Time to review and articulate India’s nuclear doctrine, experts tell PM

NEW DELHI,IFTIKHAR GILANI : In the wake of emerging nuclear threats from China and Pakistan, strategic experts have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review and articulate the country’s nuclear doctrine in greater detail. The panel of experts, notably including former deputy national security advisor, ambassador Satish Chandra; director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, Lt Gen BS Nagal, pointed out that a change in strategic environment brought about by the technological advancements and the geopolitical shifts regionally as well as globally have necessitated to review the doctrine, put in place in January 2003 — over four and a half years after the May 1998 tests.

The main feature of the doctrine is “A No First Use Posture”, wherein nuclear weapons will be used only “in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere. It also calls for building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrent. Its main shortcoming is that it has not mentioned tactical weapons or nuclear bomblets that can be fired in the theatre of war through tanks and heavy guns. Arguing for a periodic review of India’s nuclear doctrine, the experts have asked for reinforcing a deterrence policy and signalling commitment to a massive retaliation posture in response to an attack with tactical weapons more effectively. The experts termed India’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) effort as a factor of stability. The director general of India’s premier strategic thin-tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) Jayant Prasad, said it was opportune time to debate on the issue, following the changing nuclear doctrines and postures of the great powers, especially those of the United States, the Russian Federation, and China.

Significant to mention that both China and Pakistan have not mentioned “No First Use” in their documents. In its National Defence white paper unveiled last year, China also announced to build a strategic missile early warning capability for its nuclear forces, similar to those of the United States and Russia.

The United States maintains a network of satellites and land-based radars that can detect and track the launch of an enemy long-range missile heading towards its territory. This capability makes it possible to respond quickly. Instead of India’s “minimum deterrence”, Beijing’s theory of “limited deterrence”, entails development of enough capabilities to deter conventional, theatre and strategic war and to suppress escalation during a nuclear war. This requires a sufficient range of weapons and operational capabilities, especially to respond to any level of attack.

Satish Chandra believes that appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as recommended by the Kargil Review Committee as well upgradation of the NTRO as a capable apex techint organisation would also go a long way to convey a message that any attack on India would ensure swift and massive nuclear retaliation inflicting unacceptable damage. “An indication that we have in place multiple, well camouflaged and well secured vectors which are constantly being further refined in order to enable the country to inflict unacceptable damage even after absorbing a first strike by its adversaries,” says the former Deputy NSA.

Pakistan doctrine is divided into four different thresholds before the weapons are being operationally charged during the conventional and nuclear war with an aggressor state. In an event of war between India and Pakistan, when an Indian military aggression is more likely to penetrate through Pakistan’s defences, which cannot be restored by conventional means, it would order use of nuclear weapons to stabilise the situation, as part of the first strike. While describing political threshold, it has made clear that any attempt to break away any of Pakistan’s province, significant in the wake of current crisis in the province of Balochistan, could invite a nuclear attack, if Islamabad has credible reason to believe that the integrity of the country was at stake.

Of late, Pakistan accusing India of its involvement in Balochistan points towards this scenario.

Posted by on April 30, 2016. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.