The remarks of academics and retired Indian officials confirm the redundancy of the NFU. If indeed the signals coming from India are to be taken seriously then it is a major declared policy shift that has serious implications for Pakistan's nuclear strategy.
India has adopted an increasingly belligerent posture towards Pakistan in the last few years – suspension of composite dialogue, strained diplomatic relations and severed cultural ties, and calling Pakistan a terrorist state. At the same time, India has been heavily building up its conventional capabilities, tremendously expanding its naval capabilities and even operationalising its nuclear capable submarine fleet. The latest in India's race towards a more belligerent posture is its move away from a nuclear no-first use (NFU) posture. This is indeed a worrying development in an already volatile nuclear theatre like South Asia.
The NFU refers to a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. India adopted the NFU policy in the wake of its 1998 nuclear tests. India's draft nuclear doctrine of August 1999 asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of "retaliation only". It further states, "India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail."1 Later, in a speech at the National Defence College on October 21, 2010, India's then National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon, said that Indian nuclear doctrine advocates no first use against non-nuclear-weapon states. This raises the question whether the use of nuclear weapons was an option against non-nuclear weapon states. Again, in November 2016, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, "Why do lots of people say that India is for no fist use? Why should I bind myself?"2
Recent claims by an expert on South Asian nuclear strategy, Vipin Narang, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology are worthy of some attention. At a conference held by Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in 2017, he said, "There is increasing evidence that India will not allow Pakistan to go first." He asserted that India may abandon NFU and launch a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan if it believed that Pakistan was going to use nuclear weapons or most likely the tactical nuclear weapons against it. He further claimed that India's pre-emptive strike may not be conventional and would also be aimed at Pakistan's missile launchers for tactical battlefield nuclear warheads. He went as far to say that India's strike may be a full 'comprehensive counterforce strike' that attempts to completely disarm Pakistan of all its nuclear weapons eliminating the possibility of a retaliatory strike. However, of greater concern is his claim that this change in thinking does not come from fringe extreme voices but from no less than a former Commander of India's Strategic Forces, Lt Gen B.S. Nagal, and also from the influential former national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon, who suggested in his 2016 book 'Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy', that "Serious voices, who cannot be ignored, seem to suggest that this (abandoning NFU policy) is where India may be heading, and certainly wants to head."
Pakistan has always been sceptical of India's claims of NFU. However, the remarks of academics and retired Indian officials confirm the redundancy of the NFU. If indeed the signals coming from India are to be taken seriously then it is a major declared policy shift that has serious implications for Pakistan's nuclear strategy. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Ehsan ul Haq (R), who has remained closely associated with Pakistan’s nuclear thinking while speaking at the launch of a book said, "The development is a cause of concern against the backdrop of extremist Hindutva agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party government." He further said, "Our conventional understanding of South Asia's nuclear dynamics and who, in fact, might use nuclear weapons first and in what mode may need a hard rethink given these emerging authoritative voices in India who are not content to cede the nuclear initiative to Pakistan." This indeed would be a major shift in India's nuclear policy. It would surely have a response by Pakistan making adjustments to its nuclear doctrine. However, if Vipin Narayan's remarks are to be taken seriously then it might not only be abandoning of NFU by India but doing away with the escalation ladder leading to a strategic nuclear strike. Noteworthy in this context are his remarks that India may conduct a comprehensive counterforce designed to destroy Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. While this may not be possible in practice since Pakistan's nuclear assets are well dispersed with high survivability, it does reflect the extremist turn in India's nuclear thinking. This is a worrying development for Pakistan since India has adopted a more aggressive stance against Pakistan under the BJP-led government. It is also worrisome in the light of the ballistic missile defence (BMD) system that India is developing and is already claiming operational with the ability to protect two Indian cities. Although BMD systems are not foolproof and hundred percent effective, they would give Indian decision makers a false sense of security making them act with aggression in a crisis. If indeed Indian nuclear thinking is moving towards a pre-emptive nuclear strike, then the decision makers would feel more secure knowing the BMD system would provide protection against any missile that Pakistan launches in retaliation.
