India was denied the nuclear power status for a long time for the sole reason that it had refused to sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty). After social empowerment, we can now see an N-powered India. Just the way we took years to socially empower our women, India took more or less the same time to recognise its nuclear energy potential and tap it.
India undertook its first nuclear journey on September 7, 1972 when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi authorised scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to detonate an indigenously designed nuclear device. Throughout its development, the first nuclear test explosion named the 'Smiling Buddha' was conducted by India on May 18, 1974 at Pokhran.
Following this, explosions of five nuclear devices, three on May 11 and two on May 13, 1998, were conducted by India at the Pokhran test range. Codenamed 'Operation Shakti', the tests were carried out under former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's term. These tests resulted in a variety of sanctions against India. <b1>
Remniescing the 'nuclear decade'
Looking back at the last two decades, India has undergone a sea change in its foreign policies - thanks to forward-looking leaders leading the country. Though there was a long period of lull in the nuclear movement, after the Pokhran tests, other nations suddently saw India as a 'sleeping' giant which had suddenly woken up to discover its nuclear potential.
The late 1990s could be termed a 'nuclear' decade that marked an era for crucial nuclear tests conducted by India. At this juncture, India sort of rose in prominence and suddenly our Big Brother or Uncle Sam recognised India too as a potential nuclear power. Our leaders saw this as the best time to begin efforts to N-empower India. It was the NDA government-led by Atal Behari Vajpayeee who kickstarted the 'nuclear' movement. Ironically, they were the first ones also to join hands with the Left and cry foul when Dr Manmohan Singh re-started this movement.
After nearly an year of struggles - with the Government almost losing power, the Left walking out of the alliance, and finally the passing of the trust vote, boosted and reinforced UPA's campaign to make India a member of the world nuclear empire. Strong public opinion in favour of nuclear power, too pumped new blood into the country's veins.
India finally awoke to a bright nuclear dawn on September 6, 2008. On August 1, 2008, the IAEA approved the safeguards agreement with India, after which the United States approached the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to grant a waiver to India to commence civilian nuclear trade. The 45-nation NSG granted the waiver to India on September 6, 2008 allowing it to access civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries.
However, India can commence nuclear trade with the United States only after the deal is passed by the US Congress and is likely to be the main focus of its last session which started on September 8, 2008.