Do you know the story behind how India managed to fool superpower United States of America?
Yes, the story of how India conducted its atomic bomb tests even while it was under immense scrutiny from USA? No? Well, here it is.
How it all began:
It was Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam who first emphasized on India strengthening its military force. To become a superpower as well as for defense purposes, India needed to strengthen its atomic power. More so because its neighbors, China and Pakistan, were already on the track to nuclear might. On 20th March 1998, the then Prime Minister Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had an intense meeting. It was during this meeting that Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam questioned about India’s atomic power and asked the Prime Minister for permission to conduct atomic tests.
It was a huge risk; a risk nobody thought India would take. But, on 11th April 1998, soon after the March 20th meeting, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee granted permission to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam to conduct atomic tests in India. This of course, needed to be done in complete secrecy, since USA was already keeping a sharp eye on India. Back then, USA would ‘permit’ only a few selective countries to have nuclear power. India did not feature on that list. The complete responsibility of this secret mission was laden on Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and his fellow scientists.
United States of America got a whiff of this and tightened its scrutiny of India. Its Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) put up a satellite in space so as to track the on goings in India. USA also kept a track of everything happening at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which is the R&D centre of the Indian military. Even telephonic conversations at DRDO were tapped and decoded by US intelligence.
How was this handled:
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had a smart solution to all the strict monitoring that USA was doing of India. Under his guidance, scientists at DRDO did not use any terms and words associated with atomic bombs. Code words like ‘Taj Mahal’, ‘kumbhakaran’, Sierra’ and ‘White House’ were used instead. DRDO and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) scientists would wear army uniforms so that CIA satellite could not figure out the plan.
Infact, to avoid satellite detection, the scientists used to work in the dark of the night. Even the atomic bomb tested in Pokhran, Rajasthan was brought to the city from Bangalore in a non-discreet truck and the truck’s driver was an Indian secret agent. Another security measure that was followed included Indian scientists not visiting Pokhran in groups.
The scientists did not leave back any hints for foreign secret agents. Nothing that would raise a red flag. The details of the secret operation were known to very few people; apart from Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the other people to know about this mission were Atomic Energy Commissioner Rajagopala Chidambaram and ministers George Fernandes, Jaswant Singh and L.K. Advani.
11th May 1998. Just a chilled out day in India. Nobody would have thought that the day would change the course of Indian history, military strength and economy. A day when 3 atomic bomb blasts changed it all for the nation. Under ‘Operation Shakti’, India successfully managed to conduct underground atomic bomb tests at Pokhran on 11th May 1998.
On 13th May 1998, two more underground atomic bomb tests were conducted, after which the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government announced to the world that India was now capable of being called an atomic power nation. A nation armed with nuclear power. When the announcement was made, it was followed by a promise. A promise that India won’t be using these atomic weapons. A promise that if at all a need arises where India can use the weapons, it will not do so against a nation that does not have nuclear power. A promise and announcement that no further nuclear tests will be conducted in India.
The current state of affairs:
According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), there are only nine nations in the world that possess approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons. These nations are the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel and INDIA. And although India’s name featuring on this list is a thing of pride, let’s not forget the damage a nuclear weapon had caused on August 9th, 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Let’s not forget that while nuclear weapons are a sure shot way to victory during wars, a pen is always mightier than the sword. That conflicts can be resolved by negotiations; war is never the answer.