Assessing India’s Nuclear Capabilities

12.22.14

Assessing India’s Nuclear Capabilities

12.22.14

India’s offensive nuclear capabilities are coming of age with sea-trials for its first ballistic missile submarine. The INS Arihant is expected to be introduced into service by early 2015. New Delhi plans to field between four to six similar vessels by the end of 2025 to boost its second strike capability. Pakistan is also likely to develop sea-based nuclear capabilities. Both foes are seeking to develop their own version of the nuclear triad, which incorporates air, land and sea-based systems. Some scholars have argued that second-strike capability will have a positive influence on strategic stability in the region while others have raised concerns about the dangers of a nuclear arms race. And considering the history between India and Pakistan, there is real concern that the next shooting war could spiral out of control.

For India, sea-based nuclear weapons have a credible second-strike nuclear deterrence. Nuclear submarines are capable of lurking undetected and are nearly invulnerable to even the most modern anti-submarine warfare measures. They offer a qualitative advantage to a country’s ability to retaliate after absorbing a nuclear first strike. This will dissuade an adversary, in India’s case, Pakistan, from attempting a dangerous preemptive nuclear attack.

India’s nuclear doctrine draft in 1999 envisioned the necessity for an assured survivable deterrent capability by developing and maintaining credible minimum deterrence based upon a strategic triad of nuclear forces. Threats from both China and Pakistan prompted India to work towards this goal.

India’s rise as a naval power has been in part a reaction to Pakistan, but also China’s “blue water” aspirations where by it feels threatened by the regional superpower. Beijing strategists, on the other hand, see the Indian nuclear ballistic missile submarine capability as threatening to its access to the Indian Ocean through the Malacca Strait, where eighty percent of China’s oil trade takes place. India could use its submarine to block Chinese oil imports through the strait, thereby causing major disruption in the Chinese economy.

For Pakistan, the rationale for developing a naval nuclear capability is to acquire second-strike capability against India and this would also provide the country with greater strategic depth. In 2012 Pakistan inaugurated its Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC). The navy is being integrated into the country’s command and control structure, which is dominated by the army.

Pakistan’s financial constraints prevent it from acquiring a sea based nuclear deterrent. Pakistan has no plans to deploy nuclear propelled submarines over the next few decades. Instead, naval planners have focused on acquiring more sophisticated conventional submarines, like the recently announced purchase of six Chinese built submarines, and equip them with Babur cruise missiles.

Regarding the submarine purchase from China, a senior Pakistani official told Jane’s, “the contract is in an advanced stage and discussions will not linger on for too long. Realistically, we should have a deal by the end of 2014.” In this way Pakistan can offset India’s increasingly conventional advantage in the Indian Ocean, much in the same way it managed to balance India’s conventional advantage on land.

Both countries, however, need highly secure command and control system for sea-based systems. There is a strong possibility that submarines can lose contact with their bases, leaving the submarine officials to decide about the use of nuclear weapons during a crisis. To prevent the unauthorized or accidental use of nuclear weapons, India and Pakistan have been keeping the warheads separate from their delivery systems.

Nuclear arsenals at sea also increase the risk of terrorist elements getting hold of these weapons. The international community is particularly concerned about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons due to its culture of political instability and extremism. There are several examples in which Pakistan’s naval forces were attacked by terrorist groups.

The lack of political will has prevented India and Pakistan from averting an arms race, both conventional and now nuclear. It is important for both countries to enhance strategic stability by reducing reliance on nuclear weapons and taking measures to reduce their nuclear arsenals. India-Pakistan relations have long been cleaved by deep antagonism, repeated military crises, and a costly arms race. Both countries have rarely interacted in a non-hostile political sphere and the presence of non-state actors has further exacerbated the situation. In order to avoid catastrophic misinterpretation it is essential to negotiate arms control agreements and increase transparency through exchanging information and signaling intent to improve strategic and crisis stability.

