New Delhi: The Pokhran-II nuclear tests were hailed by President Ram Nath Kovind on its 20th anniversary today as a “bold decision” that repositioned India on the global stage and Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying it reflected the courage of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee leadership.
India had carried out five underground nuclear tests in Pokhran in the Thar desert in Rajasthan on May 11 and 13, 1998.
Kovind said the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests demonstrated the country’s scientific capacity and political will and had a far-reaching impact on how the world saw India.
He recalled the contribution of his predecessor APJ Abdul Kalam, who had led the scientific team that made preparations for the tests.
Kovind also applauded Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was the prime minister at that time, for his “courage” to go ahead with the tests.
“In 1998, the government of the day took the bold decision to go ahead with the tests – and reposition India on the global stage. The Pokhran tests of May 1998 were a demonstration of both scientific capacity and political will,” the President said.
The nuclear programme of the country was “built brick by brick” in a period of technology denial, Kovind said in his address after presenting awards to innovators on the occasion of 20th National Technology Day, marking the anniversary of the 1998 tests.
He was referring to the sanctions imposed against India after the 1974 nuclear test that was conducted when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister. The sanctions, led by the US, had deprived India of critical nuclear and space technology.
“Those tests had a far-reaching impact on how the world came to see India – and on our foreign policy, our strategic relations and eventually our international technological collaborations,” he said.
In a message, Modi also praised the skills of the country’s scientists.
“We also remember with great pride, the skills of our scientists as well as the courage of our political leadership for the historic tests in May 1998,” the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO) tweeted the prime minister as saying.
In the era of technology and innovation, the youth should get acquainted with more aspects of technology, the prime minister was quoted as saying in another tweet.
“Our Government is taking numerous steps to create an eco-system that furthers outstanding research, innovation and strides in technology … on National Technology Day, we salute our stupendous scientists and technology enthusiasts,” he said.
After the 1998 tests, the US and its allies had again imposed sanctions against India but a decade later, the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation deal was signed. India conducted its first nuclear test in Pokhran on May 18, 1974 after which the US and several countries imposed sanctions on the country.
Post Independence, Kovind said India began to climb the value chain in technology production in the areas of space and atomic energy and today, it has expanded to best-in- class capacities in communication technology, IT, pharmaceutical and biotechnology.
“This has changed perceptions about our country and helped both our people and our economy. In the past year itself, we have had stand-out achievements such as the launch of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System – 1L,” he said.
Noting that India was making preparations for the Chandrayaan-2 mission to the Moon, the President said the country has a formidable reputation in the drugs and vaccines value chain.
“And in the manufacture of medical devices and diagnostic machines, I am optimistic we will replicate our success in generic drugs,” he said.