member of all the four Multilateral Export Control Regimes.