Managing India's Nuclear Forces

Managing India's Nuclear Forces

Verghese Koithara
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 294
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  • Book Info
    Managing India's Nuclear Forces
    Book Description:

    India is now enmeshed in the deterrence game -actively with its traditional adversary Pakistan, and potentially with China. At the same time it is finding easier access to fissile materials and strategic technologies. In order to deal with these developments safely and wisely, the nation needs a much more sophisticated and multidisciplinary understanding of the strategic, technological, operational, and cost issues involved in nuclear matters.

    In this important book, Indian strategic analyst Verghese Koithara explains and evaluates India's nuclear force management, encouraging a broad public conversation that may act as a catalyst for positive change before the subcontinent experiences unthinkable carnage.

    The defense management system of a nuclear power absolutely needs to be sound and thorough. In addition to the considerable demands of managing its nuclear forces, it also must control conventional forces in a manner that forestalls nuclear escalation of a conflict by either side. Expanding and upgrading nuclear forces without enhancing deterrence is dangerous and should be avoided. India's nuclear force management system is grafted onto a woefully inadequate overall system of defense management.

    Koithara dissects all of these issues and suggests a way forward, drawing on recent developments in deterrence theory around the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2267-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    For a variety of political and organisational reasons, India is saddled with a nuclear force management system that is seriously inadequate for the work it needs to do. Two of these reasons stand out prominently. The first is, with the debatable exception of France, India is the only Nuclear Weapons State (NWS) that started its nuclear programme without the clear intention of producing weapons. For the first decade and a half, the programme was wholly civil oriented — its objectives were to produce electricity, modernise the economy, and contribute to national self confidence in the post colonial era. As a result,...

  6. 1 Strategic Considerations
    (pp. 18-52)

    A country like India, which is in a dynamic mutual deterrence relationship with one adversary and in a potential one with another, has to factor in a range of strategic considerations while developing its nuclear forces further. There are geopolitical factors, such as the future trajectory of relationships with Pakistan, China and the US, and the power equations with the first two. There is also the matter of changing global perceptions about nuclear weapons. Forecasting the strategic future is not easy in times like the present that are characterised by politico-economic flux and trend discontinuities. Yet, thinking about the future...

  7. 2 The Challenge of Deterrence
    (pp. 53-86)

    The challenge of managing nuclear deterrence is shaped by both the external strategic and internal resource milieus each country finds itself in. Every NWS has developed and made use of its deterrence capability in a different way. Even the US and the USSR were far from mirror images. Yet, the immense destruction that nuclear weapons can wreak and the speed with which it can be wrought have no parallel in other military operations, and therefore provides a common thread of logic that links the deterrence approach of every country. The understandings from six-and-a-half decades of global deterrence history, and the...

  8. 3 A Unique Nuclear Path
    (pp. 87-105)

    Of all the countries that became NWS, India took the longest to develop both an operational nuclear bomb and an operational nuclear tipped missile. The reasons for this are several and include international constraints, leadership attitude and a dysfunctional system of management. How much each of these factors has contributed to India’s tarriance is worth examining. The general belief in India is that the progress has been slow primarily because of international constraints that restricted technology flow. A look at how other NWS had gone about developing nuclear weapons will show that almost all of them, like India, had to...

  9. 4 The Triad
    (pp. 106-121)

    India’s 1999 DND states that the country shall create ‘a triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets (National Security Advisory Board 1999).’ The basic logic behind triad is to expand counterforce problems for the enemy and improve the penetrativity and reliability of one’s delivery vehicles. There are three countries which currently have triads for strategic nuclear weapons delivery — the US, Russia, and Israel. (Israel’s sea-based leg uses cruise missiles launched from conventional submarines.) France had a triad but now uses only SSBNs. Britain had never acquired land-based missiles and uses only SSBNs now. China effectively gave up its...

  10. 5 Nuclear Hardware
    (pp. 122-141)

    The term ‘nuclear hardware’ covers bombs and warheads, missiles, missile submarines, and the wide range of equipment required for the effective performance of C&C. All of this hardware must be capable of safe and reliable operations. Possibilities of design error and component malfunctioning are myriad in these systems, involving as they do both high technology and high interactional complexity. Technical problems could disable a weapon or produce a nuclear or a non-nuclear accident. As strategic weapon systems are dangerous, expensive and few, the need for reliability and flawless performance is very high. According to Ashley Tellis, the biggest challenge facing...