Noteworthy are Vipin Narayan’s remarks that India may conduct a comprehensive counterforce designed to destroy Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. While this may not be possible in practice since Pakistan's nuclear assets are well dispersed with high survivability, it does reflect the extremist turn in India's nuclear thinking.
Pakistan has already stated its displeasure on any notions of pre-emptive strike. On April 6, 2017, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson stated that, “It goes without saying that the talk about pre-emption in a nuclearized South Asia is highly irresponsible and dangerous and will not help the cause of promoting strategic restraint and stability in the region.” He further highlighted that, “In taking appropriate security measures, Pakistan has to consider capabilities and not intentions which can change anytime."3
A move towards pre-emptive strike would be a dangerous and destabilising one in South Asia. It will surely accelerate the arms race in South Asia including nuclear. It might necessitate changes in force planning, postures, and deployment protocols. It would likely move the two countries towards nuclear readiness which also increases the chances of accidental and unauthorised use.
Some analysts have described the Indian references to pre-emptive strike "a storm in a teacup," and not to be taken seriously. It may be so. However, if Indian strategic circles are discussing the possibility of a crippling first strike against Pakistan, Islamabad cannot afford to take it lightly. It does not mean that Pakistani decision makers need to go off in a flurry and make adjustments to its force posture immediately. But it would be a good idea to keep a close watch on India's nuclear policy. In the long run, Pakistan would have to adjust its nuclear policy to cater for a first nuclear use Indian policy. Pakistan can use tactics like dispersion, camouflage and mobility to ensure the survivability of its nuclear arsenal. Moreover, Pakistan can develop sea-based nuclear capability which would give it an assured second strike capability. It is already working on a sea based nuclear deterrence. In January 2017 Pakistan announced that it had successfully carried out the first-ever test of its nuclear-capable Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) from a submerged platform. The Babur-3 SLCM is ultimately designed for use with its Agosta 90B diesel-electric submarines. This would give Pakistan a second strike capability. It would also ensure that all of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are not destroyed in a pre-emptive strike. An important lesson to take home is what the foreign office spokesperson said: "Pakistan has to prepare against the adversary's capabilities and not intentions." At the same time one must not miss the point – Indian talk of abandoning NFU is an indication of the extremist turn in the country's security and foreign policy. It is the harbinger of yet more conflict and instability in the region. Perhaps, the most important step Pakistan needs to take is to build international pressure on India to abandon its aggressive posture and move towards dialogue and conflict resolution. For nuclear weapons are not meant to be used to wage war, their primary role is to prevent war.
The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad and focuses on nuclear and arms control & disarmament issues.
1 Draft Report of National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine, Äugust 17, 1999, http://mea.gov.in/in-focus-article.htm?18916/Draft+Report+of+National+Security+Advisory+Board+on+Indian+Nuclear+Doctrine 2 "Why bind ourselves to 'no first use' policy, says Manohar Parrikar on India's nuke policy", Economic Times, November 12, 2017 3 "India’s no-first-use of N-doctrine a ploy: FO," The Nation, April 7, 2017, http://nation.com.pk/editors-picks/07-Apr-2017/india-s-no-first-use-of-n-doctrine-a-ploy-fo
Nuclear technology for peaceful purposes is not a new subject. The proposition has been under some serious consideration, for both theorists and practitioners alike, since the world was introduced to this new, unprecedented and unique form of energy. The question, nonetheless, for ‘letting it go from one nation to another’ had been in critical debates in the professional circles since 1950s – before, during and after the Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Programme. The discussion on nuclear energy’s use and spread has been renewed and become more acute in recent years. Today, Asia-Pacific is home to the world’s leading dual-use companies and expected to see the world’s most rapid growth of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is viewed, by many analysts, as gap filler in energy calculus of a nation. Pakistan is one of the aspirants ‘energy deficient’ states that focus on energy security to fulfil socio-economic demands.
