Folly in India's nuclear ways

Discussion in 'Strategic Forces' started by Sabir, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. Sabir

    Sabir DFI TEAM Senior Member

    Jul 31, 2009
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    Folly in India's nuclear ways

    14/09/2009 1:07:00 PM

    Three recent events reopen the debate on the wisdom of India's nuclear tests in 1998, as judged from within the narrow framework of its own interests. Or rather, they confirm the folly of the tests.

    K. Santhanam, director for the 1998 test sites preparations, has claimed that the hydrogen bomb tests yielded less than half the amount of projected destructive energy: 15-20 kilotonnes, not 45kt. His claims have been rejected by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former president and then scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence Abdul Kalam, and Brajesh Mishra, the Bharatiya Janata Party Government's national security adviser. But they have also been backed by some influential heavyweights, including P.K. Iyengar, former chief of the Atomic Energy Commission, and they broadly agree with the conclusions of most disinterested international observers who analysed the test data at the time.

    The reason for Santhanam's revelation may be to put pressure on the Government to conduct further tests for validating the design of India's hydrogen bomb, before the window is closed if the Obama Administration ratifies the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and pressures remaining hold-outs to follow. France, for example, conducted more than 20 tests over the course of developing a full-scale thermonuclear arsenal.

    Second, India recently began sea trials of a new nuclear-powered submarine, the 6000-tonne INS Arihant (Sanskrit for ''destroyer of enemies''), with underwater ballistic launch capability. It will become operational for combat duty in about two years. Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, launched the Arihant in Vishakapatnam on July 26. In time, with a fleet of five nuclear-powered submarines and three or four aircraft carrier battle groups, a 35-squadron air force and land-based weapons systems, India will emerge as a major force in the Indian Ocean from the Middle East to South-East Asia.
    Third, Pakistan has been publicly perturbed at the prospect of more Indian tests, nuclear-powered submarines and the civil nuclear cooperation deal with the US. In an article in the current issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen argue that Pakistan is enhancing its nuclear weapon capabilities across the board. It has been developing and deploying new nuclear-capable missiles and expanding its capacity to produce fissile materials for use in weapons. Their article adds weight to calculated leaks from the United States intelligence community expressing unease at Pakistan's nuclear programs. While they estimate Pakistan's nuclear arsenal at up to 90 weapons, a new Congressional Research Report, while confirming their analysis of an accelerated India-specific nuclear arms build-up, puts Pakistan's number of nuclear weapons at about 60.

    In other words, the critics of the 1998 tests have been vindicated. Nuclearisation has bought India neither strategic gains nor defence on the cheap. It still lacks an effective deterrent capability against China, let alone parity with the US. Doubts have now been sown in the public mind in India and in official policy circles in China and Pakistan about the reliability, robustness and resilience of India's nuclear power status. These cannot be removed without further tests that are unambiguously successful in delivering the projected yields.

    Yet any such tests would bring down the wrath of the international community and wreck the hard-fought nuclear deal with the US. At a time when President Barack Obama has recommitted to the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and entered into fresh agreements with Russia for dramatic further steps in denuclearising the world, India would be marching to a tune that everyone else finds harshly discordant. And it would launch a fresh round in the endless cycle of arms races in the subcontinent, with blame falling largely, perhaps even solely, on India.

    In the meantime, during and after the decade since nuclearisation, India continues to suffer serial terror attacks that originate, by its own account, from across the border in Pakistan; continues to confront the prospect of a war with Pakistan that would be ruinous for both; and therefore continues to invest heavily in conventional defence at the cost of social-welfare programs such as health and education which would boost economic productivity instead of draining the public coffers. Indians in huge numbers are among the poorest, unhealthiest and least literate peoples of the world. India's defence budget has doubled over the past decade to about $A35billion and rose sharply again this year.

    Nuclear weapons in Indian hands did not stop Pakistan from occupying the forbidding Kargil heights on the Indian side of the Line of Control in 1999. The effort to retake it cost over 1000 lives in the end. The two countries came perilously close to a full-blown war in 2002, after the terrorist attack on India's Parliament in December 2001. Nuclear weapons have caused a triple damage to India vis-a-vis Pakistan. They have encouraged Pakistani provocations, be it incursions in Kargil in 1999 or cover for terrorist attacks as in Mumbai in November. They bring sobriety to Indian debates on how best to respond for fear of stepping on the ladder of escalation from which it would be difficult to step off. And the fear of a nuclear war has brought far greater international interest and involvement, something that suits Pakistan but agitates India.

    Without nuclearisation, India could retaliate the more easily and have much better assurance of inflicting military defeat. With nuclearisation, India has found its policy options for dealing with a nettlesome neighbour far more sharply curtailed. The BJP, the nationalist party in power in 1998, should have been a tad more careful in what it wished for.
    There is no chance of either India or Pakistan, let alone both, renouncing their nuclear weapons unilaterally: however much we detest them, they cannot be de-tested. But the costs, risks and complications offer compelling reasons for India, leading up to the five-yearly review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty next year, to line up solidly behind recently reinvigorated efforts to achieve global nuclear disarmament.

    Ramesh Thakur is director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs and a distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario.

    Folly in India's nuclear ways - Opinion - Editorial - General - The Canberra Times
  3. mattster

    mattster Respected Member Senior Member

    May 30, 2009
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    This is a really dumb article that is not even worth posting.

    The author's premise is that nuclear weapon states will never use nuclear weapons against a country that does not possess nuclear weapons in the event of a full-blown conflict.

    This is absolute garbage especially when you are dealing with states like Pakistan. Small countries with big allies like Pakistan-China, Israel-USA may be able to get around testing by having the big partner secretly test small yeild devices for them. India has no such partner.
  4. ajay_ijn

    ajay_ijn Regular Member

    Jul 27, 2009
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    Russia. who knows may be India will partner US or develop n test secretly by themselves.
  5. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    The author assumes that the nukes were to enhance overall security. He is wrong in that sense. Nukes are deterrent for us and he is wrong to assume that India does not have a credible deterrent against China. We have the delivery systems and the nukes no matter what the yield. It is a nuke and it will destroy and spread radiation.

    Even before we tested nukes, we fought wars. We fought after we had nukes. The super powers fought war even if by proxies inspite of their nukes. Nukes are an insurance and a deterrent to not use WMDs against the other.

    I dont understand why strategic thinkers feel india was better off without nukes and what value it has got us. Dont forget, even with duds, NK has been able to stave off a US attack.

    Not to mention it is also about power/status symbol in the international geo political arena.

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