The Indian Nuclear Test in a Global Perspective

K. Subrahmanyam was Director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses from 1969 to 1975 and from 1980 to 1987.
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • March-April 2023
    From the Archives

    The Pokhran test carried out by the Indian Atomic Energy Commission on 18 May 1974, by and large, evoked predictable reactions. Those countries that had come to accept the conventional wisdom on the issue of nuclear proliferation expressed regrets ranging from mild to profound. Some Third World countries expressed satisfaction but Pakistan reacted very strongly. The Indian Government’s declaration that the test was part of a series to exploit nuclear explosive technology and that India did not intend to manufacture nuclear weapons was accepted by many governments, while others expressed varying kinds of reservations about it. Within the country, we were proud of the achievements of our scientific and technological community and angry at what we considered to be double standards of those who muted their protests about the tests of the five nuclear weapon powers but came out loud against the safe and well-contained test at Pokhran. Since then, the declaration that this country does not intend to manufacture weapons has been repeated in many forums, both inside and outside the country. At the same time, India’s right to conduct peaceful underground explosions for developing technology has been reasserted and it has been pointed out that this country did not break any treaty but had reserved the right to carry out these explosions since 1967, when it had protested against the prohibition of such peaceful explosions under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This was one of the reasons why India abstained from that treaty.