The false myth of ‘smiling Buddha’
LIKE 11 & 13 May 1998, India betrayed the international community decades ago about its first nuclear bomb test Pokhran-Ion 18 May1974 by calling it as “peaceful nuclear explosion”. In order to disguise the destructive capability of nuclear weapon, India glorified its successful nuclear bomb test with the popular religious names of times as Operation Smiling Buddha or Operation Happy Krishna. India is the culprit in introducing nuclear weapons in South Asia under the so-called label of ‘peaceful nuclear explosion.’
Despite calling Pokhran-I as Operation Smiling Buddha or Operation Happy Krishna; a question always remained unanswered in mind that ‘how a nuclear explosion can ever be peaceful?’ Here lies the answer; contrary to Indian claims of Pokhran-I to be peaceful, inhabitants of Pokhran Test Range village in Rajastan have an entirely different narrative to tell about dangerous effects of nuclear explosion. The residents succumbed to cancer, genetic abnormalities, birth malformations, polio and environmental hazards after the 1974 test. It is said that “Almost every family in Pokhran or nearby areas seems to have a tragic story about a loved one who died unexpectedly of cancer.
Land and dwellings were devastated as a result of ‘Smiling Buddha’, crops became white, skin and eye diseases followed shortly.” On the other hand, Indian authorities contend that the villagers’ claims are unsubstantiated. The deceitful Indian government doesn’t allow any well-versed research about the continuous health hazards around Pokhran in order to hide the effects of its ‘peaceful nuclear explosion’ to its own citizens in particular and world at large. As a result, ignorant residents are unable to demand aid since they cannot directly attribute the problem to nuclear weapon test due to the lack of a proper research and statistical survey.
Subsequently, former Director of India’s nuclear program Raj Ramanna said in 1997, “The Pokhran test was a bomb, I can tell you now… An explosion is an explosion, a gun is a gun, whether you shoot at someone or shoot at the ground… I just want to make clear that the test was not all that peaceful.” This statement clearly nullified the India’s false narrative about its purported peaceful nuclear explosion. He was one of the members of Pokhran-I team. And this is the ultimate truth for the nukes. India tried to hoodwink about its offensive nuclear intentions in the past as being done today by continuing its hazardous nuclear journey. Its stated nuclear doctrine of ‘No First Use’ is just a mere sham.
Pokhran-I of 1974 was the first confirmed nuclear weapon test outside the five-member states of nuclear club, echoed dangerous alarms in the international community. Almost a decade back, major powers peacefully settled the Cubin Missile Crisis in 1962 and were passing through the time period of détente during the Cold War from 1969-1979. Due to its mischievous nature, Indian nuclear test contributed towards a disturbing nuclear endeavour which posed serious challenge to the existed nuclear regime of that time and posed threat to other countries. The Indian nuclear test compelled states especially Pakistan to follow the line of nuclear deterrence in order to counter Indian hegemonic behaviour against its territorial integrity in South Asia.
In response to India’s nuclear explosion, Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a multilateral export control regime was created to monitor the international nuclear proliferation in 1974.It was an attempt to control the export of materials, equipment and technology that could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. Years after, NSG decided to require full-scope IAEA safeguards for any new nuclear export deals which effectively ruled out nuclear exports to India in 1992. Interestingly, NSG waived this restriction on nuclear trade with India in 2008 as part of the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement. And this is the biggest flaw of the international system to support India in its nuclear ambitions by completely overlooking the fact that NSG was created in response to nuclear explosion by India. Despite its tall claims on nuclear disarmament, there is no halt to India’s bilateral nuclear cooperation with other states. India enjoys a tinted legacy of poor nuclear security record which is intentionally overlooked by the international community. There are recurrent incidents of illicit nuclear trade in India which can lead to nuclear terrorism but everyone is quietly watching the irresponsible behaviour of a nuclear state and in a way encouraging India’s insane pursuit of nuclear weapons.
By calling its first nuclear explosion test as peaceful in the 1970s, India nurtured its deceitful narrative which it always maintained by its countless heinous crimes whether these are poor nuclear safety records, offensive military posture or arms race. The reckless Indian nuclear ambitions pose serious challenges to regional strategic equilibrium and create a security dilemma for other countries in the region. The next-door neighbour Pakistan always aspires to have a peaceful regional environment for the people of South Asia but India’s hegemonic ambitions obstruct in achieving regional peace and prosperity. Pokhran-I was never an end to Indian hunger for nuclear explosions. In fact, 18 May 1974 was the beginning of Indian tale of lies and betrayal over the cost of human welfare and development goals. The Buddha could never smile over the costly and dangerous business of nuclear weapons over the humanity.
—The writer is visiting Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.
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