The Indian nuclear program began before independence with the efforts of Homi. J. Bhabha when he returned to India after studies in the UK. In 1944 he established the institution that became the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. The Indian Atomic Energy Commission was created shortly after independence with Bhabha as its chairman with a focus on civilian nuclear power.
In 1962 India lost a war with China. In 1964 China exploded a nuclear device at the Lop Nor test site in Sinkiang.
India has had several debates on nuclear weapons, in 1964, after the Chinese nuclear test, in 1968, when it was pressed to join the Non Proliferation Treaty, and later when it was pressed to support the CTBT, something India had originally advocated under Jawaharlal Nehru.
Communists and some socialists opposed becoming a nuclear power, and so did many followers of Gandhi. The Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP, the Bharatiya Janata Party, supported India’s becoming a nuclear power.
Under Nehru, India had taken the lead in calling for the suspension of nuclear testing and the elimination of nuclear weapons. Nehru died in 1964, before the Chinese nuclear test. V. K. Krishna Menon opposed India becoming a nuclear power. So did Moraji Desai and J.P. Narayan. By 1968 Jasjit Singh, at the Indian Institute for Defense Studies and analyses, talked of “recessed deterrence.” Others put forth an argument that India should develop nuclear weapons to pressure the nuclear powers to disarm.
Indira Gandhi rejected the idea of a nuclear test in 1983. In 1988 Rajiv Gandhi put forth a proposal for phased global and regional nuclear disarmament which was not taken seriously by US officials. There was increasing evidence of Pakistani nuclear activity and Rajiv Gandhi authorized the Defense Research and Development Organization to restart the nuclear program in cooperation with the Indian Atomic Energy Commission.
The BJP came to power in 1996 and again in 1998.
On May 11, 1998, the Indian government conducted three nuclear test explosions at its Pokhran test site 330 miles southwest of New Delhi. Two more low-yield nuclear explosions came on 13 May. Pakistan responded with several nuclear tests of its own, the first in its history, on 28 and 30 May. The tests, which alter the former status of India and Pakistan as "threshold" nuclear states, have been widely condemned by the international community but applauded by public opinion within the two South Asian nations.
The nuclear explosions are the first since China conducted its final test at Lop Nor on July 29, 1996, and since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was opened for signature on September 24, 1996. The CTBT was signed by the five "declared" nuclear weapon states, but was rejected by India because it allowed for non-explosive nuclear testing and did not stipulate disarmament commitments. Pakistan has also refused to sign the NPT and CTBT.
On May 28, 1996, Pakistan also reported that it had conducted its own nuclear tests in Baluchistan. In January of 2001, India also fired a long-range ballistic missile from the Chandipur test site. This particular type of ballistic missile is reported to be able to carry a one ton nuclear warhead and could reach targets within both Pakistan.
The debate presumably will continue as to whether India is now more secure, or less secure. Pakistan can not match India in conventional military power, but it could in nuclear. India, by becoming a nuclear power, probably has decreased its security, because it was inevitable that Pakistan would also go nuclear if India did.
Recently there have been significant developments in India’s nuclear plans. The United States drew up an agreement with India that both President Bush and Singh see as very important. The plan will provide them with nuclear technology provided that India opens up some of its civilian nuclear reactors. An article published by BBC news can be found here.
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