20 years ago

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 May 2018 08:46:42

THAT was certainly a defining moment in India’s contemporary history. Twenty years ago, that is on May 11, 1998, India conducted as many as five underground nuclear tests that catapulted the country into the elite and exclusive league of nuclear-weapons States. As India celebrated the twentieth anniversary of that moment on May 11, 2018, President Mr. Ram Nath Kovind rightly paid tributes to the nation’s scientific prowess and political will to take the bold decision to carry out the tests that could not be noticed by anybody in the world. So systematically were the tests organised and then carried out in total secrecy that even the satellites of superpowers like the United States of America could not notice the happening. And the moment the world knew about the tests, it also realised that a new nuclear-power State had emerged on the scene. In that manner, Pokhran-II was a defining moment for India, earning for the country much respect in the world. 

Prime Minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee had the strength of character and leadership capability to take the decision even when he was conscious of the negative reaction from the world’s elite nuclear club. Sanctions followed, in addition to political pressures of various kinds. The economy came under severe threat. Despite all that, Mr. Vajpayee stood his ground, making every Indian proud. Since then, India has not looked back.

Of course, Pokhran-II did not become possible in one single day. The preparations had been going for years, and the country’s scientific community was getting ready for the big moment. Then came change in political leadership. Even as he welcomed Mr. Vajpayee as his successor, outgoing Prime Minister Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao suggested the new man in that everything was ready and he could go ahead if he pleased. Thus, Pokhran-II was only a fruition of efforts spanning years -- from Pokhran-I conducted under Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s leadership. May 11, 1998, thus, represented a fulfillment of a national dream that was under preparation at least for 25 years. For, even as India conducted Pokhran-I, the leadership had decided to keep the effort on to attain higher levels of scientific prowess.

Twenty years ago, Mr. Vajpayee decided to go ahead with nuclear tests and gave the nation a point to be proud of. Now, the whole world knows that India is fully capable of conducting nuclear tests at a moment’s notice. For a nation that attained its political freedom just seventy years ago, this is no mean an achievement. That is also the reason why the world looks at India with a sense of respect and even awe.

Of course, in the past twenty years, a lot of things have changed in international realpolitik. Hard diplomatic and political policies and hard numbers in global business terms now dominate international dialogue. Fortunately for the nation, the Indian leadership is playing its cards very smartly to make the world to take notice of the Indian moves. All this began first at Pokhran-I and then moved to the next level at Pokhran-II on May 11, 1998. As the nation recalls that historic moment, it is incumbent upon the present generation of leadership as well as citizenship to prepare themselves for a new world where only those who are better than the best will survive. Remembering Pokhran-II means reminding ourselves of our obligation to future.