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|May 11, 1998||
India explodes Hydrogen bomb
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today announced that India had conducted three thermo-nuclear tests near the Pokhran test range in Rajasthan.
The tests, conducted at 1545 hours today, involved a fission device, low-yield device and a thermonuclear device, he said.
According to defence sources, the underground tests were scheduled to be conducted at 1530 hours, but were delayed by 15 minutes. The reasons for the delay are not immediately known.
Before the prime minister made his sensational announcement, he had a brief meeting with Defence Minister George Fernandes who stated recently that India was not shy of inducting nuclear weapons if required.
The three nuclear tests registered an impact of more than 5 on the Richter Scale, the French Institute of Vulcanology in Strasbourg said.
Speaking at a crowded media conference in New Delhi, the prime minister refused to elaborate or provide details of the explosion, telling the journalists that a government spokesman would make an official statement later.
In its official statement, the government said the tests established that India had a proven capability for a weaponised nuclear programme. Deeply concerned at the ''nuclear environment in its neighbourhood,'' Brajesh Mishra, the prime minister's principal secretary said, India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pokhran desert asserting that ''national security interests are paramount and will be promoted and protected''.
''They also provide a valuable data base which is useful in the design of nuclear weapons of different yields for different applications and for different delivery systems,'' Mishra said.
In a bid to dispel the fears of the international community, he said India would continue to exercise the most stringent controls on the export of sensitive technologies, equipment and commodities -- especially those related to weapons of mass destruction.
''Our track record has been impeccable in this regard. Therefore we expect recognition of our responsible policy by the international community," he said.
His statement added, ''measurements have also confirmed that there was no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. These were contained explosions like the experiment conducted in May 1974.''
Experts saw the resumption of nuclear testing as a clear message to the Western powers, particularly the United States, that India would pursue an independent nuclear policy appropriate for its security.
Going nuclear was part of the Bharatiya Janata Party's original manifesto. In fact, it is the only item from the saffron manifesto which has made it to the national agenda of the BJP-led coalition.
India has been under considerable pressure from the international community, notably the West, not to go nuclear. In fact, with today's announcement, sanctions are expected to follow quickly.
The following is the text of the prime minister's announcement:
''I have an important announcement to make:
"Today, at 1545 hours, India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pokhran range. The tests conducted today were with a fission device, a low yield device and a thermonuclear device. The measured yields are in line with expected values. Measurements have also confirmed that there was no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. These were contained explosions like the experiment conducted in May 1974. I warmly congratulate the scientists and engineers who have carried out these successful tests.''
The BJP-led coalition government, in its national agenda for governance, had pledged to re-evaluate the nuclear policy and exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons.
The BJP manifesto also stated that India cannot remain oblivious of the new developments in weapon technology.
Significantly, India also successfully test-fired its most sophisticated surface-to-air missile, Trishul, from the interim test range at Chandipur in Orissa today.
The missile was test-fired at 1310 hrs in presence of scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation. It was specially designed for the sea skimming exercises of the Indian navy.
The United States said it is "deeply disappointed'' by India's nuclear tests and believes they run counter to an international campaign to outlaw such experiments, President Clinton's spokesman said on Monday.
Clinton is supposed to visit India and Pakistan later this year. "It's impossible to tell what the impact is on the trip at this point,'' spokesman Mike McCurry said. He said he did not mean to imply that Clinton might drop his stop in India.
David Kyd, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, told Rediff On The NeT in a telephone interview from Vienna that the IAEA had no official statement to make on the nuclear explosion. "India is not a member of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," he said, "nor does it allow IAEA inspectors to examine its nuclear installations. Therefore, the IAEA cannot express an official view on the explosion though I am sure the Americans, the Chinese and the Pakistanis will have something to say on this."
Significantly, while the May 18, 1974 blast -- conducted nearly 24 years to the day ago -- was described as a test for "peaceful purposes," there was no such statement attached to Monday's explosion.
THE REDIFF CHAT
Dr P K Iyengar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, will appear on the Rediff Chat to discuss these developments on Tuesday, May 12 at 2000 hours IST (1030 hours EST). Be there!
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