Operation Smiling Buddha: All About Pokhran Test that Made India Nuclear Power

The test was named ‘Smiling Buddha’ because it was conducted on Buddha Purnima that year, and the message conveyed by Raja Ramanna, the director of India’s premier nuclear research institute Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi also said,

“The Budda has finally smiled.” It was the first confirmed nuclear test by a nation that was not a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Operation Smiling Buddha: All About Pokhran Test that Made India Nuclear Power

Though the yield of the device detonated at Pokhran is debated, it is believed that the actual yield was around 8-12 Kilotons of TNT. The highlight of the test was that India had managed to avoid detection by the United States and other intelligence agencies.

But India did suffer under the sanctions imposed by industrialized nations like the US which said that such tests can lead to nuclear proliferation.

India’s test came six years after the international community concluded the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 divided the world into nuclear haves and have-nots.

India undertook its first nuclear journey on September 7, 1972, when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi authorized scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to detonate an indigenously designed nuclear device. After the 1974 tests, explosions of five nuclear devices – three on May 11 and two on May 13, 1998 – were conducted by India, again at the Pokhran test range.

Codenamed ‘Operation Shakti’, the tests were carried out under former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s term. India conducted Pokhran-II tests, a series of five nuclear explosions, in May 1998 at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan.

 National Technology Day is observed every year on May 11 as a reminder of the anniversary of the Pokhran-II tests.