Was India’s first nuclear test named Smiling Buddha in response to the US fleet stationed in the Bay of Bengal? Had India not tested the nuke; what would be the result?

By Sunil Kumar

There are two versions why India’s first nuclear test was called “Smiling Buddha”.

Device detonation was on 18 May 1974(Buddha Jayanti) – a festival marking the birth of Siddhartha Gautama aka the Buddha.

Also; according to Shekhar Gupta in his column “National Interest”;

“Why was the code word to announce the success of Pokharan-1 in 1974 “Buddha is smiling”?

My friend and former colleague Vinay Sitapati (look for his fine biography of P V Narasimha Rao, Half-Lion, next week) finds the answer in his research.

It seems Raja Ramanna(CDO of BARC; considered father of India’s nuclear programme) was also aware of the history of Vaishali(a mahajanapada)’s destruction by Magadha(the most powerful kingdom of the time).

The legend is, Buddha was upset about it and thought the war could have been avoided if Vaishali too had deterrent military power rather than its so-called direct democracy so nobody would take hard decisions. “You can only have peace between equally strong or equally weak nations,” he is supposed to have said; that’s why Ramanna told Indira Gandhi “Buddha is smiling” as India had acquired its deterrence. “

The US Seventh fleet was sent by Nixon and Kissinger in December 1971 to support their ally Pakistan. In response; the Soviet Union sending a fleet forced America and Britain to withdraw.

India’s nuclear test came 3 years later. Nixon’s tilt towards Pakistan and appeasement of China led to India’s first test. America’s intelligence establishment was caught unawares; however Japan had already informed them that the possible site of the explosion was in the Thar desert. China responded a day later tersely informing via their news agency that India had carried out a nuclear test. Bhutto sent a letter to the U.S and various other countries.

Buddha in Sarnath Museum (Dhammajak Mutra) Loc...

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in Buddha in Sarnath Museum (Dhammajak Mutra) Location:Sarnath Museum, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nixon was deepthroated and caught in the Watergate scandal; which led to his impeachment later in 1974. Subsequent U.S administrations were friendlier to India.

India’s test was a suitable deterrent and reinforced its stature globally. The geopolitical jungle operates on power and self-interest; and hypocritical posturing. If there was no nuclear test; Pakistan would have gone ahead anyways and the Chinese had already carried out tests in occupied Tibet(1962). The U.S; given to grandiose and self-justifying interventions across the planet would have remained indifferent.

Just my perspective.

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