It was 49 years ago from today when the Buddha ‘finally smiled' in India – a message delivered, ironically, after the country performed its first nuclear test.
Operation Smiling Buddha was touted as a “peaceful nuclear explosion” with “few military implications,” possibly in an attempt to allay the uneasiness of the international community.
What happened in the test?: Operation Smiling Buddha, or Pokhran-I, was conducted at Rajasthan's Pokhran test site on May 18, 1974, establishing India as a nuclear power. A nuclear device was detonated, with a yield of 12-13 kiloton of TNT. “The Buddha has finally smiled,” Raja Ramanna, the then director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), had conveyed to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi after the test's success.
The political context: Under the prime ministership of Indira Gandhi, India became the sixth country in the world to conduct a nuclear test, and the first nation outside of the United Nations Security Council's permanent members to do so. The test came at a time when the economy was in bad shape and discontent against Gandhi's government was growing, and helped fortify her strength.
The global fallout: There was near-universal condemnation of India's nuclear advancement, with Canada imposing significant sanctions on India. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a multi-nation export control body, …