Pakistan has always remained sensitive to rising energy needs viz-a-viz strengthening the energy mix, which I refer to as ‘alternatives enhancing strategy’. Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) established the first nuclear power reactor at Karachi named as Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP-1 or K-1). K-1 was a small 137 MWe Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) operationalized in 1971. K-1 contributed towards power requirement of Karachi for nearly 45 years and has lived its useful life. Presently, K-1 is under review by the PAEC because of its age. The second unit is Chashma–1 (C-1), in the Punjab province. This is a 325 MWe two-loop Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) that was installed in May 2000. Its twin unit, Chashma-2 (C-2), was installed in 2011 with an upgraded capacity of 330 MWe. The net capacity of the above three nuclear power plants is 600-700 MWe, which amounts to 4.3 per cent of the total energy mix. Though functioning efficiently, yet the installed nuclear power plants are not enough to bridge energy supply and demand gap. Pakistan, therefore, decided to install another two nuclear power plants to its grid. Pakistan, in June 2008, publicly pronounced to institute the units C-3 and C-4, each carrying 320 MWe with Chinese assistance. The work on installation and operationalization of these projects started in 2011, under the complete safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The units of C-3 and C-4 are going to have a functional life of nearly 40 years.
Despite the IAEA safeguards, the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) raised apprehensions about China’s supply of C-3 and C-4. Historically, the NSG emerged in response to the 1974 Indian nuclear explosions with the purpose of halting further proliferation of nuclear weapons. The aim of the group was to ensure that transfer of nuclear material would not be diverted to unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycles and nuclear explosive activities. The NSG elaborated and served the purpose of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT – came into force in 1970) Article III.2 and IV. It’s worth noting that China acceded to the NPT in 1992 and signed the provisions of the NSG in 2004. The contracts for C-1 and C-2 were signed in 1990 and 2000 respectively, before China joined the NSG, which imposes an embargo on sales of nuclear equipment to Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) that are not party to the NPT. Therefore, the Chinese official stance is that C-3 and C-4 are similarly “grandfathered,” and arrangements are consistent with those for units 1 and 2.
Following the progress made on C-2 and C-3, and contextually recognizing the need for more energy, Pakistan, in June 2013 announced that two 1000 MWe class reactors would be installed as K-2 and K-3 adjacent to the site of K1, in Karachi. It is expected that the K-2 and K-3 will be finalized by 2020 and 2021 respectively. The K-2 and K-3 projects are an inescapable necessity for Pakistan, as in recent times, the production of electricity is far outnumbered by the demand coupled with announced and unannounced load shedding are impeding the growth and development. Proponents and optimists believe that the fastest and cheapest way of dealing with the country’s power woes is building the K-2 and K-3 nuclear power plants. Pakistan was producing 755 MWe electricity from the existing nuclear plants and it would reach to 40,000 MW by 2050. Whereas our immediate neighbours such as India and China in parallel are producing far higher amount which is 5308 MWe and 19050 MWe at present and aspire to produce 15,000 MWe and 50,000 MWe by 2020 respectively. In the overall construct of energy generation, India and China aim at producing 200,000 MW and 400,000 MW by 2050 respectively.
It is safe to argue that the nuclear power plants might just be our only chance to prevent power starvation and insufficiency. Nuclear energy, indeed offers a greater capacity factor, lower cost and environmentally safer source at this stage. During my interaction with a group of scholars, working at the Asia-Pacific Centre of Security Studies (APCSS), USA, they opined that growing need for energy security and nuclear energy is fast, safer and cost effective pathway to mitigate power shortage.
