In photos: 6 facts about Pokhran nuclear tests under Abdul Kalam's guidance

Updated: 16 October, 2020 08:58 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

Abdul Kalam was codenamed Major General Prithvi Raj and Rajagopala Chidambaram's alias was 'Natraj'

Pics:AFP
Pics:AFP

Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was born on October 15, 1931, in Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. A brilliant child, he went on to add a golden page to the glorious history of India and became its 11th President.

He specialised in Aeronautical Engineering from Madras Institute of Technology and later joined the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). He was also the scientific adviser to Defence Minister and Secretary, department of Defence Research & Development from July 1992 to December 1999.

APJ Abdul kalam

Pic/AFP

During this time, under the leadership of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he executed multiple nuclear tests in the Pokhran test range of Rajasthan.

1. Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted to execute this mission in 1996 right after he took office but due to political disturbances, the mission was stalled for two years.

On May 11, 1998, Kalam and the team successfully carried out the test firing and hoodwinked the western surveillance over Pokhran, issued to monitor India’s nuclear activities after the 1974 successful Pokhran-I codenamed ‘Operation Smiling Buddha’.

pokhran 2

The Shakti-3 nuclear site after a nuclear device was detonated underground 11 May, 1998 | Pic: AFP

2. Pokhran-II was a series of five nuclear bomb test explosions. It consisted of five detonations, of which the first was a fusion bomb and the remaining four were fission bombs.

3. After the operation was carried out successfully for which Kalam had been camping in the Thar Desert for over a fortnight, the then Scientific Advisor to Vajpayee, sent a message on the hotline, saying, "Buddha smiles again".

pokhran 2

Pic:AFP

4. Not many know how intensely this operation was kept a secret. Owing to surveillance, the scientists worked strategically to keep this mission away from the eyes of outsiders and even some insiders including George Fernandes. The then defence minister was not made aware of a confidential meeting that took place between Vajpayee, Kalam and Rajagopala Chidambaram (then atomic energy chief) to discuss the nuclear weapon tests.

5. The scientists worked only at night so that satellites would be unable to capture clear images of the region. They would place everything just as the previous day before dawn. Abdul Kalam was codenamed Major General Prithvi Raj and Rajagopala Chidambaram’s alias was “Natraj”.

6. On May 11, 1998, India test-fired its ‘Shakti-1’ nuclear missile in operation called ‘Pokhran-II’, also codenamed as Operation Shakti. Two days after, two more such tests were carried on as part of the same operation. The success of this mission made India a part of the elite club of nuclear nations.

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First Published: 16 October, 2020 08:35 IST

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