From Pokhran to Parmanu - The Story Behind India's Superpower Moment

"Today, I remember the hot day of 1998 at Pokhran: 53C. When most of the world was sleeping; India's nuclear era emerged." These are the words of India's Missile Man, and one of the biggest faces behind a landmark event - Dr. A.P. J Abdul Kalam. In a tweet sent out on May 11, 2015 (on his now de-activated official Twitter account), Dr. Kalam - who at the time of the event served as the DRDO [Defence Research and Development Organisation] chief, recalled the memories of what could be one of India's biggest superpower moment in the 90s: Pokhran-II [Operation Shakti-98].

On a sultry afternoon in 1998, the then Prime Minister - Atal Bihari Vajpayee, announced that a historic nuclear test was conducted at a test site in Pokhran, a small city in the Jaisalmer district (Rajasthan). While addressing the nation, he confirmed that around 15:45 pm, India had conducted three underground nuclear tests at Pokhran. He added, "These were contained explosions like in the experiment conducted in May 1974. I warmly congratulate the scientists and engineers who have carried out the successful tests. Thank you very much indeed." The tests and Prime Minister's subsequent announcement left the world stunned, especially since the entire mission was conducted with utmost secrecy. 

Needless to say, the news spread like wild fire and soon, the story was covered by Indian and International media outlets, with local newspapers headlining the event as a huge success for the country. The entire mission also highlighted the technological and nuclear capabilities of our country, in addition to strengthening the security. Impeccable strategy, detailed research and planning; a lot went behind the success of Pokhran-II. It is said that scientists from DRDO would go undercover, every time they visited Pokhran. They would also work at night, in order to ensure that the satellites are unable to capture any ongoing activity [and thus, successfully maintain secrecy around the mission, especially from the CIA]. It also said that only a handful of people were part of the discussions and process. Even the then Defence Minister - George Fernandes, was unaware about the meetings and conversations, that would take place between the Prime Minister and those involved in the mission.

Image Source: India Today
Apart from several key aspects, what made this event important was the fact that it changed the perception of India on a global level.  The Pokhran test made the world sit up and take notice of our nation, with some countries even raising eyebrows and questioning the 'secret' mission. However, it was marked as an event that would carve the path for India to join the 'big league of nations'. It won't be wrong to say that the combined efforts of the Government and leading scientists made it a real success. 

What's important to note is the fact that after the historic test, it was announced that India would never be the first to use nuclear weapons against other countries. Unless, nuclear weapons are used against India, in which case, the country would certainly retaliate. This theory helped establish India's military, diplomatic and political policy in the international arena. While the test led to major negative reactions from the U.S, subsequent dialogues and meetings led to the foundation of the nuclear deal in 2008, almost a decade later. In his book "How India sees the World", former Foreign Secretary Shyam Sharan had stated that over the years, India's relationship with the West and U.S has crystallised into a mutually beneficial and substantive relationship. Two decades since that day, India is now a member of leading global non-proliferation regimes and is still in the running for NSG membership. The Pokhran-II nuclear test launch was a major turning point for India, making it an event to remember, even today. 

20 years later, it was great to see actor John Abraham's production venture - Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, highlight the forgotten story behind one of modern India's most important milestone. It brought back memories of the day, that turned the tables for India on a global level. For his film, Abraham chose May 25 as the release date, which was just a few days apart from the original Pokhran-II test launch date. The film went on to gross more than 91 cr worldwide, and was declared - 'Hit'. A wonderful story of determination, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran - starring Abraham, Diana Penty among others, is one film that you cannot miss! And, what better than re-living this historic moment on the Indian Independence day this year? 

If you missed the film in theatres [or would like to re-watch it], mark your calendars! Watch the world television premiere of Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran on August 15, 2018 at 12 noon, only on Zee Cinema. Highly recommended by all of us at Team Dancebee!

Have you seen the film? 
What are your thoughts / messages for India's 20-year-old superpower moment?
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Priya Adivarekar

Priya Adivarekar - Founder and Creative Director at Diary of a Dancebee. She is also a renowned Voice Actress and award winning artiste, with serious passion for dance. When not working round the clock, she can be seen reading, enjoying a movie-binge or listening to music.
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