There are some analysts who view design of K-2 and K-3 (which is known as the ACP-1000 design) to be in violation of internationally acclaimed safety standards required of a nuclear power plant. It is worth mentioning here that the criticism concerning the design of the Chinese ACP-1000 reactors is, somewhat blown out of proportion, all pressurized reactors are essentially identical and the only significant variation between diverse generations of reactors lies in their respective safety features and systems, which increase with each advancing generation of reactors. There are no constraints on the vendors to market their reactor designs without installing it inside their home territory. For PAEC, the “K-2 and K-3 are reported amongst the safest reactor systems accessible globally, as the ACP-1000 model selected for the new reactors is based on the well-tested PWR concept of which hundreds of systems are operating around the world.” The PAEC also reported the ACP-1000 design as a Generation-III plant and boasts ‘Passive Safety Systems (PSS),’ which means that no active interference is needed in case of errors or failure. These passive safety systems help the plant’s engineers or operators a maximum of 72 hours to act in case of emergency situations as it has been incorporated with additional security measures unlike the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents.
On Accidents’ Evaluation, the evidence shows that the K-1 has been running smoothly for the last 40 years, neither did it release any radiation nor did it create any other predicament for local residents. Furthermore, these fresh K-2 and K-3 power plants, according to the PAEC, are double containment plants that mean radioactivity will remain inside the plant even in case of any misfortune. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has casted low chances of releasing radioactive material from the reactors into the environment. Indeed a double containment wall to avoid the release of radioactive material makes the two nuclear reactors safe. More so, Karachi’s population is within the requirements of nuclear power plants; no development will be permitted in the vicinity of the plants. The design can withstand an earthquake of 9.0 Richter scale. Moreover, Karachi Development Authority clearly prohibits all housing society construction within 5 km of K-1.
From 1960s up to this date, only two deaths were reported from nuclear plants’ incident, which is not very high. The PAEC had carried out surveys that reveal the maximum temperature of water in Karachi is 31oC and the water that is used for cooling the plants only had increased around 2 to 3oC that was still less than harmful level for marine life that is 38oC. The current location of these plants has been regarded as feasible by the relevant authorities such as the PAEC. The National Command Authority has also set up a specialized force for the protection of nuclear installations. The PAEC’s sound credentials and accident free record of operating nuclear power plants up to this date discounts any doubts on the efficacy of K-2 and K-3.
The PAEC has initiated, to what I term a ‘comprehensive nuclear safety orchestration’, which involves risk assessment, preparedness and an evacuation plan for people living out to 15 km from the site. The military institutions, national, provincial and local disaster management authorities and traffic police are in coordination in case of emergency evacuation. The feature has become more significant after the Fukushima incident that did not have a natural cooling system as they thought that there would be no electricity shutdown in Japan. It is paramount that the PNRA and PAEC ensure a close coordination with the NDMA in order to reinforce preparedness plans to respond to natural and man-made accidents. Public awareness and engagement as a whole of society approach is essential. The institutions need to actively participate in global disaster management and nuclear risk reduction conferences, workshops and institutional training programmes to bring best practices home.
If Pakistan is not a signatory of the NPT, it does not mean that it automatically disqualifies from receiving any assistance for its peaceful nuclear programmes. In the case of non-NPT states – India has been given the benefits of the NPT states in the form of Indo-US nuclear deal, this is a sinister selectivity which compels me to call it an ‘opportunists’ leverage’. As a non-NPT state, India is keen to join the NSG to achieve global support for its civil nuclear deals. Thus, the NSG is under pressure to expand membership outside its defined criteria. Obviously India, a non-NPT nuclear weapon state, has not placed its facilities under the IAEA’s full-scope safeguards and thus, it is not entitled to the benefits of the NSG membership. It makes logical sense that non NPT states usually follow special safeguards whereas it is obligatory for the NPT member states to follow comprehensive or full-scope safeguards. Thus, it is subject to the NSG rules that forbid nuclear cooperation with states that have unsafeguarded facilities. Besides, India has not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has not addressed the moratorium on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.
