May 11, 1998 became a red letter day in the history of India. It was Buddha Purnima when India became a nuclear power. Lord Buddha had supported a war for a righteous cause as a last resort. We, on the 11th, exploded three nuclear bombs at Pokhran. Two were simply of 0.2 KT and find 15 KT. The third was a 45 KT thermonuclear device—hydrogen bomb, another two of 0.5 and 0.3 KT were tested on the 13th. It was D-Day for India. The masses were jubilant. The people of Indian origin in the west and the USA too were happy. They were of the view that it ought to have been done much earlier. After the tests the Prime Minister put a moratorium on further tests. This too was appreciated by all.
The tests were overdue. The scientists were ready for the last so many years. But the political will was not there. Vajpayee government provided that political will. The government went ahead of the Nehruvian (the doctrine of Jawaharlal Nehru). It was because of the Nehruvian strategy that we lost half of Kashmir and a big stretch of Himalayan lands to China. We suffered losses in 1971 war too. It was an era of the idealistic and the innocent. The country lost much.
The new government believed that deterence and peace is possible only when we have the capability of being offensive. No one keeps the company of the weak. Even Mahatma Gandhi used to say ‘Ahimsa is not the cult of the weak but of the strong’. Thus the government left the sense of indecision and timidness that hovered over the country since the 1974 Pokhran Test.
The Prime Minister took the Defence Minister, the Home Minister, the three service chiefs, and the President into confidence. He gave 30 days to the scientist trio—Raja Ramanna, Chidambaram and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to make preparations. The scientists exploded not only the bombs but the strength of the country too. It was the end of ambiguity and hypocrisy. The scientists were experts in the field. They did not allow the US spy agencies to detect India’s preparations even 12 hours after the blasts. US satellites too failed.
The Prime Minister told the Parliament that the decision was taken in the national interest. It was to counter the launch of Gauri in Pakistan, massacre in Udhampur, Sino-Pak nexus and the attitude of Pakistan towards the new government. India showed her strength after a long period of suppression and submission. We became a nuclear power after only 5 tests. We do not want to pile up atom bombs. USA did 1,032 tests, Russia 715, France 210 and China 45. Our Supercomputer will do the rest of our work.
The whole media praised the step taken by the government. The opposition too appreciated the work done by Indian scientists. But it did not give any credit to the government. The reaction of the leftist elites and the so called secular forces including English media was negative. It was a shameful thing as the whole world saw the reactions in the Parliament on TV. It showed that they had no appreciation for the achievements of the nation. They opposed it in the same way as most of the nuclear powers did. USA, Japan and some European Union countries slapped sanctions on India. But they won’t harm us.
We don’t depend totally on MNCs as the East Asian countries did. We can build Swadeshi economy and Swadeshi bombs. India is a country having 10 crore middle class people. It is a good market for the MNCs. No multinational company and no foreign country would like to lose this big market. They have already withdrawn sanctions.
Our neighbors and some NAM countries justified the Indian tests. Jimmy Carter, ex-President of the USA said that US policy smacks of hypocrisy. Two dozen countries expressed concern against India in the conference of disarmament.
China said it was against international consensus. Japan, Australia, Sweden, Canada opposed India vehemently. But France favored India, and Great Britain was not in favor of sanctions. Russia opposed India in the beginning. But later on it favored India and even supplied cryogenic engine for its satellite programmes.
In November 1998 American Congress permitted Clinton to withdraw sanctions against India. Eight nations pressed nuclear powers to dispose of their nuclear arsenals otherwise other countries will follow Indian suit. It is now believed that by 2020 India will develop its own technologies, infrastructure and internet system. Naturally it would be the most powerful country in the world.