India’s Expansionist Nuclear Ambition

Written By: Tahir Mahmood Azad

India is rapidly increasing its military muscle both in terms of conventional and unconventional forces. Indian aggressive military doctrine is not limited to a specific single agenda. It is in pursuit of regional hegemony and to fulfil its global aspirations. Presently, Indian armed forces consist of approximately 1.4 million men, possessing sophisticated military technology, nuclear weapons, long-range ballistic missiles and an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capability. The rapid expansion of Indian military capabilities puts a question mark over the peaceful future of the South Asian region. According to an analysis, “Indian defence spending has doubled in real terms since 1997, growing at an average of 6.3 per cent per year.”1

 

 indiaexpect1.jpgAccording to SIPRI reports, Indian political leadership seems more ambitious in building military forces rather than focusing on socio-economic development. Recently, Narendra Modi’s government has announced a further 11 per cent hike and has raised military budget to U.S.$39.8 billion in 2015-2016.2 According to SIPRI's report, Indian defence expenditure in 2015 is $51.3 billion – higher than the previous year.3 India is the world’s leading buyer of conventional arms, with upwards of $100 billion estimated to be spent on developing its conventional [defence] forces over the next decade.4  There are speculations that the Indian estimated defence spending could be even higher in the coming years.

 

India’s Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) or threatened provocative proactive operations are estimated to be the most expensive military strategy. India is exceeding Pakistan in ‘revolutionary’ military resources such as high-performance aircraft, wide-area communications, reconnaissance, and battlefield awareness.5 This Indian military modernisation has further widened Pakistan’s conventional imbalance vis-à-vis India. India is also building and designing its own aircraft carrier. “The Indian Navy already has clearance to build six SSN Submersible Ships and Nuclear Submarines (nuclear-propelled but not nuclear-armed submarines).”6

 

India's credibility of sticking to a peaceful use of nuclear technology is already in question. The nuclear arms race in the South Asian region is a blatant consequence of non-compliance with the non-proliferation regime. Its quest for hydrogen bomb, fragile nuclear waste management system, weak nuclear security culture, lack of trained human resource, serious internal security threats and environmental effects are all a cause of grave concern for both the region with one-fifth of the world population as well as the international community.

In addition, after having received the “green signal” from the U.S., India – a non – NPT state-is expanding its nuclear program. It is making new nuclear deals with the international nuclear industry. India also plans to develop dozens of new nuclear power plants. Currently, there are 21 nuclear reactors7 already in operation. India has formulated a three-stage nuclear power program which was designed by Homi Bhabha in the 1950s:8

 

• Stage I – Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor [PHWR]

• Stage II – Fast Breeder Reactor

• Stage III – Thorium-based Reactors

 

It is a known fact that India has one of the largest shares of global thorium reserves. India plans to spend an estimated U.S. $150 billion adding dozens of new reactors around the country. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, “Within the next two decades, as many as 57 reactors could be operating (in India).”9 In order to facilitate India in the international nuclear club, the U.S. granted it a special “waiver” by violating all nuclear non-proliferation norms. Since 2008, India is being granted free access to international nuclear industry. “It has already received roughly 4,914 tons of uranium from France, Russia and Kazakhstan, and it has agreements with Canada, Mongolia, Argentina, Namibia, United Kingdom, Canada, Kazakhstan and South Korea for additional shipments.”10 Now question arises as to how much uranium India requires for civil nuclear energy purposes? What is the actual quantity of fissile material produced by India itself? What would be the criteria to check whether India will not misuse uranium from international market for military use? The technology acquired in 1970's for civil nuclear purposes from the U.S. and Canada has already been used for explosive purposes.11 India carried out its first nuclear explosion in 1974 and named it deceptively as "Smiling Buddha".

 

To establish and operate nuclear industry on a large scale, a huge number of trained and reliable human resources are required. Personnel and Human Reliability Programs (PRP and HRP) are a very important mechanism for a safe and secure nuclear program. To sustain a safe and secure nuclear program, a strong Nuclear Security Culture (NSC) is also vital. Is India well equipped to endorse all the criterion? According to one report, “the Indian Paramilitary Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which has a total of 95,000 personnel under civilian rather than military control and a U.S. $785 million budget, is supposed to keep these nuclear materials from leaking from India’s plants but it is short-staffed, ill-equipped, and inadequately trained.”12 This implies that the safety and security of India’s nuclear facilities is not reliable.

