In May 1998, India woke up to the reverberation of nuclear weapons. The government authorised five N-tests, including a thermonuclear weapon or fusion device. Predictably, there was a fair amount of public celebration. While the government of the day presented a serious, mature face to the world as it announced the tests, it was clear there was considerable satisfaction at India's nuclear coming of age.
What have the nuclear tests achieved? With hindsight, can we say the celebration and self-satisfaction were justified? Proponents of the test suggested that India as a nation would be more secure and confident, that Pakistan and China would get a strong message, that the United States and the West would have to take India more seriously as a power, and that our general stock in the world would rise.
The truth is probably none of those things has turned out to be correct, and if India has garnered respect internationally it is not because of the bomb. It's because of the economy, stupid!
Since '98, the relationship with Pakistan has not been significantly better than it was before the N-tests. We have been on a rollercoaster with our neighbour, and it hasn't all been fun. Here's the record: the Lahore summit in February '99; the Kargil war, May-July '99; the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Kandahar in December '99; the Agra summit in July 2001; the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December '01; the virtual break in diplomatic relations with Pakistan and the mobilisation of Indian forces in January '02; the terrorist attacks on an army camp in Jammu and on the Akshardham temple in Gujarat in '02; the ending of India's military mobilisation in '03; the return to the peace process later in '03; and the US' announcement that Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally in '04.