Though being without widespread legitimacy, the NSG also has to recognize current realities. In time, the NSG will have to reflect emerging trends in the global nuclear power industry. As agreed in NPT Article IV, the Group by no means will oppose development of peaceful nuclear energy, even as it remains strongly opposed to proliferation. Pakistan desires to secure nuclear energy through an appropriate, universal institutional mechanism thereby securing membership in the NSG directed by a ‘criterion-based approach,’ – a mechanism that defines nuclear cooperation with these new nuclear weapon states based on equality and justice – that is consistent with current political realities. Such a proposition, pragmatic in nature and consistent with time-sensitive strategic urgency, is paramount for Pakistan as it aspires to institute two additional nuclear power plants to generate 40,000 MW by 2050 to make up for the crippling power deficiency that plagues it. Pakistan’s inclusion in the NSG based on logical grounds would indeed secure enduring trust between the group members and Pakistan.
If Pakistan is not a signatory of the NPT, it does not mean that it automatically disqualifies from receiving any assistance for its peaceful nuclear programmes. In the case of non-NPT states – India has been given the benefits of the NPT states in the form of Indo-US nuclear deal, this is a sinister selectivity which compels me to call it an ‘opportunists’ leverage’. As a non-NPT state, India is keen to join the NSG to achieve global support for its civil nuclear deals.
Nuclear weapons are considered as the most horrifying and destructive weapons ever built by mankind and they have shed dark shadows over humanity since 1945. After United States' nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War, no [nuclear weapon] state could gather courage to use it again. However, it would be difficult to predict whether nuclear weapons could be used in future or not. Definitely, it is very complicated to state whether over the last 70 years, the threat of the use of nuclear weapons has reduced or amplified because there are both positive and perilous trends ongoing. A nuclear explosion would also create considerable fallout, potentially contaminating large areas. A one ton (a unit of weight equivalent to 1000 kilograms) surface detonation would theoretically result in fallout with gamma radiation levels in excess of 500 radiuses to a distance of 30-100 metres from the point of the explosion, with lesser amounts settling over a wider area.
It has become an Indian strategy to accuse Pakistan for any incident that happens in its territory. In the recent past, India has blamed Pakistan for attack on its Parliament (2002), Mumbai (2008) and Pathankot airbase (2015). Recently, for the attacks on its military base in Uri, Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), in which 17 Indian soldiers were killed, India accused Pakistan. In reaction, India threatened Pakistan for surgical strike on its territory. On September 29, 2016, Indian military officials claimed that India had carried out surgical strike on militant camps in Pakistani territory. Pakistan rejected India's claim of surgical strike and warned India of serious consequences to any such activity.
After every single terrorist incident in India, whether it is carried out by local terrorists or separatist organizations, Indian civil and political elite put blame on Pakistan. These tensions further lead to unhappy and unhealthy environment for both states which ultimately affect the South Asian region. It is a bitter reality that any type of military adventure such as surgical strike or limited war carried out by India would lead to full-scale war and that would ultimately lead to nuclear war.
Pakistan and India, with estimated combined numbers of 250 nuclear weapons (130 and 120 respectively)1 and roughly total amount 6.3 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU-235) and 5.26 tons plutonium (Pu-239) for military uses, remain on the verge of war. Any type of military adventure, either surgical or limited war waged by India, would escalate to full-scale war and ultimately to nuclear war. Both states have advanced nuclear weapons' technology and nuclear war between them could be more catastrophic and will have long lasting health, environmental, psychological, socio-economic and global consequences. More than 21 million people would die in minutes from the direct effects of the weapons.2 Entire population of Pakistan and India which is about 200 million and 1000 million respectively, would suffer from the radiations for many decades. All major cities on both sides would be annihilated completely. Harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation would increase and that would negatively affect human, animal and plant life. Drinking water and food shortages would cause hundreds of millions of people to starve to death during the years following the nuclear war.
