Remembering Smiling Budha 1974 Nuclear Test at Pokharan: Things you need to know | India's nuclear program

India's nuclear program 

In 1972, India has established a plutonium reprocessing facility at Trombay that had generated a huge stock mile of plutonium which was weapon grade in nature. The operation of the Purnima reactor designed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre had provided Indian scientists the data needed for designing ar explosive devices. 

The scientists pressed the government to grant permission to conduct a Nuclear explosion at the subterranean level for use in civil engineering purposes. The US and the USSR, during the Cold War period, conducted many PNEs. Indira Gandhi finally approved the PNES for Indian scientists in October 1972. 

Operation Smiling Buddha

One of the immediate factors that motivated Indira Gandhi to give the go-ahead for the ONE was the Bangladesh war. In the 1971 war, the US had sent the nuclear-powered Enterprise Mission into the Bay of Bengal. 

After the visit of Henry Kissinger to China, he told the Indian Ambassador to Washington, L.K. Jha, that if there is an Indo-Pak war over East Pakistan and in case the Chinese intervene in the war to support Pakistan, the US would not be able to support India. Both these incidents were perceived by India as outright intimidation. 

Though no paper records exist for Indira Gandhi's decision to give a green signal for PNE, it is widely believed that this was one of the reasons that influenced her decision. Another reason was the continuous Chinese nuclear testing from 1964 onwards, which was certainly important in the security calculus of India.

Smiling Budha 1974 Nuclear Test
     Indira Gandhi at the time of the first nuclear test

The core factors that influenced Indian decision-makers to make a decision in favor of the PNE in 1974 are 

1. Failure of security guarantee by the US, UK, USSR
2. Chines nuclear tests and security threats
3. USS Enterprise and nuclear intimidation.
4.US intimidation

After Pokharan

After Pokharan 1, the US and Canada suspended support to India, 1975 Nuclear Suppliers Group was formed to isolate India. In India emergency was imposed till 1980.

In 1980, reports were going on that Pakistan acquired nuclear capability. The United Nations General Assembly, launched a Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD) in order to achieve global disarmament The first SSOD meet happened in 1978 and reaffirmed the need for disarmament. At the end of fi SSOD, the General Assembly established a Disarmament Commission comprising all UN members the second SSOD happened in 1982 but failed to establish consensus despite an urgent need for disarmament The third SSOD in 1988 also failed to establish a consensus.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, head of state of Pakistan, acquired Saudi Arabian financing for nuclear weapons. The most important reason for Pakistan's going nuclear was India's already having done so. Pakistan perceived its nuclear capability as a bargaining chip in the Kashmir in future. Indira Gandhi in the Parliament accepted Pakistan's right to go nuclear but maintained that India had an edge on all aspects' over India had four options at that time:

1.Do covert operation and blow up Pakistani reactors
2.Strengthen cooperation with the USSR to contain Pakistan
3.Put pressure on Pakistan through the international community to halt its ambition.
4.India produces its own weapon

Indira Gandhi adopted a wait and watch policy. Though reports do suggest that she planned to test nuclear weapons in 1982, when the US satellites captured images of the nuclear test preparations by India, the idea was immediately dropped.
Pokharan site

In 1983, India launched the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) to establish five guided missiles (Nag, Trishul, Akash, Prithvi, and Agni), After India tested Prithvi. In 1988 the MTCR was established.

FAQ about Smiling Budha 1974 Nuclear Test at Pokharan

Que 1. Why is it called Smiling Buddha?
Answer: The test was named 'Smiling Buddha' because it was conducted on Budda Purnima that year, and the message conveyed by Raja Ramanna, the director of India's premier nuclear research institute Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi also said, “The Budda has finally smiled.”

Que 2.Who conducted India's first nuclear test?
Answer: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
Today (May 18) is a historic day for India as we are observing the 46th anniversary of our first nuclear test in Rajasthan's Pokhran. The peaceful nuclear test codenamed the 'Smiling Buddha' was conducted on May 18, 1974, under the leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The test made India a nuclear power.

Que 3. When did India become a nuclear power?
Answer: On 13 May 1998, two additional fission devices were detonated, and the Indian government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee shortly convened a press conference to declare India as a full-fledged nuclear state.

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