Beyond India's second-strike ability

Discussion in 'Strategic Forces' started by LETHALFORCE, May 14, 2012.


    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Feb 16, 2009
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    Beyond India's second-strike ability | The Japan Times Online

    LONDON — There was a sense of deja vu when, days after India successfully testfired its nuclear- capable, 5,000-km-range Agni-V ballistic missile, Pakistan responded by testfiring an "improved version" of its nuclear-capable Hatf-4 intermediate range ballistic missile.

    At a time when Indo-Pakistan ties seem to be improving, these tests have struck a jarring note. Though both New Delhi and Islamabad informed each other of their impending tests — in accordance with a 2005 pact stipulating that the two neighbors would give due warning to each other before missile tests — recent events underscore the continuing security dilemma between them.

    There is a bigger story behind India's test that also needs to be recognized. With its latest test, India has gained entry into an elite club of nations that includes only five other states — United States, Russia, China, France and Israel. And it marks a culmination, in many ways, of efforts that started in 1983 as part of India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.

    From the first test of Agni-I in 1989, it has certainly been an eventful road for India's missile program. It was time for Agni-V when the 3,500-km-range Agni-IV was tested in November 2011.

    Though it will take a few more tests before the missile becomes operational and inducted into the armed forces, the message is clear — India's second-strike capability is safe and secure.

    India's no-first use nuclear doctrine relies fundamentally on a credible second-strike nuclear capability.

    The Agni-V, by bringing the Chinese heartland into India's missile orbit, makes the Sino-Indian nuclear dynamic more stable than before. India's Agni-III has already been deployed very close to the Chinese border to give India a credible second strike capability.

    Now, for the first time, India has demonstrated a missile range that can cover China. This will give Indian military planners greater flexibility in the deployment of their missile arsenal. The test was psychologically important for India, boosting its confidence to deal with China as an equal.

    China is already at a much advanced stage in its missile capability. China's nuclear arsenal is more than double India's estimated 100 warheads, and it continues to deploy both land- and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. China's reaction has been predictable, underscoring once again the disdain that sections of the Chinese elite feel toward India.

    Although officially China just emphasized that India and China are not rivals, the state-run Global Times was openly dismissive of Indian claims, arguing that India "should be clear that China's nuclear power is stronger and more reliable," and "for the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China."

    India has no need to enter into an arms race. It needs to be more sophisticated in its response.

    Though sections of the media have portrayed Agni-V as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), technically Agni-V is not. It is an intermediate range ballistic missile; there is a good reason for New Delhi to underline the fact that India is not yet ready for an ICBM.

    So far, India has been successful in crafting a narrative about its missile program that gives it a defensive orientation. India wants a missile capability to strengthen deterrence; there is no need to antagonize the rest of the world by suggesting a capability that it can strike at will any corner of the world. While this might satisfy some hypernationalists, it would also generate apprehensions about India's true intentions and make the Indian narrative of its peaceful rise problematic.

    What message India sends out to the rest of the world is especially important at a time when India is seeking membership in global export control regimes — the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group, and the Wassenaar Arrangement — based on its impeccable nonproliferation credentials.

    The reaction of the U.S., underlining India's "solid nonproliferation record," is also very instructive considering the distance that U.S.-India ties have traveled in the last few years. India is widely considered a responsible nuclear power and the logic of India's tests is well understood.

    The U.S. today welcomes India's rise as a balancer in the Asia-Pacific and as a powerful democratic partner at a time when America's traditional allies in the West no longer have the will and the ability to carry the burdens of global power.

    So, while India's focus remains firmly on China, Pakistan continues with its obsession with India. The latest missile test merely underscores an already well-established reality that Pakistan maintains a credible deterrence against India.

    The more confident Pakistan is about its nuclear posture, the better it is for the region as it will bring greater stability in Indo-Pakistan ties. The real problem today is not Pakistan's nuclear capability but the reluctance of the Pakistani security establishment to unequivocally renounce terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The recent tests in South Asia do nothing to change that reality.

    Harsh V. Pant teaches at King's College London.
    pmaitra likes this.

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Feb 16, 2009
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    "Second strike" capability in India and China helps secure peace, argues University of Otago postgraduate student Sumantra Maitra. | Cyber Warzone

    "Second strike" capability in India and China helps secure peace

    Two long-range ballistic missile tests by two nuclear powers in one week was something the superficially peaceful world hadn't seen for a long time.

