WITHIN a year of the 1974 nuclear tests, Indira Gandhi had to impose Emergency as events spun out of her hands. Within a year of Pokhran II on May 11, Atal Behari Vajpayee lost the confidence vote in Parliament. And thereby hangs a tale.
Nuclear tests have never helped anyone— a basic lesson that Indian politicians have failed to grasp. The BJP claimed that it established India’s self- respect by conducting the Pokhran tests; but these claims didn’t help them win state elections last year. Nor is it likely that they’ll be huge vote- getters in the coming mid- term polls.
A year is a long time in a country’s history. It was no small step, but a giant leap for India— and Pakistan— to move from being a covert nuclear power to being an overt nuclear power. That makes three in the region now— no one’s about to forget China.
A year down the line, as the ambiguous milestone of the first anniversary of the nuclear tests looms ahead, it is valid to ask what the fallout has been: diplomatically, militarily...