Twenty years ago, India scripted a success story on May 11 and May 13, 1998 when five nuclear tests were performed in Rajasthan’s Pokhran under the guidance of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had assumed power only a little while ago.
It was a completely secret exercise only known to a select few.
On May 11, 1998, Jaisalmer woke up to an ordinary day. However, there were a few bulldozers heading to a particular site to dig up well-like sites. Sand was filled into these wells.
Within a few minutes, they were ignited. It was followed by a huge thunder that brought loud cheer from a few scientists at the site who had kept a constant vigil on all the developments.
In Delhi, Vajpayee along with the then Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani, former Defence Minister George Fernandes, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, Brijesh Mishra, were sitting with bated breath.
However, the moment, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who happened to be the Scientific Advisor to Vajpayee, sent a message on the hotline, saying, “Buddha smiles again”, all of them jumped with joy.
The former Prime Minister immediately called the scientists to congratulate them on their success.
The tests left the Western world shocked and surprised.
India gained a new identity after the tests. However, there were economic sanctions imposed by the US.
An unfazed Vajpayee, however, continued with the next round of nuclear tests two days later.