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Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur VM (Retd), Additional Director General, CAPS

Two IAF pilots were privy to India’s top secret when Buddha smiled on 18 May 1974

Buddha smiled for the first time on 18 May 1974 in the deserts of Pokhran. I was a fourth-term cadet at the National Defence Academy and the news galvanised us all. Someone heard it on his (illegally held) transistor and then I remember running to Gol Market, our shopping centre, to buy a newspaper to read about it. But the import, other than the euphoria, that we had ‘joined’ the nuclear club and that no one could mess with India now, soon receded in the background; for us cadets, it was back to the ragda, or grind, of Academy life while the nation went about fighting the crippling embargoes that were applied by the West thereafter. 

The smaller-than-Hiroshima device that was used in that peaceful nuclear explosion resulted in huge tremors in Western capitals, but what galled them most was the fact that all their preying satellites and CIA agents in India did not see it coming. Even in India, only a few scientists and some Army top brass were privy to the test – news reports of those days say that even the defence minister came to know after the earth shook in Pokhran.

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Source: The Print

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