    The North Korean rocket launch was allegedly a cover-up for its ballistic missile programme and the Indian Agni V prompted strong responses.

    The North Korean effort might have been a flop, but the Agni V missile was accurate, prompting a media frenzy on an impending "arms race" between China and India. And apparently the world is doomed because of that.

    From what I gathered from the various opinion articles and the comment boards, the arguments can be broadly classified into these categories.

    1. Nuclear warheads and the means of delivery are horrific for world peace. So the mad race which started between China and India should immediately be stopped.

    2. Poor Third World countries should take care of the poverty and other legions of problems than take part in arms build-up.

    3. All aid should be stopped and both these countries should strictly be under punitive sanctions.

    Each is arguable. First, the view that nuclear weapons actually guarantees world peace is often argued quite convincingly, including by realist scholars like John Lewis Gaddis and John Mearsheimer, who dubbed the Cold War as the era of the Long Peace. But that is not all.

    The idea that nuclear weapons are looked on as offensive is fundamentally flawed.In fact, nuclear weapons are not ever meant to be used as weapons of mass destruction.

    The roles of nuclear power in the defensive strategy of the great powers changed essentially from the 1960s onwards, and they were looked at for deterrent power rather than destruction.

    The problem with nuclear weapons is the danger of proliferation, particularly to rogue or failed states.

    They can be used as bargaining chips and cannot be controlled by the responsible international community.

    But they can only be kept under check by strict United Nations supervision and punitive measures.

    In a continuation of the first argument, the potential arms race in South Asia is mentioned.That, though, was inevitable, and has been happening for the past three years.

    Both China and India, in accordance with their economic rise and increased international roles, are undertaking massive militarisation.

    China, which is undeniably way ahead of India in conventional and strategic forces, is keeping the United States in mind, and trimming down the mega flab of the People's Liberation Army - introducing more technological punch, including its first aircraft carrier, satellite-destroying missile and cyber warfare group.

    India, the sole democracy, however flawed, in a tough neighbourhood, is afraid of China's proxy on its western border.

    Thus far, it has the better navy and air force, but this is threatened by China's military modernisation.

    Knowing it couldn't match China dollar for dollar, India went for maximum deterrence.

    The Agni missile is a "second strike" weapon, and for all practical purposes will never be used.

    It is only to be used after India is devastated by a massive "first strike", when millions have already died, and half of the major cities are already smoked to cinders.

    This missile gives guarantee that India will still be able to "punish severely the perpetrators of that particular outrage, so that their continuation in any form or fray thereinafter will be doubtful", in the words of General Padmanabhan in 2002, when asked about India's second strike capability.

    Since we all know wars, most importantly postmodern wars, are between unequal forces, we can safely assume that this missile actually secures against misadventure or broader war in the region between the two most populous nations of the world.

    And by the way, here's something for the peaceniks and commentators in various Western forums: both India and China, have official "no first use" and "minimum credible deterrence" policies, unlike the United States or Russia or, for that matter, any other nuclear weapon-carrying state.

    The second and third arguments are about poverty and smell of colonial snobbery and superiority, especially when India and China are actually trying to bail out Europe.

    This whole Third World nomenclature should be carefully looked at again.

    Further, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee actually voluntarily wished to give up the aid from Britain, mentioning that the aid is "peanuts compared to the development, and space programmes spending" of India, which caused a major uproar in the British Parliament.

    Clearly, it's puerile for the world to expect India and China investing billions of dollars from Afghanistan to Africa, sending warships to tackle piracy off Somalia's coast and mining in South China Sea, not to invest in their own military.

    There are, indeed, valid arguments about priorities.

    Both India and China suffer from massive poverty and unequal wealth, not unlike the West's growing divisions in society.

    Both face a breakdown in law and order occasionally and face the biggest threat of Islamic fundamentalism, none of which can be tackled with aircraft carriers or intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    It is also important to note that both the Governments of India and China have behaved in a sensible fashion, unlike the jingoistic media of both countries. Signs of mature times are ahead, hopefully.

    A few more ballistic missiles will not alter the balance of the global geo-strategic scenario.

    It is a just a part of the natural progression that with economic might comes military spending.

    It would be quite naive not to expect that.
  4. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

    Mar 10, 2009
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    EST, USA
    So what next? Not hoopla, not rhetoric, not hyperboles, but this:
    • TEL test
    • SLBM test
    • work on minitaurzing our nukes

    do the most while the West is still in good humour.

    Look closer home (must be British media).
    Yeah, do that already - and thank you very much!

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