  11. 6 Hardware to Forces
    (pp. 142-161)

    There is a serious underestimation in India of the effort needed to transform nuclear hardware into operationally effective nuclear forces. The approach needed to create and operate nuclear forces, as opposed to exercising C & C over them, is not very different from that used in respect of conventional forces which use advanced technology equipment. The ‘nuclear button’ is directly and tightly controlled by the top political leadership in every country, other than Pakistan. Yet, in all these countries the basic pattern of managing nuclear forces — evaluation of hardware, creation of infrastructure, force and operational planning, training, and exercises — is...

  12. 7 Operational Level Management
    (pp. 162-174)

    The key concepts of deterrence theory such as unacceptable destruction, assured retaliation, and credibility in the eyes of the adversary need to be implemented operationally. Adequate operationalisation is necessary for combat preparedness as well as for demonstrating leadership seriousness about deterrence. The level of operationalisation of a nuclear force can vary depending on many factors. There is the issue of how seriously the possibility of deterrence breakdown is taken into account. If it is considered extremely unlikely, or the consequences stemming from it are underestimated, there will be reluctance to expend the resources necessary to achieve a high degree of...

  13. 8 India’s Nuclear Force Management System
    (pp. 175-193)

    The system used to exercise C & C over nuclear forces and the one used tomanagethem are different in every NWS. While the reins of the C&C system are held tightly by the NCA in every country, the system that manages nuclear forces everywhere, except in India, is largely a sub system of the country’s defence management system. In the US the Department of Energy (DOE) produces warheads and bombs in its laboratories on the basis of specifications jointly prepared by the departments of defence and energy. Beyond that the DOE plays no role in the management of...

  14. 9 Nuclear Strategy
    (pp. 194-210)

    The basic purpose of nuclear strategy is to clarify the role nuclear forces should play in enhancing a country’s security and delineate how that role should be played. A nuclear strategy is both influenced and constrained by the other strategies that a country pursues. It must therefore be anchored in the country’s overall national security strategy. Major powers, because of their greater spread of interests and superior resources, need a well integrated national security strategy much more than smaller countries. The overall national security strategy should bring political, economic, diplomatic, defence, deterrence, and internal security strategies together. This is necessary...

  15. 10 Development of Nuclear Forces
    (pp. 211-234)

    The conditions enveloping India’s nuclear force development changed radically during 1988–90 when India and Pakistan acquired the operational capability to deliver nuclear weapons in each other’s territory using aircraft. They changed substantially again during 1998–2000 when the world accepted the two countries as de facto NWS and both acquired ballistic missiles capable of reaching deep inside the other’s territory. The third major change took place in 2008 when the barriers that had been erected beginning 1970 to prevent the transfer of nuclear and dual use technologies to India began to be lifted. Availability of fissile material for nuclear...

  16. 11 The ‘Use’ of Nuclear Forces
    (pp. 235-246)

    For some years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when leaders and strategic thinkers were trying to understand the implications of the nuclear revolution, many had thought that nuclear weapons could be used for a variety of political and military purposes. These were thought to include deterring an adversary from launching any kind of aggression, coercing him within the limits of international acquiescence, preventing him from acquiring nuclear capability of his own, and should he succeed in acquiring it, fighting and winning a nuclear war against him. But the experience gained subsequently, through political competition and military conflict, led...

  17. 12 The Many-faceted Challenge
    (pp. 247-274)

    The essential idea presented in this book is that to promote India’s security, as it rises on the global stage, India needs to manage its nuclear deterrence capability much better than how it is doing today. The experience gained during the first half of the Cold War has made national leaders and general publics the world over understand that nuclear weapons can play only a very limited role in global politics. The end of the Cold War and the rise of new nuclear powers have sharpened this understanding. The risks stemming from the further spread of nuclear weapons have also...

  18. References
    (pp. 275-286)
  19. About the Author
    (pp. 287-287)
  20. Index
    (pp. 288-294)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-296)