Parmanu – The story of Pokhran nuclear tests 1998
India, the land of one of the oldest civilizations in the whole world, has been known to be a Vishvaguru in ancient times. The home to world famous seats of education: Nalanda & Takshashila Universities, Indus valley civilization boasted of a well-planned settlement when most parts of world were inhabited by nomadic cultures. It was due to the continued foreign invasion that the country which once dominated the trade & commerce in the entire world, became poor with its more than 30% population residing below poverty line.
India gained independence in 1947 and it was with the enforcement of Indian Constitution in 1950 that India began its nuclear programme under the mentorship of Homi Bhabha. The aim of the nuclear power programme was to secure country’s energy independence. India was then known to be a soft state being a part of Non-Align Movement. The governments were expected to focus on developing requisite infrastructure for a newly born nation. But as time passed, the world started looking down to us a soft country which couldn’t safeguard its own sovereign boundaries. The way in which India lost to China in the Sino-India War 1964, the impact of this humiliating defeat, with India loosing its major land masses, gave a rise to the need for India to be more strong in terms of its artillery & weaponry.
India conducted its First Nuclear Bomb Test: Pokhran-I (1974)
The Indian nuclear power programme, which was till now directed towards the peaceful usage of nuclear energy, took a major shift under the Prime Ministership of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Under her leadership, in 1967, Homi Sethna developed weapon-grade plutonium whereas Ramanna completely designed and manufactured a nuclear device. Post Indo-Pak war in 1971, Indira Gandhi realised the importance of nuclear weapons and granted Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) permission to manufacture nuclear device and get ready for a nuclear test. It was on 18th May 1974, under the code name Smiling Buddha, India tested its first nuclear bomb successfully. The bomb was detonated at Pokharan Test Range. It was the first-ever Nuclear bomb test conducted by nation other than the five permanent members of United Nations Security Council (UNSC). India claimed it to be a ‘peaceful nuclear explosion’. The international community got offended by India’s entry into the Nuclear Rich Regime which USA blocking aid to India and imposing numerous sanctions.
India surges to become war ready nuclear super power: Pokhran-II (1998)
Indira Gandhi declared emergency in 1975 and was thereafter murdered in October 1984 for her role in initiating Operation Bluestar. India’s nuclear program was left in lurch due to a vaccum of strong political leadership. It was in the 1998 General Elections that BJP got the popular public vote to be the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. With the support of 32 other small political parties, Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister. Atal Bihari was known to be a decisive leader despite being the head of a coalition government which was not as strong as during the Indira Gandhi regime. Vajpayee declared that there will be no compromise on national security; all options including the nuclear options will be exercised to protect security and sovereignty of the nation. Deliberations and discussions began Prime Minister Vajpayee, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Mr. Chidambaram and other officials. Chidambaram briefed PM Vajpayee on the nuclear program; Kalam presented the current status of the missile program. On 28 March 1998, Prime Minister Vajpayee asked the team of scientists to make all the preparations for the nuclear test in the shortest time possible.
Pokhran-II was a series of five nuclear tests executed underground at Pokhran Testing Range from 11th May to 13th May 1998 under the code name Shakti-1 & Shakti-2.
How was the programme prevented from being detected by international spy satellites?
Pokhran Testing Range is situated in Rajasthan with little scope to hide any activity being conducted in open. CIA and US Spy satellites had already been detecting Indian test preparations since 1995. Some steps taken to prevent the programme from being detected by the international satellites and intelligentsia were:
- Only a small group of scientists, senior officials and politicians were aware of the programme to maintain secrecy.
- All scientists were made to wear army uniform, while working, to preserve the secrecy of the test and prevent from being captured in satellite imagery.
- Work was done mostly during night hours.
- All equipment was moved to its original place to give an idea that it was actually never moved from its original place.
- All bomb shafts were dug under camouflage netting wherein the dug-out sand was shaped like sand dunes.
- The entire cable sensors were covered with sand, concealed using native vegetation.
- Scientists were transported by the army and were not allowed to depart in groups.
International Reactions to Pokhran-II
As expected, the international community was not at all happy to see India successfully entering the Nuclear Club. Major countries of the world issued fresh sanctions on India stopping aid and support. American intelligence agencies were embarrassed as they had failed to detect the preparations of the test. The international sanctions had a minimal impact on the Indian economy. PM Vajpayee said that we were aware that such sanctions and criticism would follow but being a sovereign nation, our sovereignty and commitment to save our boundaries and national security are above all that follows. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was hailed as a strong and decisive leader and India made the world realize its potential taking a strong strong towards becoming a super power. India is now known to the world not as a soft nation but a nuclear weapon ready nation capable enough to protect its boundaries and its sovereignty.
Parmanu – The Story of Pokhran
India’s step forward towards becoming a super power has been well-portrayed by the Bollywood through a movie Parmanu – The Story of Pokhran. The movie is based on a series of five nuclear bomb tests conducted by India at Pokhran in the year 1998. The movie depicts how India was under immense pressure with its neighbor China already completing 43 nuclear tests whereas we have conducted only 1 test in 1974.
In 1998, after the swearing-in of Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the new Prime Minister, the nuclear programme of the country begins once gain with a new vigour. Ashwath, the main protagonist, explains his plan of conducting the whole operation secretly. He also explains how the operation wold be successfully prevented from being tracked by USA spy satellites. He is directed by the PMO to create a team and begin work on the proposed nuclear tests. After facing numerous challenges, the team is finally successful in executing the series of 5 nuclear tests establishing India as a nuclear-rich new super power.
If you haven’t watched this box-office hit movie yet, here is an opportunity to watch the world TV Premiere of Parmanu – The Story of Pokhran on this Independence Day i.e. 15th August 2018 at 12 noon only on Zee Cinema.