Operation Shakti

Christian White
May 17, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: ABJ Abdul Kalam in 2008. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On May 11, 1998 and May 13, 1998, India successfully test fired the Shakti-I, II, III, IV, and V nuclear missiles. [1] The operation was led by aerospace engineer and late president DR ABJ Abdul Kalam (shown in Fig. 1). [2] The first 3 tests of these tests were a thermonuclear device, a fission device, and a low-yield device. Two days later two more sub-kiloton nuclear devices were detonated underground, which Indian nuclear experts have said were aimed at developing nuclear warheads for a variety of Indian weapons systems developed in recent years. Among these is a ballistic missile with a range of about 1,500 miles, known as the Agni. The missile is thought to have been the intended delivery vehicle for the largest of the devices tested on May 11, identified in Government statements as a "thermonuclear" or hydrogen bomb.After these tests, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared India a nuclear state, making it the sixth country to join the nuclear club of nations. [1]


These tests were widely welcomed in India, with little dissent from opposing political parties and no sign of the Gandhi inspired pacifism that had been a strong influence in Indian policy in the years after independence in 1947. In fact, a Times of India poll registered a 91% approval rating for the tests. It suffices to say that Indian reactions were overwhelmingly positive. [1]

The reactions from outside India could not have been more different. Dozens of governments expressed anger that India had broken an informal moratorium on nuclear testing that went into effect in 1996, when India and Pakistan stood aside as numerous other nations met at the UN to endorse the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which prohibited all nuclear tests. For instance, former president Clinton remarked that the US was deeply disappointed and would review trade and financial sanctions against India under American nonproliferation laws, Britain voiced its dismay and Germany called the tests a slap in the face for the countries that had signed the treaty. The most distraught was Pakistan, hinting that they would consider conducting a nuclear test of its own, its first. [3] Despite US efforts to discourage this (they offered to repeal the Pressler amendment that cut off military aid and $600 million of F-16 fighter-bombers), on May 28, 1998, Pakistan detonated 5 nuclear devices of its own. [4] Regardless of the situation with Pakistan, many Indians believe that the message of Operation Shakti was intended for China, as it poses a greater long-term threat to India than Pakistan. [3]


May 11 is now National Technology Day of India, as named by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It has been recognized as such since 1999, to mark India's scientific prowess and technological advancements. Each year, the day is given a theme, to bring light to a different aspect of Indian Technological Advancement. For instance, the 2010 version of National Technology was held at the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) here on Tuesday with a rededication by the scientific community to maintain its leadership in food science and technology. According to V. Prakash, director the CFTRI, Dr. Prakash said that in the past 60 years, many technologies had evolved from CFTRI laboratories and reached small, tiny and cottage industries as well as medium, large and global industries. The observation of National Technology Day was a tribute to the staff involved in the development of these technologies. On display, were new products from the Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL), including an aloe vera-based performance enhancing drink and energy bars and ready-to-eat food items made by compressing various types of binders containing nutrients, vitamins, carbohydrates, fat and proteins. [5]

© Christian White. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] J. F. Burns, "Nuclear Anxiety: In India; New Delhi Premier Indicates Resolve to Produce Nuclear Weapons," New York Times, 16 May 98.

[2] "Kalam Justifies Expenditure on Defence," The Hindu, 2 Dec 02.

[3] J. F. Burns, "India Sets 3 Nuclear Blasts, Defying a Worldwide Ban; Tests Bring a Sharp Outcry," New York Times, 12 May 98.

[4] M. Donohue, "Pakistan's Nuclear Program," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2014.

[5] "CFTRI, DFRL observe National Technology Day," The Hindu, 12 May 10.