Smiling Buddha snippets
American intelligence during the Nixon era was caught unawares when India carried out its nuclear weapon test at Pokhran on May 18, 1974. The revelation means India managed to keep the US in the dark over ‘Smiling Buddha’ as well as Pokhran-II in 1998. A recently declassified intelligence note made public on Monday by the US National Security Archive and the American Nuclear Proliferation International History Project shows America had taken its eye off India as it was caught up with its initiatives with China and the Vietnam war. The record says: “India’s peaceful nuclear explosion on 18 May, 1974, caught the US by surprise in part because the intelligence community had not been looking for signs that a test was in the works.” Nixon administration policymakers assigned a low priority to the Indian nuclear programme and there was no sense of urgency “to determine whether New Delhi was preparing to test a nuclear device. Intelligence and production (analysis and reporting) on the topic fell off during the 20 months before the tests”. The oversight can be attributed to icy vibes between India and the US in the Nixon era. Two years before the test, in early 1972, however, the US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) predicted India could make preparations for an underground test without detection by American intelligence. The INR report warned the US government it had given a“relatively modest priority” to relevant intelligence collection activities. White House was more focused on Vietnam and “a grand strategy” towards Beijing and Moscow. Reports of a test had such “apparent reliability and seeming credibility,” that they prompted INR and other agencies to review India’s nuclear intentions. “In the end government officials (US) could not decide whether India had made a decision to test although a subsequent lead suggested otherwise,” it said.