Operation Shakti- When India and Kalam Masterminded CIA’s Intelligence Failure

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Technology has grown so fast. From 2G to 3G and now Jio 4G, the satellites in the space have played a major role in this growth. Google and Facebook are tracking you completely, they know who you are talking, what you are talking and how much time you are spending.

We use Google Maps to travel from a place to other, satellite tracking has become easier. When we go back at late nineties, all these technologies weren’t so easily accessible. It was a luxury only with some intelligence agencies, one of them was Central Intelligence Agency(CIA). The satellite imagery was so good that it can even click a vehicle’s name plate.

CIA had eyes over India and Pakistan and they supported Pakistan from the backdoor and India had a clue of that. Indian Govt. was planning to test their nuclear bombs in 1998 like the one they had in 1974. CIA was monitoring each and every move of India’s nuclear scientists.

Pokhran Site 1998
Pokhran, the site for nuclear tests for India              Image source

Pakistan’s foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan appealed to the world community that they should put some sanctions on India to quit it’s nuclear ambition. There were comments from the then Indian Army Chief Gen V.P. Malik that India should test their nuclear arsenal. Pakistan was getting impatient and the CIA was alert, trying to watch our every move.

Apart from all this news statements, there was a lot of preparation going behind the scenes which no one even thought about. India had a giant task at hand and facing an intelligence agency, which is technically more sophisticated and powerful than India wasn’t easy. But, Indian security forces had a plan.

To make the nuclear tests successful, Indian involved the Indian Army, to be specific, the  58 Engineer Regiment. For the starters, world was amazed when just after three months of Vajpayee’s taking over as the prime minister, the tests were done. But, for a sane mind, it takes a lot many more months to plan and conduct the nuclear tests. So, a general conclusion that this was planned way before than any govt. change.

Raj Changappa, senior journalist was the first one to break this story on India Today. Indian army planned for the nuclear tests for more than one and half years. All the nuclear scientists were given army fatigues and assumed false ranks.

APJ Abdul Kalam and other scientists in Army Fatigue

If the nuclear tests have to be made, then the Pokhran needs to be prepared to be capable of resisting a test. It meant involvement of equipment transport and movement of trucks which could be easily tracked by CIA. To fool CIA, the trucks and others were moved on regular basis, which they thought to be a normal practice and nothing unusual.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had an assumed name of Col. Prithviraj and he never traveled to the site in groups. They always traveled alone to avoid any eye balls or any suspects.

The memories- APJ Abdul Kalam and Pokhran

The military uniform did his job. The spies of CIA thought that these were regular military officers and have no relations with nuclear scientists. This was a big win of the Indian army and the operation planners. APJ Abdul Kalam headed the complete planning with Col. Gopal Kaushik of the Indian Army.

The complete work was done at night. Even the truck’s tire tracks were also removed by the daylight. The whole mode of transport was done after night sets in. The operation was code worded as Operation Shakti, there were many code words like the White House, Taj Mahal and Kumbhakaran. The scientists of DRDO, AMDER AND BARC were involved in the layout, nuclear weapon assembly, detonation and obtaining the test data.

Pokhran operation Shakti
Army uniforms were used to maintain complete secrecy

As the head of DRDO, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam spoke to several senior journalists but he told them that he won’t be able to give any interviews for coming weeks. Finally, the day arrived. On 1 May 1998, at 3 am, the bombs were transferred in four Indian Army trucks under the command of Colonel Umang Kapur. Before that, the bombs were flown on Indian Air Force, AN-32 planes to Jaisalmer base from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

The thermonuclear device was placed in a shaft code named as ‘White House’, which was around 200 m dee. ‘Taj Mahal’ was the code word used for shaft code as deep as 150m, it had the fission bomb.

India successfully detonated three bombs, taking the world by storm. Few countries condemned the tests, which included US, China, Canada, Japan and stopping India’s aid and imposed sanctions on India. However, Russia, UK, and France refrained from condemning India. The only thing mattered was how the complete intelligence agency of America was in shock that how India failed them, so easily.

Celebrating Kalam and Vajpayee and other leaders of BJP
Celebrating Kalam and Vajpayee and other leaders of BJP

Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced that India successfully tested the nuclear bombs and he quoted, “India is now a nuclear weapons state. We have the capacity for a big bomb now. Ours will never be weapons of aggression.”

Indeed, this is something we should be proud of. Indian Army as always prove their mettle and operation was successful.

Source- India Today, Quora

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