Republic TV on the 72nd Independence Day of India was opportune to interview some of the most courageous souls in the country who fought through unbearable circumstances for the safety of our nation.
One such person who spoke to Republic TV was Colonel Gopal Kaushik. The brave heart, who was a secret keeper of Pokhran, leads the 58th regiment of army corps of engineers. He was assigned to oversee operation Shakti which was the series of five nuclear bomb test explosions conducted by India at the Indian Army's Pokhran Test Range in May 1998. Col. Gopal Kaushik, in an exclusive interview to Republic TV, spoke about the amount of complexity the mission had.
In his words, "The unit (58th regiment of army corps of engineers) only knew that something was going to happen and that when it does we have to be prepared".
The secretive operations of Pokhran still remain as one of the most iconic missions of India when we outfoxed the CIA, who had earlier warned us from testing nuclear weapons in the country. Colonel Gopal Kaushik was among the intelligent army officials who helped keep the proceedings of the operation airtight due to which India became a nuclear superpower on May 11, 1998.
The esteemed Army official was among the masterminds which helped the project steer away from notice of the CIA. The secret that held immense national significance was even disclosed to his immediate family.
"I was traveling to Bangalore when the mission started and I took out one hour every day to get away from my family to go to an STD both to make a call. I used to allow people behind me to finish their calls after which I would make a call to three places - Mumbai, Delhi, and my Unit. I would take information from Mumbai and Delhi and pass it on to my unit". There was a lot of deception involved in the mission," said Col Kaushik.
Colonel Kaushik in his talk also emphasized the cooperation with which the tasks were carried out by his unit.
"It was the army's job to lower the bombs as well as to fill the shafts with sands in order to prevent any leaks. And we had to do it in one night" he said. "The army when they work together hand in glove, there are wonders created" he added
The day of the blast, Col. Kaushik states that all the scientists and members of the unit stood with their legs wide open to dodge any cracks that might come up. The operation that was supposed to take place at 10:30 in the morning could not be executed due to the deceiving winds which pointed towards populated areas. Hence, after a confirmation from the PM, the bomb was detonated at 3:40 pm.
"Our heart was racing and the entire team stood with legs wide apart to escape any cracks that might happen due to the explosion," he said
Immediately after the explosion, the US released an issue stating that there has been a major earthquake somewhere between Hyderabad and Pakistan. However, in a press conference that was held by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee after receiving the results, he stated that the 'earthquakes' were a part of a major nuclear test that was conducted by India.
The first press release that was released by the Indian Government after the tests read:
"As announced by the Prime Minister this afternoon today India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pokhran range. The tests conducted today were with a fission device, a low yield device, and a thermonuclear device. The measured yields are in line with expected values. Measurements have also confirmed that there was no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. These were contained explosions like the experiment conducted in May 1974.
These tests have established that India has a proven capability for a weaponised nuclear programme. They also provide a valuable database which is useful in the design of nuclear weapons of different yields for different applications and for different delivery systems. Further they are expected to carry Indian scientists towards a sound computer simulation capability which may be supported by sub-critical experiments if considered necessary..."