Neither the United States nor any other state in the world is distantly ready to handle the consequence of nuclear war. For example, the need to care for thousands of wounded, burned and irradiated sufferers, the need to vacate hundreds of thousands of natives in the path of the fallout, the enormous challenge of restoring essential services to a partly burned and irradiated city, and more. Further than the instantaneous physical harm done by a nuclear war, the sociological, psychological, and financial impacts of such an aggression would be destructive. Like natural calamity, a nuclear attack may happen without admonition, leaving small probability for preparation. An attack in a metropolitan part would not only execute huge figures of citizens but it could also make the region practically squalid for an extensive period of time. The suffering of such an assault would leave lasting mental and emotional scars on the survivors. The blast wave can destroy buildings, spread debris, and overturn trees. The thermal pulse can ignite exposed combustible materials, causing many sustained fires. These are the main direct effects. The magnitude of the effects is different depending on whether the explosion occurs; on the ground or above the earth.4 If a nuclear weapon was detonated at ground level, the area destroyed and the casualties probably would be smaller, even though ground particles would get picked up and made radioactive and then dumped downwind for hundreds of miles.5 Li Bin has given the consequences of nuclear terrorism attack in four scenarios.6
1. A nuclear device is exploded on the surface of water by seashore and the yield is 20 kilotons or less. The effects of a nuclear explosion include shock waves (or referred as air blasts for an explosion in the air), thermal radiation, initial nuclear radiation, and residual nuclear radiation.
2. A nuclear device is exploded at a population centre. The yield is about 20 kilotons. The damage in this scenario would be much bigger because the population density would be much higher. The casualties would be at the level of those in the Nagasaki and Hiroshima attacks or even larger.
3. An operational reactor releases a significant amount of vapourized nuclear materials, including spent fuels and fission products after suffering an attack. Nuclear materials released from an operational reactor are harmful to human beings. They could cause immediate effects in a few days, mid-term effects in a few years and long-term effects in tens of years. Immediate effects include acute radiation sickness caused by exposure to large-dose radiation, scalding by hot venting, and injuries by solid debris.
4. A "dirty bomb" with radioactive material is exploded at a population centre. The effects of the explosion of a "dirty bomb" are highly dependent on the type of nuclear materials used, the form of dispersal, and the weather condition after the explosion. Main effects would also be psychological and economical ones.7
International health organizations and experts believe that nuclear war consequences of India-Pakistan would be very dangerous to the affected community. A successful attack in major cities of both states would be very likely to cause large numbers of instant fatalities. Victims would be confronted not only with immediate destruction and disability imposed by the initial event but also with the fear of future effects on their own health, and the health of loved ones, or that of future generations.8 Although it would have the potential to affect extensive areas of land and cause large number of cancers, its impact would depend on how effectively appropriate contingency plans were implemented.9 Even an unsuccessful attack could have economic and social repercussions and affect public confidence in nuclear activities such as power generation.10
The entire region would face the consequences of radioactivity. Furthermore, it would have extra-regional impacts such as health, environmental, economic and trade, ecological, and socio-political. Therefore, India must avoid any kind of war option i.e., surgical, limited or all-out war. The bilateral disputes should be resolved in a peaceful manner. Kashmir is the core dispute and it should be resolved as per the UNSC resolutions. Major powers should play their effective roles to normalize the situation between the two countries. India must change its aggressive policies towards Pakistan and both states should settle their issues in a friendly environment. India can escalate and initiate a war, but it will have to pay the price that would be very costly and endure over centuries!
The writer is pursuing PhD in Strategic & Nuclear Studies at National Defence University (NDU) Islamabad, Pakistan.
