nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Implications for India if it revokes its No First Use nuclear weapons policy

Nuclear rethink: A change in India’s nuclear doctrine has implications on cost & war strategy

A nuclear doctrine states how a nuclear weapon state would employ its nuclear weapons both during peace and war. Economic Times ET Bureau|, Aug 17, 2019,

“……..  revoking the NFU would have its own costs. First, India’s image as a responsible nuclear power is central to its nuclear diplomacy. Nuclear restraint has allowed New Delhi to get accepted in the global mainstream. From being a nuclear pariah for most of the Cold War, within a decade of Pokhran 2, it has been accepted in the global nuclear order. It is now a member of most of the technology denial regimes such as the Missile Technology Control regime and the Wassenaar Arrangement. It is also actively pursuing full membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Revoking the ‘no first use’ pledge would harm India’s nuclear image worldwide.

Parting away with NFU would also be costly otherwise. A purely retaliatory nuclear use is easier to operationalize. Nuclear preemption is a costly policy as it requires massive investment not only in weapons and delivery systems but also intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) infrastructure. The latest estimates of India’s nuclear weapons by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists point to a small arsenal of 130-150 nuclear warheads even though it has enough militarygrade plutonium to produce 200 warheads.

In fact, when compared with the estimates a decade earlier of 70 nuclear warheads, there has only been a modest increase in India’s nuclear inventory. If India does opt for first use of nuclear weapons and given that it has two nuclear adversaries, it would require a far bigger inventory of nuclear weapons particularly as eliminating adversaries’ nuclear capabilities would require targeting of its nuclear assets involving multiple warheads.  The controversy around the supposed low yield of its Hydrogen weapon test in 1998 further complicates this already precarious calculation.

Similarly, first use of nuclear weapons would require a massive increase in India’s nuclear delivery capabilities. There is yet no evidence suggesting that India’s missile production has increased dramatically in recent times. Moreover, India is yet to induct the Multiple Reentry Vehicle (MRV) technology in its missiles, which is fundamental to eliminating hardened nuclear targets. Finally, India’s ISR capabilities would have to be augmented to such a level where India is confident of taking out most of its adversary’s arsenal. According to a senior officer who had served in the Strategic Forces command, this is nearly an “impossible task”. Finally, India would have to alter significantly its nuclear alerting routine. India’s operational plans for its nuclear forces involve a four-stage process.  Nuclear alerting would start at the first hints of a crisis where decision-makers foresee possible military escalation. This would entail assembly of nuclear warheads and trigger mechanisms into nuclear weapons. The second stage involves dispersal of weapons and delivery systems to pre-determined launch positions. The third stage would involve mating of weapons with delivery platforms.

The last and final stage devolves the control of nuclear weapons from the scientific enclave to the military for their eventual use. Canisterization of missiles has combined the dispersal and mating of weapons into a single step, cutting down the effort required for achieving operational readiness. Even then, this model does not support first use of nuclear weapons as it gives ample warning to the adversary of India’s intentions. There is certainly a need for a reappraisal of India’s nuclear doctrine.

All doctrines need periodic reviews and India’s case is no exception. Given how rapidly India’s strategic environment is evolving, it is imperative to think clearly about all matters strategic. But if Indian policymakers do indeed feel the need to review the nation’s nuclear doctrine, they should be cognizant of the costs involved in so doing. A sound policy debate can only ensue if the costs and benefits of a purported policy shift are discussed and debated widely.  https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/nuclear-rethink-a-change-in-indias-nuclear-doctrine-has-implications-on-cost-war-strategy/articleshow/70718646.cms

August 19, 2019 - Posted by | depleted uranium, India, politics

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: