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India Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Nuclear Tests

Pokhran-I code named Smiling Buddha was India’s first nuclear successful nuclear test on May 18, 1974 in the deserts of Pokhran, located in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan for which a team of 75 scientists and engineers, led by Raja Ramanna, PK Iyengar, Rajagopala Chidambaram and others had worked from 1967 to 1974, although India had started its own nuclear program in 1944 under guidance of Nuclear Physicist Homi Bhabha

Pokhran-II under ‘Operation Shakti’, the second Indian nuclear test, was the series of underground nuclear tests conducted by India at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range, which consisted of five detonations, of which the first a fusion bomb and two fission bombs were detonated on May 11, 1998 followed by detonation of two additional fission devices on May 13, 1998. Shortly thereafter India’s Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee convened a press conference to declare India a full-fledged nuclear state.

  • India became the sixth country to join the nuclear club.
  • Utmost secrecy tests shocked the world and the India-U.S. ties hit rock bottom.
  • Dr Abdul Kalam, Chief Scientific Adviser and Director of DRDO, and Dr. R. Chindambaram, Chairman Atomic Energy Commission and Department of Atomic Energy, were the chief coordinators of this test planning.
  • Operation Shakti was timely and inevitable as China had conducted its second nuclear test and Pakistan’s clandestine atomic bomb programme was discovered by the world.
  • India accomplished many of the objectives of Pokhran II.
  • Indian diplomacy triumphed in turning a grave crisis into an opportunity by securing legitimacy for its nuclear arsenal and removing obstacles in generating nuclear power.
  • The 1998 tests and the subsequent nuclear deal have brought India to the nuclear mainstream and opened up the global nuclear market for development of nuclear power without signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) or the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

On May 11, 2018, the 20th anniversary of Pokhran-II, when India took a leap into the world of nuclear weapon powers, India has kicked off the process to induct its first intercontinental ballistic missile Agni-V into the tri-service Strategic Forces Command (SFC). The 1st pre-induction trial of Agni-V took place on January 18, 2018, after four developmental trials since April 2012. After 2nd pre-induction trial of Agni-V that is slated to take place soon, the Agni-V unit with its missiles can be shifted to a strategic base. Several systems and subsystems, associated with the over 5000-km-range missile, which brings the whole of China as well as parts of Europe and Africa under its strike range, are being handed over to the new Agni-V unit raised under the SFC.

SFC already has Prithvi-II (350-km), Agni-I (700-km), Agni-II (2,000-km) and Agni-III (3,000-km) missile units. While some Sukhoi-30MKI, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar fighters have also been jury-rigged to make them capable of delivering nuclear bombs, the third leg of the nuclear triad is represented by the solitary nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) INS Arihant. SSBNs are considered the most secure and effective platforms for retaliatory nuclear strikes, especially for a country like India that has a declared No First-Use policy.

India has an extensive civil and military nuclear program, which includes at least 10 Nuclear Reactors, Uranium mining and milling sites, Heavy water  production facilities, a  Uranium enrichment plant, fuel fabrication facilities, and extensive nuclear research capabilities.

Though India has not made any official statements about the size of its nuclear arsenal, different country estimates indicate that India has anywhere between 150 and 300 nuclear weapons

Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) of India, responsible for command, control and operational decisions regarding India’s Nuclear Weapons Programme, was constituted on January 4, 2003 by the Cabinet Committee on Security. NCA’s Executive Council headed by National Security Advisor (NSA) gives its opinion to its gives to the Political Council Chaired by the Prime Minister, which authorises a nuclear attack when deemed necessary. The mechanism was implemented to ensure that Indian Nukes remain firmly in civilian control and that there exists a sophisticated Command and Control (C2) mechanism to prevent their accidental or unauthorised use.

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