 

Another source of concern is India’s pursuit of a thermonuclear bomb. Former senior British and U.S. officials have confidently stated that India is actively developing a thermonuclear bomb and we are constantly monitoring it.13 Former project leader for nuclear intelligence at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Robert Kelley, stated that after analysing the available satellite imagery, as well as studying open source material on both sites, he believes that India is pursuing a larger thermonuclear arsenal. “Its development,” he warned, “will inevitably usher in a new nuclear arms race in a volatile region.”14

 

India's credibility of sticking to a peaceful use of nuclear technology is already in question. The nuclear arms race in the South Asian region is a blatant consequence of non-compliance with the non-proliferation regime. Its quest for hydrogen bomb, fragile nuclear waste management system, weak nuclear security culture, lack of trained human resource, serious internal security threats and environmental effects are all a cause of grave concern for both the region with one-fifth of the world population as well as the international community.

 

India needs to address these concerns before applying for Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) membership. It is obligatory for the member states of NSG to seriously and impartially consider the above mentioned apprehensions if non-proliferation is desired.

 

Peaceful use of nuclear technology is a fundamental right of every sovereign state. However, there are various procedures and arrangements to ensure before pursuing high level expansion of nuclear technology. In addition, there is also a need to address socio-political aspects while expanding the nuclear technology. Unfortunately, India has paid minimal attention to socio-political and domestic challenges. Despite being the largest democracy of the world, its non-inclusive policies and war prone mindset to control the region is more dominant. India is rapidly building its conventional and unconventional forces.

 

Furthermore, what would be the consequences if India conducts a thermonuclear device test?  Such Indian moves needs to be monitored before they proceed beyond the red lines. Unconditional nuclear favours to India will have very serious implications for global nuclear non-proliferation commitments. India is on the trajectory of rapidly growing nuclear installations with the undue support of the U.S. This would have implications not only for South Asia, but for other regions as well.

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1 Walter C. Ladwig III, “Indian Military Modernization and Conventional Deterrence in South Asia,” The Journal of Strategic Studies, 2015, p.2.
2 Ibid.
3 Mateen Haider, "India's growing military spending threatens Pakistan, says NSA Janjua," DAWN (Islamabad), April 05, 2016, http://www.dawn.com/news/125012, accessed on August 22, 2016.
4 Ibid.
5 Rodney W. Jones, “Conventional Military Imbalance and Strategic Stability in South Asia,” South Asian Strategic Stability Unit, University of Bradford, March 2005, p.5.
6 “India wants to build nuclear-powered aircraft carriers,” January 13, 2016, http://apdf-magazine.com/india-wants-to-build-nuclear-powered-aircraft-carriers/, accessed on February 02, 2016.
7 According to World Nuclear Association, currently, there are 21 reactors in operation. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-G-N/India/, accessed on January 07, 2016.
8 IBP Inc., India Energy Policy, Laws and Regulations Handbook Volume 1 Strategic Information and Basic Laws, Lulu.com, 2015, pp.61-62.
9 Adrian Levy, R. Jeffrey Smith, “Fast, Radioactive, and Out of Control,” Foreign Policy, December 17, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/12/17/fastradioactiveandoutofcontrolindianuclearsafeguards/, accessed on December 29, 2015.
10 Adrian Levy, “India Is Building a Top-Secret Nuclear City to Produce Thermonuclear Weapons, Experts Say,” Foreign Policy, December 16, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/12/16/india_nuclear_city_top_secret_china_pakistan_barc/, accessed on December 28, 2015.
11 Mark Hibbs, “The Future of the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2011, p.5,http://carnegieendowment.org/files/future_nsg.pdf, accessed on January 2015.
12 Adrian Levy, R. Jeffrey Smith, “Fast, Radioactive, and Out of Control,” Foreign Policy, December 17, 2015, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/12/17/fastradioactiveandoutofcontrolindianuclearsafeguards/, accessed on December 29, 2015.
13 Levy, “India Is Building a Top-Secret Nuclear City to Produce Thermonuclear Weapons, Experts Say,”.
14 Ibid.

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