1 Shannon N. Kile and Hans M. Kristensen, "Trends in World Nuclear Forces, 2016," SIPRI, Fact Sheet, June 2016, p.2. 2 Abheet Singh Sethi, "The Global Cost of a Nuclear War between India and Pakistan," September 29, 2016. 3 Ashton B. Carter, Michael M. May, and William J. Perry, "The Day After: Action in the 24 Hours Following a Nuclear Blast in an American City," A report based on a workshop hosted by the Preventive Defense Project (Cambridge, Mass. and Palo Alto, Cal., Harvard and Stanford Universities, Preventive Defence Project, May 2007). 4 "Understanding the Risks and Realities of Nuclear Terrorism," Center for International Security and Cooperation Institute for International Studies, Stanford University. 5 Ibid. 6 Li Bin, "On Nuclear Terrorism," Working Paper, 2nd Pugwash Workshop on East Asian Security, Beijing, China, March 7-9, 2002. 7 http://nuclear-news.net/information/. 8 T. F. Ditzler, "Malevolent minds: The teleology of terrorism," in F. M. Moghaddam, and A. J. Marsella (Ed.), Understanding Terrorism: Psychosocial Roots, Consequences, and Interventions, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001, pp. 187-188. 9 "Assessing The Risk of Terrorist Attacks on Nuclear Facilities," Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology London, U.K, POST Report 222, July 2004, p.2. 10 Ibid.
The US based influential Foreign Policy magazine recently reported that India is building a top secret nuclear facility in southern state of Karnataka (formerly Mysore) to produce thermonuclear weapons. Located in the city of Challakere, about 260 km from Mysore on the India’s western coast, the facility is expected to be completed by 2017. It will upgrade India’s nuclear weapons but would be “deeply unsettling” for its neighbours, according to the report. The report lists that the project’s primary aim is to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for Indian nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of nuclear submarines.
Substantiating this report, retired Indian nuclear scientists and military officers disclosed in interviews that India’s growing fleet of nuclear submarines would be the first and foremost beneficiary of the newly produced enriched uranium. Welcome to the maritime arena, the Indian Ocean, one of the two upcoming global battle grounds for geo-political contest, rivalry as well as cooperation in this century. The other being South China Sea in the western Pacific Ocean.
Previously reeling from some enduring security challenges, the Indian Ocean is now confronted with an unwinnable race for military nuclearization duly adding to the regional woes and instability. Through the northern Arabian Sea in the western Indian Ocean huge shipments of fossil fuels and other goods destined for regional and extra regional countries traverse each day. The economic growth of these countries is tied to this area of the Indian Ocean. The chaos in the Middle East and rise of ISIS impinge on the region’s fragile maritime security. The unfolding geopolitical landscape is meanwhile steadily fuelling angst in the region. India’s unfounded agitation on CPEC, the P5+1 agreement with Iran on latter’s nuclear programme and the recent move by Riyadh to forge 34 nation alliance cannot conceal the strategic fissures, the likely triggers for realignments in the Indian Ocean.
Besides conventional naval build up, the intimidating doctrines and bellicose policies aimed at regional domination and overwhelming the small island states, India is in overdrive to subvert strategic, political and economic interest of neighbouring countries. But little does New Delhi recognize that this zeal for absolute mastery is only a recipe that will further cut on the precarious regional stability.
A major reason spawning persistent instability in the Indian Ocean and on its shores, at least in strategic sense, has been the 2007 nuclear accord between Washington and New Delhi. Critics even then warned the United States, it would reward India for its secret pursuits of the bombs and allow it to expand work on nuclear weapons. Almost eight years on, the prophecy has held true.
An unnamed senior official in the US administration recently stated that India’s civilian nuclear programme is profiting from new access to imported nuclear fuel after removal of embargo in 2007 and now requires almost “no homemade enriched uranium”. While India has yet to purchase a single nuclear reactor from Washington, it has already received around 4,914 tonnes of uranium from France, Russia and Kazakhstan and has agreements in place with Canada, Argentina and Namibia for additional shipments. The International Panel on Fissile Materials, a consortium of nuclear experts from 16 countries, estimates that the Arihant class, India’s locally constructed nuclear submarine core requires only about 143 pounds of uranium, enriched to 30 percent – a measure of how many of its isotopes can be readily used in weaponry. Using this figure and the estimated capacity of the centrifuges India is installing in the upcoming secret site at Karnataka alone, former IAEA analysts conclude that even after refuelling its entire fleet of nuclear submarines (estimated to be 3-5 in next decade or so) there would be 352 pounds of weapon grade uranium left over every year enough for at least 22 Hydrogen bombs.
