• On May 11, 1998, India conducted three nuclear bomb test explosions at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range.
  • Codenamed Operation Shakti, these tests would display India’s capability to build fission and thermonuclear weapons with yields up to 200 kilotons.
  • It helped India enter the highly guarded club of countries with capability to deploy nuclear weapons.


  • Setting of research institute and department of atomic energy:
  • India’s nuclear programme can be traced to the work of physicist Homi J Bhaba.
  • In 1945, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research was opened in Bombay which was India’s first research institution dedicated to the study of nuclear physics.
  • In 1954, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was founed, with Bhabha as director.
  • While Nehru publicly opposed nuclear weapons, privately, he had given Bhaba a free hand to lay foundations for both civilian and military uses of nuclear technology.
  • Under him, the DEA operated with autonomy and away from significant public scrutiny.

The discriminatory NPT

  • In 1968, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into existence.
  • The treaty defines nuclear-weapon states as those that have built and tested a nuclear explosive device before January 1, 1967 which were the US, Russia (formerly USSR), the UK, France and China.
  • It effectively disallows any other state from acquiring nuclear weapons.
  • While the treaty has been signed by almost every country in the world, India is one of the few non-signatories.


  • On May 18, 1974, with support from Indira Gandhi, India carried out its first nuclear test at the Pokhran test site.
  • Pokhran-I, codenamed Operation Smiling Buddha, would be billed as a “peaceful nuclear explosion”, with few military implications.
  • There was near-universal condemnation and countries like the US and Canada imposed significant international sanctions on India.
  • In 1983, the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) funding was increased and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was put in charge of India’s missile programme.


  • In March 1998, Pakistan launched the Ghauri missile – built with assistance from China.
  • Two months later, India responded with Operation Shakti.
  • While the 1974 tests were ostensibly done for peaceful purposes, the 1998 tests were the culmination of India’s nuclear weaponisation process.
  • Consequently, the Indian Government declared itself as a state possessing nuclear weapons following Pokhran-II.
  • In context of India’s fast-growing economy and market potential, India was able to stand its ground and thus cement its status as a dominant nation state.


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