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25th Anniversary of Pokhran-II

Context:

India recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Pokhran-II on 11th May 2023 marking the successful nuclear bomb test explosions which became a significant milestone in its journey to become a nuclear power.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Pokhran-II and India’s Journey as a Nuclear Power:
  2. Pokhran-I
  3. Pokhran-II
  4. India’s Nuclear Policy

Pokhran-II and India’s Journey as a Nuclear Power:

Historical Background:
  • In 1945, physicist Homi J. Bhabha advocated for the establishment of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Bombay, focusing on nuclear physics research.
  • TIFR became India’s first research institution dedicated to the study of nuclear physics.
  • After India gained independence, Bhabha convinced Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru about the importance of nuclear energy.
  • In 1954, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was established, with Bhabha as its director.
  • The DAE operated autonomously, with limited public scrutiny.
Motivation for Nuclear Weapons Pursuit:
  • India’s pursuit of nuclear weapons was driven by concerns over sovereignty and security threats posed by China and Pakistan.
  • The 1962 Sino-Indian War and China’s subsequent nuclear test in 1964 heightened India’s need to safeguard its national security.
  • The war with Pakistan in 1965, with Chinese support, further emphasized the necessity of self-sufficiency in defense capabilities.

Pokhran-I:

  • By the 1970s, India had developed the capability to conduct a nuclear bomb test.
  • Pokhran-I refers to India’s first nuclear bomb test, which took place on May 18, 1974, at the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan.
  • The operation was codenamed “Smiling Buddha” and was officially described as a “peaceful nuclear explosion” with minimal military implications.
  • With Pokhran-I, India became the sixth country in the world to possess nuclear weapons capability, joining the United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France, and China.
Consequences:
  • The tests faced widespread condemnation and significant sanctions, particularly from the United States and Canada.
  • These sanctions hindered India’s progress in nuclear technology and slowed down its nuclear journey.
  • Domestic factors, such as the political instability during the Emergency in 1975 and opposition to nuclear weapons, also hampered progress.
Resurgence and Expansion:
  • In the 1980s, India witnessed a renewed interest in nuclear weapons development, driven by Pakistan’s advancements in the field.
  • India increased funding for its missile program and expanded its plutonium stockpiles, signaling its commitment to strengthening its nuclear capabilities.

Pokhran-II:

  • Pokhran-II refers to a series of five nuclear bomb test explosions conducted by India between May 11th and 13th, 1998, in the Pokhran desert of Rajasthan.
  • The operation was codenamed “Operation Shakti” and marked India’s second successful attempt at nuclear tests.
Significance:
  • Pokhran-II solidified India’s status as a nuclear power on the global stage.
  • It demonstrated India’s capability to possess and deploy nuclear weapons, enhancing its deterrence capabilities.
  • Following Pokhran-II, the Indian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, officially declared India as a state possessing nuclear weapons.
International Response:
  • While the 1998 tests resulted in some countries imposing sanctions, notably the United States, the condemnation was not as widespread as it was after Pokhran-I in 1974.
  • India, with its rapidly growing economy and market potential, was able to assert its position and solidify its status as a significant nation-state despite the sanctions.

India’s Nuclear Policy:

  • India has since adopted a policy of “credible minimum deterrence,” which means maintaining a nuclear arsenal sufficient to deter any potential adversary from launching a nuclear attack.
  • India has consistently emphasized its commitment to a “no first use” policy, stating that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in any conflict.
International Recognition:
  • In 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) granted a waiver to India, allowing it to engage in nuclear commerce despite not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • This recognition marked a significant shift in India’s status within the international nuclear order.

-Source: Indian Express


February 2024
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