This, then, is the net result of Indo-US nuclear accord. It serves to demonstrate how the deal has and shall continue to help New Delhi expand its nuclear ambitions of becoming a “regional policeman” in the Indian Ocean. While Washington works hard to promote global nuclear disarmament with one hand, it tacitly supports proliferation with the other.
But “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." India faces some daunting internal and external challenges before it can assume the mantle of a “regional policeman” or simply put rule through a blue water navy. There is no universally accepted definition of a blue water navy. Generally, however, it refers to the ability of a navy to sustain broad range of maritime operations across the open ocean. A blue water navy is one able to operate in blue water, and thus beyond the coastal or littoral regions and well on the other side of exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles (370 km). Such navies usually have one or more aircraft carriers besides nuclear submarines with power projection capabilities at great ranges. A blue water navy is also able to sustain operations for extended duration without support from the shore or home base. Only few navies in the world today hold true blue water potential. With eleven aircraft carriers, the United States Navy has more than the combined total of all countries.
Regardless, the challenges to accomplish blue water status for the Indian Navy are humongous. The number one internal challenge is uninspiring performance of India’s premier research and development organization, DRDO, which handles bulk of all domestic military production. This is over and above the lamentable lack of strategic culture amongst its political class as well as bureaucracy. International expert Stephen Cohen dissects this issue extensively in his best selling work “Arming without Aiming”.
Numerous major military projects undertaken by DRDO in the past including stealth ships for the Indian navy, Arjun tank, Light Combat aircraft etc. have rusted, hitting snags and resulting in exceptional delays with cost overruns. Consequently, India’s military continues to import about 70 percent of its sophisticated weapon systems from overseas. This foreign dependence is a major internal faultline severely inhibiting India’s rise as a military power. In case of navy the problem further compounds given the wholesale hardware changes required to switch over from the Cold War vintage Russian platforms-technology to local products.
In a recent interview with Times of India, former Chief of Army Staff General V.P Malik maintained that his country’s war preparedness will remain hampered unless DRDO and ordnance factories are made more accountable. In a scathing indictment of India’s bureaucracy, General Malik said, “the Ministry of Defence is a bad organization. Accountability within the Ministry is zero.” He added that if DRDO was not delivering, he would like some secretary, some joint secretary resigning or sacked besides the DRDO head. On operational side, India’s sole nuclear submarine, Arihant is not yet fully integrated with the fleet. But even once integrated, the more tough business of delegating nuclear command authority to a field commander (officer of the rank of Commander or Captain Lt Col/Col equivalent), commanding the nuclear submarine will have to be resolved. In the meantime, the Indian navy carrier, Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) brought from Russia after painful delays of several years is still unable to fully support fighter operations from its flight deck.
Externally, the greatest hurdle standing in the path of India’s rise in the western Indian Ocean, if not the entire Indian Ocean, is Pakistan with its small yet resilient navy. With port of Gwadar just next to the Strait of Hormuz acting as gateway to multiple regions, CPEC promises economic boon for both, China and Pakistan. Given its steadily rising stakes in the region, Beijing is set to increase military footprint in the Indian Ocean to ensure security of trade and assets. Washington will do well to lower its mollycoddling with the Modi government. Anything short will only stir up more instability.
An unnamed senior official in the US administration recently stated that India’s civilian nuclear programme is profiting from new access to imported nuclear fuel after removal of embargo in 2007 and now require almost “no homemade enriched uranium”. While India has yet to purchase a single nuclear reactor from Washington, it has already received around 4,914 tonnes of uranium from France, Russia and Kazakhstan and has agreements in place with Canada, Argentina and Namibia for additional shipments.