The mid 1970s saw Southern Asia, and indeed much of the world, in a state of flux; from the Asian point of view, the Vietnam War threatened to bust from the borders of North and South Vietnam to engulf the entire continent, involving, among others, the nation of India. From the standpoint of India itself, the nation stood at the threshold of a new direction from which it may not be able to turn back. Indira Gandhi, the nation’s motivated and passionate Prime Minister, sought to bring India into the nuclear club with the testing of nuclear weapons.
On the other side of the globe, the United States, led by President Richard Nixon, had the awesome responsibility of keeping nuclear proliferation in check for the entire world. In the midst of all of this, both Gandhi and Nixon had their own personal demons to face. In this paper, to be more specific, the Indian Nuclear Testing of 1974 will be discussed within the context of the international political climate, the situation with India and the U.S. , and the personal situations of the two leaders involved.
Political Reasons for India’s Nuclear Test The reasons for India’s so-called peaceful nuclear explosion of 1974 has its justification, at least in the eyes of India and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, stretch back to the first days of an independent India and reach forward into the complicated political climate of 1970s Asia and beyond.
Barely three decades into independence by the early 1970s, India found itself in the midst of what can best be described as a political identity crisis; despite its ability to stay independent and keep foes such as Pakistan at bay, the nation lacked its own identity; for example, looking back at the tensions between Pakistan and India, many at the time claimed that Pakistan and India were one and the same, with Pakistan as a sort of suburb of the mainland of India itself .
Beyond the internal struggles that kept India from truly moving forward, there were external forces at work in Asia, and indeed the entire world, that placed upon India the burden of having to establish a reputation for strength among the nations of the world. Overall, the biggest plague sweeping through Asia and threatening to overtake other parts of the world as well was the force of Communism.
Because of the proliferation of Communism that was fostered by the then superpower of the U.S. S. R, other nations such as China were embracing this set of political, social, and ethical values. Moreover, the Vietnam War in the early 1970s still raged through Southeastern Asia, bringing the full force of the American military to Asia to battle the growth of Communism in South Vietnam, which would represent a key stronghold in Southeastern Asia and put the U. S. at a disadvantage during a time when the Cold War was at its apex .
What all of this turmoil served to do is to create a great deal of apprehension in the corridors of Indian power and make it apparent that the nation would need to take decisive action to prove its strength and ability to defend itself in the event of aggression on the part of any nation that would think it weak. Historically, however, before this point, India was known as a nation that was not interested in nuclear activities.
Internationally, the world’s nations sought to limit the number of nations that held nuclear weapons, based on the argument that if fewer nations had nuclear weapons, the likelihood of widespread nuclear war and destruction would be greatly reduced. For this reason the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was created and signed by many of the nations of the world with the limitation of nuclear activity as the top priority .
However, at that point, India declined to sign the treaty, arguing that the treaty put some nations at a disadvantage, which was a problem for India because of the threat that Communism and neighboring nations posed during that time. In fairness, however, the anti-nuclear philosophy of India was in place basically since the birth of the nuclear bomb itself.