On this day 20 years ago, India carried out a secret operation that left the world stunned. The event was Pokhran 2, a series of underground nuclear tests that marked the arrival of India as a nuclear weapon country.
Plans for the nuclear tests, code named Operation Shakti, were executed to perfection on two days at the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district. The success prompted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to declare a voluntary moratorium on further nuclear tests.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recalled how the scientists used to dress themselves up in Army uniforms whenever they visited the test site so that they would not attraction attention to themselves.
These measures worked as nobody, including the intelligence agencies of major Western powers, had an inkling about what was unfolding till India announced the successful tests.
Here is an interesting image the organisation shared on Twitter.
— DRDO (@DRDO_India) May 11, 2018
Seen in this photograph on the left is Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, then DRDO head who went on to become India’s President.
Other top scientists who were part of the Pokhran 2 mission included Dr R Chidambaram, the then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Dr Anil Kakodkar, then Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), and Dr K Santhanam, then Chief Advisor (Technologies) at DRDO.
India had conducted its first nuclear test, code named Smiling Buddha, at the same site in May 1974 but had described it as peaceful in nature.
Five Tests During Pokhran 2
The nuclear tests were carried out over two days. Three tests – Shakti I, II, and III – were conducted at 3.45 pm on 11 May. The tests used a fission device, a low-yield device, and a thermonuclear device.
Two more sub-kiloton nuclear tests, Shakti IV and V, were carried out at 12.21 pm on 13 May.
The Defence Minister’s Office dedicated this day, marked as the National Technology Day, to the scientists, technicians, and leadership who made India a nuclear weapon state. It recalled how the operation was a team effort involving four organisations – Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), DRDO, Indian Army, and the Indian Air Force.
Operation Shakti was a joint team effort by four organisations code named Bravo (DAE) , Charlie ( @DRDO_India ) , Alpha (@adgpi) & Delta (@IAF_MCC).
Together these organisation executed the operation involving five underground nuclear tests at Pokhran within a month.
— Raksha Mantri (@DefenceMinIndia) May 11, 2018