India’s Nuclear Program

India’s Nuclear Program

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “India’s nuclear program”. The topic “India’s nuclear program” has relevance in the “Science and Technology” section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

What is a Smiling Buddha? 

What are MTCRs? 

For Mains:

GS3:  Science and Technology- Developments in technology

Why in the news?

A film titled ‘Oppenheimer’ has recently been released, focusing on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, an American physicist renowned as the “father of the atomic bomb.” 

Origin of India’s nuclear program

  • Early Development of Indian Nuclear Program:
      • August 1947: British India partitioned into India and Pakistan.
      • Group of Indian scientists led by Homi Bhabha convinced PM Nehru to invest in nuclear energy.
      • The 1948 Atomic Energy Act established the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC). Its focus initially was on nuclear energy, not weapons.
  • Establishment of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC):
      • Significant progress began in 1954 with the initiation of construction at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Trombay.
      • This era witnessed a substantial increase in government funding dedicated to atomic research, and a heightened drive for international scientific collaboration.
  • International Cooperation and CIRUS:
    • In 1955, Canada agreed to supply India with a nuclear reactor (CIRUS).
    • As part of the “Atoms for Peace” initiative, the United States also extended support by providing heavy water for the reactor.
    • The resultant reactor, known as the Canada India Reactor Utility Services (CIRUS), achieved criticality in July 1960.
    • Despite being promoted as a peaceful initiative, CIRUS was a significant source of weapons-grade plutonium employed in India’s first nuclear test.


Pokhran nuclear tests

China Conflict Sparks Interest: 

  • In 1962, the Sino-Indian War erupted as a result of a border dispute, igniting tensions between India and China. China’s successful atomic bomb test in 1964 heightened concerns within India about its security. 


Desire for Independence and Prestige: 

  • India’s decision to abstain from signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 reflected its desire for nuclear independence and self-reliance. 
  • Strengthening its ties with the Soviet Union through the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation in 1971 underscored India’s pursuit of strategic partnerships beyond the Western world. 
  • The 1971 war with Pakistan, resulting in India’s victory, further solidified its assertion as a regional power.


First Nuclear Test – “Smiling Buddha”: 

  • Conducted under utmost secrecy, the Pokhran I test took place in May 1974, marking India’s first foray into nuclear detonations. 
  • Codenamed “Smiling Buddha,” the test was presented as a peaceful nuclear explosion (PNE), though it garnered international controversy and criticism due to its dual-use implications.


Weaponization and Challenges: 

  • India’s progression towards weaponization encountered challenges, including the difficulty in sourcing essential nuclear materials from an increasingly adversarial global market.
  • The development of the Dhruva reactor, a pivotal milestone, commenced in 1977, yet achieving full operational capacity took over a decade. 
  • The ballistic missile program, initiated in 1983, led to the creation of short-range Prithvi and long-range Agni missiles, which eventually became nuclear-capable.


Pokhran II Tests and Consequences:

  • In the 1990s, as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) gained prominence, India faced renewed international pressure to limit its nuclear aspirations. 
  • The turning point came with the Pokhran II tests, codenamed Operation Shakti, conducted in May 1998. 
  • Despite global censure and repercussions, including sanctions from countries such as the United States and Canada, India’s decision to openly acknowledge its nuclear capability marked a significant milestone in its strategic posture. 
  • Pakistan swiftly followed suit with its own nuclear tests.



Recent Developments and Current Status

  • Membership in Export Control Regimes: 
    • India’s recent accomplishments include becoming a member of several significant export control regimes. 
    • These memberships include the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016, the Wassenaar Arrangement in 2017, and the Australia Group in 2018. 
  • Pursuit of NSG Membership: 
    • India has been actively pursuing membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), garnering explicit support from several prominent NSG members, including the United States, Russia, Switzerland, and Japan. 
    • However, China has proposed an alternative approach, suggesting a two-step process that first establishes a non-discriminatory resolution for all non-Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) countries before discussing individual applications. 
  • India’s NSG Arguments:
    • In its bid for NSG membership, India has positioned itself as a responsible nuclear power. 
    • It points to its commendable track record in nonproliferation and its unwavering commitment to the goal of complete nuclear disarmament. 
    • India emphasizes that the NSG primarily serves as an export control mechanism, distinguishing it from a nonproliferation framework. 


India’s Nuclear Posture: 

  • India’s declared nuclear posture centres around credible minimum deterrence. 
  • This strategy has led to the successful development of a strategic triad consisting of various nuclear delivery systems. 
  • This comprehensive approach enhances India’s capabilities while maintaining a careful balance in its nuclear strategy.
  • International Agreements and Initiatives: 
    • While India has not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), it upholds a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing. 
    • India actively supports negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) that adheres to the principles of universality, non-discrimination, and international verifiability. 
  • Position on NPT and No-First-Use: 
    • India has chosen not to become a signatory of the NPT, asserting its independent nuclear policy. 
    • Despite this, India maintains an official commitment to a no-first-use policy, wherein it pledges not to use nuclear weapons as an initial strike. 
    • It’s important to note, however, that in a speech at the Pokhran nuclear test site in August 2019, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh indicated a potential review of this no-first-use policy, implying a degree of flexibility in the future. 


Future Prospects

  • India’s nuclear arsenal has effectively fulfilled the deterrence purpose. This was evident during the 2019 Balakot surgical strike when Indian military aircraft entered Pakistan’s territory, resulting in an aerial engagement where conventional weaponry was employed.
  • In anticipation of the upcoming G7 summit in Hiroshima this May, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan expressed his aspiration to utilize the event as a platform to strongly advocate for a world free from nuclear weapons. 
  • As the chair of G20 for the current year and having received an invitation to Hiroshima, India possesses both the influence and moral authority to lead collaborative efforts with the global community in order to mitigate the potential use of nuclear weapons. 


Sources: How a nuclear ‘chain reaction’ and neighbourhood challenges led to India acquiring its n-weapons | Explained News – The Indian Express 


Q1. With reference to Indian Nuclear Program, consider the following statements: 

  1. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) was established in 1954 in Trombay, marking a significant step in India’s nuclear research and development.
  2. India conducted its first nuclear test, codenamed “Angry Buddha,” as a response to China’s successful atomic bomb test.
  3. India’s decision to abstain from signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was motivated by its desire for nuclear independence and self-reliance.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 1 and 3 only

(c) 3 only 

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: (b) 


Q2. Consider the following :

  1. India is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), having gained membership in 2016, with unanimous support from all member countries, including China.
  2. India has consistently upheld a no-first-use policy, pledging not to use nuclear weapons as an initial strike.
  3. India’s membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) allows it to develop and sell nuclear weapons technology without restrictions.
  4. India has been actively seeking entry into the Wassenaar Arrangement.

How many of the abovementioned statements are correct ?

(a) Only one 

(b) Only two 

(c) Only three 

(d) All Four 

Answer: (a)

Q3. Assess the recent developments in India’s nuclear program, such as its membership in export control regimes, and analyze their impact on India’s nuclear standing in the international community.

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