Call Us Now

+91 9606900005 / 04

For Enquiry

The Operation : Smiling Buddha


As part of the operation known as “Smiling Buddha,” India conducted its first nuclear tests on May 18, 1974, in Pokhran, Rajasthan. With this historic occasion, India joined the select club of countries with nuclear weapons.


GS Paper-1: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

Mains Question

Analyse how India’s nuclear tests at Pokhran I in 1974 influenced its nuclear strategy and efforts to gain international recognition as a nuclear power. (250 words).

Background: Nonproliferation Treaty and Indian Nuclear Policy

  • The current international dynamics, such as the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, underpinned India’s desire to develop nuclear weapons.
  • The adoption of regulations to prevent mass destruction was required as a result of the destructive use of nuclear weapons in World War II and later nuclear testing by major powers.
    • The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), signed in 1968, sought to prevent the spread of nuclear technology and weapons.
  • The discriminatory nature of the pact, which favoured the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, was, nevertheless, a point of contention for India.
    • The fundamental problem was the absence of reciprocity, as governments that already possessed nuclear weapons did not have to fulfil the commitment made by non-nuclear states to stop developing them.

Domestic developments are influencing India’s nuclear ambitions

  • In India, researchers like Homi J. Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai had already built the foundation for the study and development of nuclear energy.
    • India’s scientific skills were boosted by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), which was founded in 1954. o Despite initial scepticism, successive leadership changes and outside events, such as the war with China in 1962, changed India’s stance on nuclear weapons.
  • The first nuclear test, Pokhran-I: Unlike her predecessors, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did not have an unfavourable opinion of nuclear tests.
  • However, India decided to carry out the tests covertly because it was aware of the NPT’s limitations.In spite of internal disagreements, Indira Gandhi ultimately decided to move forward with the plan, which allowed for the successful detonation of a nuclear weapon with a yield of 12–13 kilotons at Pokhran on May 18, 1974.

NPT (1970): Non-Proliferation Treaty

  • It is a multilateral agreement that tries to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.- 1. Non-proliferation
  • 2. Disarmament
  • 3. Use of nuclear energy peacefully
  • It was ratified in 1970 after being signed in 1968. The Committee on Disarmament debated and discussed the contents of this treaty.
  • It creates nuclear “Haves” and “Have-Nots” throughout the globe.
  • States that produced and detonated nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices prior to January 1, 1967 are known as Nuclear Weapons States (NWS).
  • As a result, the following counties are the solely five NWS:
  • China is first, followed by France, then Russia (the former USSR), the UK, and finally, the United States of America.
  • NNWS are forbidden from acquiring fissile materials and related technology (for the manufacture or transfer of nuclear weapons).
  • The pact does not forbid nations from acquiring the means to use energy for peaceful purposes.

International Reaction and Diplomatic Obstacles:

  • After the tests, India received harsh criticism and consequences from the international community.
  • With the passage of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act in 1978, the United States in particular imposed limitations on nuclear assistance to India; however, India’s position gradually changed over time, culminating in the historic India-US nuclear agreement in 2005, which signalled a change in how the world viewed India’s nuclear capabilities.

India’s Struggle for International Acceptance: The Nuclear Suppliers Group

  • Since 2008, India has sought membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in order to gain recognition as a responsible nuclear state around the world.
  • Despite initial opposition from some nations, India’s track record as a responsible nuclear state and its dedication to nonproliferation have gradually gained support from a number of countries, paving the way for potential NSG membership. The NSG establishes rules for exporting nuclear equipment and seeks to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.


  • The first nuclear tests conducted by India in Pokhran, Rajasthan, in 1974 were a crucial turning point in the country’s nuclear development.
    • India’s ‘Smiling Buddha’ operation was motivated by geopolitical factors and the necessity to develop its strategic deterrence.
  • India has worked to position itself as a responsible nuclear power, which has increased acceptance and recognition on the international stage despite the initial backlash. As India continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions, its participation in global nonproliferation efforts and its pursuit of NSG membership highlight its commitment to upholding peace and stability in the world.

March 2024