It was a fine Monday morning of the 11th May 1998, when India gave the biggest shock to its international community by testing its nuclear bomb for the second time after 1974. India detonated a 43 kiloton nuclear device under the name of Operation Shakti, the test was a complete shock for the world. Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee broke the news on the television that India has successfully tested a nuclear weapon at Pokhran testing range.
The news took the international media by storm and left the intelligence agencies like CIA completely awestruck. The reactions were worth watching because CIA was spying over India’s rapidly growing intentions to develop its nuclear arsenal. CIA had deployed various spy satellites and spies in the clothes of diplomats to pick intelligence regarding any project regarding nuclear weapons. CIA has positioned its best spies on the ground and in the sky as well to pick any movement in the Indian nuclear testing site. It is said that the USA had arranged four powerful satellite that can picture a person and record its movement from space. It was nearly impossible to work on that facility without getting detected by the yanks but the Indians did it and in the best way possible.
The test was necessary for the security of the nation that’s why extensive planning process was carried out for the test. The biggest challenge is to keep the test highly secret, that’s why a very small number of people including senior scientists, senior military officers, and senior politicians were involved in the planning. The agenda is to keep the plans with a very limited number of people. The task of keeping the facility and the nuclear shafts in the continuous state of readiness and secrecy was the main objective of Lieutenant General Verma, who was the Director General of Military Operations. He kept the facility in the state in which test can be done within 10 days of the order by the government.
After the planning of the test, the facility starts taking shape for the detonation. Bomb shafts were dug under camouflage netting and the dug-out sand was shaped like shaped dunes. Cables for sensors were covered with sand and concealed using native vegetation. Scientists would not depart for Pokhran in groups of two or three. They traveled to the destination other than Pokhran under pseudonyms and were then transported by the army. Technical staff at the test range wore the military uniform, to prevent detection in satellite images.
The army regiment got even bolder. They knew the intelligence agencies were like diplomats: if you told them the truth they would never believe you. So instead of taking attention away from the two shafts they were to dig, they virtually shouted for the satellites to look. They pitched tents around one of the shafts and put up a signboard: “Water Position”. At the other site, they parked four dozers and put up another giant signboard that said “Dozer Cadre Training”. On satellite images, they stood out like smoke trails in a clear sky. After a flurry of such subterfuge, the regiment waited for the reaction. Indian intelligence agencies reported no undue concern in key countries. The army knew its ploy was working. It also realized that one of the reasons why US satellites had detected fresh activity in Pokhran in 1995 was possibly the movement of huge mounds of sands close to the wells. These were to be used to seal the shafts when the devices were lowered. The army figured that western intelligence agencies knew they had started shifting sands by studying how the winds shaped the mounds. If winds were creating new mounds, they would align them in the direction they were blowing. But if dozers were used to shift sand the new mounds contrasted distinctly with other dunes. Army planners then came up with a solution. Whenever they moved sand they monitored the wind and ensured that the mounds were aligned according to the direction it was blowing.
The CIA was shocked by this move of India because they have never expected such boldness and the fine piece of planning from the snake charmers. They were criticized on a massive level in the USA and in the whole world. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good at what they do but Indians were way better that time in what they were doing.
Source – Quora