Pokhran II, twenty years later


Twenty years ago, on May 11, 1998, India took a leap into the unknown world of nuclear weapon powers with the tests at Pokhran. Though the decision was taken after great deliberation and with preparation, how the reaction of the world would affect the future of India was unknown. But today, it is certain that the action was timely and inevitable.

Obstacles removed

  • India has reason to be satisfied over having accomplished many of the objectives of Pokhran II. Indian diplomacy triumphed in turning a grave crisis into an opportunity by securing legitimacy for its nuclear arsenal and removing obstacles in generating nuclear power.
  • But the hasty enactment of a liability law, which inhibited nuclear trade, and the setback globally to nuclear power on account of the Fukushima disaster stood in the way of India benefitting fully from Pokhran II and the subsequent agreements reached.

Global nuclear market

  • The 1998 tests and the subsequent nuclear deal have brought India to the nuclear mainstream and opened up the global nuclear market for development of nuclear power without signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) or the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
  • The tests shocked the world, particularly because they were done with utmost secrecy and the India-U.S. ties hit rock bottom. 

Glenn Amendment

  • The “Glenn Amendment” refers to an amendment to the Arms Export Control Act (Section 102). Under the Glenn Amendment, if the President determines that a non-nuclear weapon state [as defined by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)] detonates a nuclear explosive device, certain sanctions apply.
  • The sanctions impose broad-ranging restrictions on various types of assistance, loans, and trade.
  • The DOD Appropriations Act of 2000, signed into law on October 25, 1999, provides authority for the President to waive Glenn Amendment sanctions.

Glenn Amendment – India

Glenn Amendment sanctions were applied to India in the wake of its 1998 nuclear test. Certain sanctions were waived in October 1999. These included sanctions on some environmental programs as well as other activities.

Five benchmarks as non-proliferation goals to normalise relations between India and US:

  1. signing the CTBT,
  2. halting production of fissile material,
  3. strategic restraint,
  4. strengthening export control regimes, and
  5. normalisation of relations with Pakistan.

Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty 

  • India refused to sign the CTBT, but declared a moratorium on testing; agreed to join the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty negotiations without halting fissile material production; reaffirmed minimum deterrent without giving any number of warheads; and agreed to strengthen export controls.
  • Additionally, India declared no-first-use and commitment to disarmament.
  • Though no deal could be struck, the foundation was laid for what became the nuclear deal in 2008.

India’s civilian nuclear facilities:

  • India placed its civilian nuclear facilities under perpetual safeguards, its nuclear assets remained fully insulated against external scrutiny and interference.
  • India secured rights to receive uninterrupted nuclear fuel supplies as a trade-off against safeguards.
  • It kept open its right to acquire advanced enrichment and reprocessing technologies, although it would require bilateral negotiations with the U.S. and others.
  • India’s sovereign right to test a nuclear device in the future has remained intact, although the deal would be in jeopardy in such an eventuality. 

A turning point in Indian foreign policy-2008 Nuclear Deal;

  • Presidents George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remained committed to the deal throughout the negotiations and made decisive interventions at crucial moments.
  • Apart from the specific gains in the nuclear area, the new India-U.S. partnership, which promised investment and high technology, was a turning point in Indian foreign policy.
  • On the negative side, the deal generated mistrust in Russia and China, which had to be dealt with in future years. 
  • there has been no nuclear trade till today.
  •  India’s nuclear liability law, forced on the government by critics of the deal, became a smokescreen for the U.S. to not supply nuclear material to India.
  • Another major event that has shaken confidence in the value of nuclear power in India’s energy mix was the Fukushima disaster. It has changed the global nuclear power scenario beyond recognition, though India has maintained that it is “business as usual”.


The government’s recent decision to build more indigenous reactors points to the fact that the dream of imported nuclear reactors dotting India has disappeared. India’s focus has rightly shifted to solar and other new sources of energy.


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