Watch | 50 years ago, India conducted its first ever nuclear test

Watch | 50 years ago, India conducted its first ever nuclear test

On May 18, 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test in Pokhran, code-named Operation Smiling Buddha

Updated - May 18, 2024 10:08 am IST

Published - May 18, 2024 10:00 am IST

Fifty years ago, India conducted its first nuclear test in Pokhran, code-named Operation Smiling Buddha. With this India had entered the league of nations with nuclear capabilities.

An article dated May 19th, 1974, says India successfully conducted an underground test with plutonium device in 10-15 kiloton range. It also adds that the then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Dr H.N Sethna and Director of The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre DR R Ramanna, who supervised the test, flew to Delhi even without a wash or change to give a full account to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

India said that it undertook this programme to develop its own technology for peaceful use of nuclear energy and it had no intention of going in for nuclear weapons. The groundwork for testing nuclear energy was laid even earlier by renowned Indian scientists Homi J Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. In 1954, the Department of Atomic Energy was founded, with Bhabha as director.

With Smiling Buddha, India became the first nation to conduct a nuclear test apart from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. After the nuclear test, there were criticisms that it was an attempt to divert people’s attention from the economic crisis the country was facing in the 1970s.

However, the Atomic Energy Commission chairman said that it was his decision and that there was no political motive, Even a New York Times article said that “such great talent of resources has been squandered on the vanity of power, while 600 million Indians slip deeper into poverty”.

India also faced significant criticism from many countries including Pakistan, USA, and Canada. Pakistan said that it would never succumb to “nuclear blackmail” or accept “Indian hegemony or domination over the subcontinent”.

India did not carry out further nuclear tests until 1998. In 1998, under the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India conducted a series of nuclear tests in Pokhran once again, code-named Operation Shakti.

With this, India declared itself a full-fledged nuclear state.

Script and production: Gayatri Menon

Research: Gayatri Menon and Murali Krishnaswamy

Archive photo courtesy: M. Srinath

Voiceover: Jude Francis Weston

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