It’s time for India to act upon launching its nuclear deterrence triad, especially given the geopolitical scenario.
For all the viciousness of political thrust and counterthrust between parties over the past four decades, India’s political establishment has shown rare consistency and unanimity in pursuing the national nuclear programme and its weaponization. From Indira Gandhi through to AB Vajpayee on whose respective watch Pokhran-I and Pokhran-II took place, and from Manmohan Singh to Narendra Modi, the importance of nuclear power for civilian purposes and for our national security has not been lost on the political leadership. The lion’s share of the credit for our achievements in the nuclear field must, of course, go to our brilliant scientists and technologists who have battled all manner of obstacles put in their way by nations and agencies averse to India acquiring nuclear capability. But without the backing and support of those in power from across the political spectrum, it could have all ended in shambles. Instead, we had the Prime Minister on Monday proudly announce that the country’s first indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, had successfully completed its first deterrence patrol. The success of the submarine “gives a fitting response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmail”, he added, clearly targeting Pakistan. The Chinese, too, have been, in a sense, put on notice. We do live in a rough neighbourhood.
The fully operational submarine completes the sea leg of India’s nuclear triad, giving it all-round nuclear strike and counterstrike capabilities after the induction through the 2000s of the Agni series of land-launched nuclear missiles and the arming of our fighter aircraft including Sukhoi-30s, Mirage-2000s (as well as the on-order Rafale) which can all deliver nuclear warheads. It is important here to underline that the development of the triad is very much part of India’s nuclear doctrine premised on the twin principles of minimum credible deterrence and a no first-use policy. Which is also why it is significant that the Prime Minister iterated that India’s nuclear triad will be “an important pillar of global peace and stability”. As for the achievement itself, well, only a handful of countries — the United States, Russia, France, United Kingdom and China — can deliver nuclear warheads from a submarine and India now joins that club.
The 6,000-tonne Arihant, armed with submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), is capable of delivering nuclear warheads up to 750 km away. The range, however, say experts, is a limitation, and India requires the capability to deploy SLBMs capable of striking targets thousands of kilometres away. Also, the number of nuclear-powered and nuclear-missile carrying submersible vessels of the Indian Navy will need to be enhanced appreciably. To this end, a second nuclear submarine, the INS Arighat, is already under development and expected to be operational by 2020. But a dose of realism also needs to be injected to counter the excessive chest-thumping in certain quarters — the US has 72 operational nuclear submarines, Russia over 40, UK and France between 8-12 each and China 10 (equipped with JIN-class nuclear-tipped missiles with a range of over 7,000 kilometres). So, while India’s newest nuclear-weapons delivery platform is a welcome and much needed as it completes the country’s land-air-sea ability in terms of nuclear deterrence, we have to keep the nuclear programme well-funded to ensure that future security challenges can be met effectively.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer