20 years of Pokhran II nuclear test: This is how India became a mighty nuclear power

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New Delhi | May 11, 2018 1:20 PM

Twenty years ago, on May 11, 1998, India conducted the landmark Pokhran-II nuclear test at the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan's Jaisalmer district.

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Twenty years ago, on May 11, 1998, India conducted the landmark Pokhran-II nuclear test at the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district. A series of five nuclear explosions were conducted between May 11 and May 13, 1998, under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. The second Pokhran Nuclear Test was conducted after Smiling Buddha in 1974. May 11, the day of first of the five explosions during the Pokhran-II nuclear weapons testing, was officially declared as the National Technology Day. For Pokhran II nuclear test, more than 100 scientists and technicians worked under the leadership of Late President APJ Abdul Kalam who was the Scientific Adviser to the prime minister and Head of the DRDO. The five nuclear devices detonated during the Pokhran II Test were Shakti I, II, III, IV and V.

What did the Indian government say on May 11, 1998

In an official statement by Ministry of External Affairs, India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pokhran range. The tests conducted were with a fission device, a low yield device and a thermonuclear device. The measured yields are in line with expected values. Measurements have also confirmed that there was no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. These were contained explosions like the experiment conducted in May 1974 (Smiling Buddha)

What happened on May 13, 1998

In continuation of the planned programme of underground nuclear tests that began on May 11, two more sub-kiloton nuclear tests were carried out at Pokhran range at 12:21 PM on the May 13, 1998. The tests were carried out to generate additional data for improved computer simulation of designs and for attaining the capability to carry out subcritical experiments. The tests were fully contained with no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. The nuclear tests on May 13 completed the planned series of tests.

What happened after Pokhran II Nuclear tests

The United States imposed sanctions on India, cutting off all aid except humanitarian assistance. The then President Bill Clinton signed official papers imposing the measures on India for carrying out nuclear tests. The two new nuclear explosions drew further world condemnation. Pakistan had bitterly condemned the latest Indian tests. Pakistani Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan had said the Indian leadership seemed to have gone berserk and was acting in a totally unrestrained way.

How India managed to fool CIA

What made the nuclear tests stand out was the manner inwhich India outsmart US and CIA. All the five tests went undetected under the nose of CIA. DRDO officials carefully examined the timing of the satellite positions over India and worked only at night when chances of detection were very low. The scientists worked in army uniforms during day. In fact, pot-nellied scientists were not included in the team so that they can gel with the pfysically fit soldiers. CIA later admitted their failure to predict India’s big nuclear tests.

“Pokhran II- Proof of India’s Nuclear Prowess”

On April 29 this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed Pokhran-II nuclear tests carried out 20 years ago saying it established India’s nuclear prowess in the world. “On May 11, 1998, at India’s western end a nuclear test was conducted in Pokhran, Rajasthan. It has been 20 years since Pokhran and this test was done on Buddha Purnima with the blessings of Lord Buddha. India’s test was not only successful but in a way, India had demonstrated its might in the field of science and technology. We can also say the date has been engraved in the history of India as a demonstration of its military power,” PM Modi had said in his monthly radio address “Mann Ki Baat”. The prime minister pointed out that Lord Buddha had said that inner strength was necessary to live in peace and India, too, acquired nuclear strength to live in peace.

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