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India's Technological Triumph: The Story behind National Technology Day

  • 11 May 2024
  • Every year, on May 11, India celebrates National Technology Day. The day honours the successful nuclear test conducted at Pokhran on May 11 and May 13, 1998. These tests, collectively known as "Operation Shakti," marked a significant milestone in India's technological and scientific capabilities and established the country as a nuclear power. National Technology Day is also celebrated to commemorate the country's progress in several other technological achievements. The theme for 2024 National Technology Day is "From Schools to Startups: Igniting Young Minds to Innovate."

Here's the story behind National Technology Day and the events leading up to it:

Operation Shakti

On May 11, 1998, India conducted a series of underground nuclear tests at the Pokhran Test Range in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. It was India's second nuclear test; the first, codenamed Smiling Buddha, was conducted in May 1974.The testing began on May 11, 1998, under the codename Operation Shakti, with the detonation of one fusion and two fission bombs. On May 13, 1998, two further fission bombs were detonated, and the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, declared India a full-fledged nuclear state.

India performed Operation Shakti to display its nuclear power and establish itself as a nuke-armed nation. The tests were viewed as a response to regional security concerns, as well as an assertion of India's sovereignty in national defence. These tests demonstrated India's ability to design and develop nuclear weapons. Following the tests, a number of major countries, notably Japan and the United States, imposed various sanctions on India.

  • Test Preparations: Unlike Pakistan's high-altitude granite mountains, the shrubs are scarce, and the dunes in the Rajasthan Desert offer little protection from probing satellites. The Indian Intelligence Bureau was aware of US spy satellites, and the CIA had been monitoring Indian test preparations since 1995. As a result, the testing required full secrecy in India while also avoiding detection by other countries. The 58th Engineer Regiment of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers was tasked with preparing test sites to escape detection by US spy satellites.
  • Project Chief Coordinators: Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was the scientific adviser to the Prime Minister and head of the DRDO and Dr. R. Chidambaram, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Atomic Energy. Both were the chief coordinators when the Pokhran II (Operation Shakti) test was performed.

Scientific and Technological Achievement

Operation Shakti showcased the scientific and technological prowess of India's defence and scientific community. The successful tests were a culmination of years of research, development, and indigenous efforts in nuclear technology. Here are some key aspects of the achievement:

  • Indigenous Development: One of the most notable aspects of Operation Shakti was that India developed and tested nuclear weapons entirely through indigenous efforts. Despite international sanctions and limited access to advanced technology and materials, Indian scientists and engineers successfully designed, developed, and tested nuclear devices.
  • Nuclear Weaponization: Operation Shakti demonstrated India's ability to weaponize nuclear technology. The tests validated the design and functionality of the nuclear devices, including fission and thermonuclear (fusion) devices. India became one of the few countries in the world capable of producing and deploying nuclear weapons.
  • Advanced Scientific Research: The success of Operation Shakti showcased the advanced scientific research capabilities of India's defence and scientific establishments. It involved multidisciplinary expertise in nuclear physics, materials science, engineering, and explosives technology.
  • Technological Innovation: The development of nuclear weapons requires cutting-edge technology and innovation. Indian scientists and engineers demonstrated their ability to overcome technical challenges and develop sophisticated nuclear devices capable of achieving desired yields and military effectiveness.
  • Secrecy and Security: Operation Shakti was conducted with a high level of secrecy and security to prevent leakage of sensitive information and to ensure the success of the tests. The meticulous planning, coordination, and execution of the tests underscored India's commitment to maintaining national security.

Strategic Significance

The nuclear tests conducted during Operation Shakti had significant strategic implications for India. They provided a deterrent against potential adversaries and bolstered India's national security posture. It enhanced India's strategic capabilities and reinforced its national security posture by deterring aggression and promoting regional stability.

It was a clear signal of India's resolve to tackle regional threats and maintain strategic stability. By demonstrating its nuclear capabilities, India reaffirmed its commitment to an independent foreign policy and a viable deterrent. The operation also served as a strong message that India's security interests would not be jeopardised, creating an atmosphere of peace and security across the region.

Operation Shakti evoked a sense of pride and national identity among many Indians. It symbolised India's assertion of its sovereignty, self-reliance, and technological prowess on the world stage. It also influenced South Asian geopolitical processes, notably about India's nuclear-armed neighbour, Pakistan.

The nuclear tests were not an encouragement of an arms race, but rather a deliberate decision to protect national security interests. India has continuously campaigned for global nuclear disarmament and has a no-first-use nuclear weapons policy.

Global Response

Operation Shakti had significant international implications, triggering a global debate on nuclear proliferation, arms control, and non-proliferation norms. It led to sanctions against India by some countries but also prompted a reassessment of India's role in global security dynamics.

Along with the United States, countries including the UK and Germany expressed their disapproval, emphasising their support for global non-proliferation efforts.
Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations at the time, released a statement expressing his deep regret over India's choice of conducting nuclear testing.

However, they also sparked a nationalistic fervour and pride among many Indians, who viewed the tests as a symbol of India's emergence as a major global player.

Theme of Innovation

National Technology Day not only commemorates India's technological triumph but also celebrates the spirit of innovation that drove the country's success in achieving a significant milestone in its scientific and strategic journey. It serves as a reminder of the power of innovation to overcome challenges, drive progress, and shape the destiny of nations.

In addition to commemorating the nuclear tests, National Technology Day also emphasises the importance of innovation and technological development in addressing societal challenges, fostering economic growth, and enhancing India's global competitiveness.

Here's how innovation played a pivotal role in this significant event:

  • Multidisciplinary Expertise: Operation Shakti required multidisciplinary expertise in nuclear physics, materials science, engineering, and explosives technology. Indian scientists leveraged their diverse skills and knowledge to overcome technical challenges and innovative solutions for the successful execution of the tests.
  • Global Recognition: The innovative success of Operation Shakti garnered international recognition and sparked a global dialogue on nuclear proliferation and disarmament. India's demonstration of indigenous technological capability challenged existing paradigms and reshaped perceptions of its role in global security dynamics.


National Technology Day serves as a testament to India's technological achievements and its determination to harness science and technology for national development. It is a day to reflect on India's progress in various fields of technology and to inspire future generations to pursue excellence in science, engineering, and innovation. Operation Shakti remains a defining moment in India's history, highlighting the country's scientific and technological capabilities and its commitment to safeguarding national security interests. It paved the way for India's emergence as a responsible nuclear power and a key player in global security affairs.


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