8 comments
8 comments
Faisal92
Faisal92

It's not really the lack of political will - especially on India's part. Indians will keep pursuing this mad arms race under one lame excuse or another. Hindus have gone through the slavery for centuries. That's why Indians don't want to stop the arms race.

najav12
najav12

@Faisal92 Lol coming from a people that have never ruled themselves in their history but have always been slaves.. You guys have been sodomized violated and raped by every invader from ancient Iranians, Greeks, Kushans, Sakas, Huns, Arabs, Turkics, Mongols and British. When you were not rule by these jokers you were ruled by invaders from India proper like the Mauryans, Guptas, Rajputs, Marathas and Sikhs. 


The only resistance to any foreign invaders came from Kings in India proper (Chandragupta Maurya against the Greeks, Satavahanas against Kushans,  The Guptas against Sakas, Yashodharma against Mihirakula the Hun, Vijayanagara against the Delhi Sulatanate Turkics, Rana Pratap, Marathas and Sikhs against the Mughals). And we were successful and defeated these invaders after a lot of sacrifice. you jokers only offer your bottoms started from Ambhi of Gandhara who willingly became Alexander's slave. There is not a single Pakistani Punjabi ruler in your entire history!!! The only Punjabi rulers were either Hindus or Sikhs. Right now you are slaves of the Saudis and Chinese. 


And you slaves have the  cheek to compare yourselves with superior peoples with a greater culture and history like the Indians. 

najav12
najav12

TO the Pakis below don't worry. the Indian people are solidly behind the govt in our nuclear endeavor. The ccoing years are not going to be very good for you guys as the  exsting assymmetry even in the nuclear weapons space  in India's favour increases by a wide  margin in our favour. Your are on your way to complete marginalisation and will not be able to do any significant harm to us soon.

Ali Enow
Ali Enow

Nuclear arm race is not good for all. The Nuclear proliferation in the East Asian countries will not only undermine peace and stability in the region; it will have a far reaching consequences on us 'Africa' which have signed NPT.

Acquiring second strike capability will not deter any outbreak of Nuclear wars given the fallibility of deterrence theory.

Ali Enow

royraden20149
royraden20149

@Ali Enow I concur with your view on non-proliferation however it is a joint effort and cannot be done otherwise. China is a suspect country in this game, as it may posses more nuclear warheads with at least a megaton yield compared to the US, as recently inferred by a study done by a US University. Also the west cannot be completely trusted as a century of colonisation and slavery is a harbinger of its intentions. Pakistan is a small cog in this wheel, but they punching beyond their size by playing this dangerous game. India of course is only country that it is trying to maintain stability in a world that is getting suicidal. That is why even after 26/11 Mumbai attacks which hit our financial centre, we restrained our offensive, which believe me for an aggressive Aryan dominated warrior race is impossible to do. I think unless Pakistan does something incommensurably horrible  than that of another 26/11, the peace will remain

Azhar Ayub
Azhar Ayub


 Nuclear weapons delivered by aircraft are vulnerable to a preemptive strike, but mobile nuclear-capable missiles already provide second-strike capability to India and Pakistan. It means both countries do not need sea—based deterrent for second-strike capability. If, however, both are determined to develop sea-based nukes, then it is highly unlikely to avoid escalation without any institutionalized crisis stability mechanism and confidence building measures in maritime realm.

AazarKund
AazarKund

 India is developing and building its navy constantly. Indian dream to dominate Indian Ocean rests not on its not lame warships and submarine capabilities but rather on its poor leadership, bad training and wanting safety practices. They have to measure up to their ambition – but once they do, they shall invite unwelcome adversaries. Most importantly, India has to think about Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian’s statement of 1994, where he stated, “the Indian Ocean is not India’s ocean…” It is merely named on the geographical, not political basis. It suggests that Beijing is aware of Indian activities in waters and it also possess far better navy with latest naval technology. 

Alleezae
Alleezae

The common trait between two nuclear rivals is deterrence. But how far this deterrence is going to work is questionable particularly in the present environment. Despite of halting, India very speedily moves towards military modernization and up gradation which develops a security dilemma for regional states especially Pakistan. Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state with credible minium deterrence policy actually capable enough to dissolve Indian hostile ambition towards its very state. Indian nuclear ambition is such an expensive business which makes its own nationals to suffer due to this obsession.

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