BJP Election Manifesto 2014. Pic BJP
- May 9, 2014
-- India will soon be forced to take a closer look at its nuclear no-first-use (NFU) pledge. According to an article in the forthcoming issue of the Indian Military Review (IMR), ground realities in the region make it a Hobson’s choice for New Delhi to review its nuclear doctrine and adopt a more pragmatic NFU policy.
Writing in the May 2014 issue of the IMR, Maj Gen (Dr) GD Bakshi (Retd.) argues that India is the only nuclear weapon state (NWS) in the world to offer an NFU pledge. New Delhi exploded its first nuclear device in 1974, but called it a peaceful nuclear explosion (PNE), Maj Gen Bakshi says. “Thereafter, it was cowed down by the threats and blackmail of USA and Europe to curtail its nuclear programme and refrain from further testing. It was a tragic loss of nerve and prevented India from becoming a legally proclaimed NWS. India became a de facto NWS only in 1998.” As it happened, “India followed the Chinese example and became the second state to underline the defensive nature of its nuclear arsenal and give the NFU pledge…. borrowing the Chinese concept of minimal credible deterrence, as its economy could not afford an open-ended arms race.”
But India needs a reality check now, with changing geopolitical equations in the region. “India has also opened up huge gaps in its conventional military field”, says Maj. Gen. Bakshi. “And weakened the credibility of its nuclear deterrent by letting not just China, but even Pakistan, take an unwarranted lead in the number of (nuclear) war heads.” Assuming half of China’s fissile material stockpile is kept in reserve stocks, it would still have led to the production of “some 1300-1800 war heads.” Even if half of these are in storage, “800-900 warheads could be available for operational deployment on various types of delivery vehicles (including nuclear submarine based JL-1 of 1770+ km range and JL-2C of 8000 km range missiles being deployed on Jin class ballistic missile nuclear submarines),”
notes Maj. Gen. Bakshi.
And to India’s west, “Pakistan has more nuclear warheads than India (90-110 to India's 80-90).” Flanked by these unfriendly nuclear arsenals, New Delhi’s credible minimal deterrence must be reworked, if India is to deter both China and Pakistan. “China has some 400 warheads and Pakistan a 110. Are 90 Indian warheads sufficient, credible force to deter both?” Maj Gen Bakshi wonders. “Obviously, India must rapidly increase the number and throw the weight of its nuclear warheads plus rapidly actualize the third leg of the nuclear triad via nuclear submarines.”
To make matters worse, Maj Gen Bakshi points out, in the last ten years, there has been a “dangerous slowing down of the military modernization programme of the Indian Armed Forces (which) has opened up huge windows of vulnerability.”
With dwindling conventional military assets, India has to reconsider its NFU pledge. To deter a joint China-Pakistan military attack in Ladakh, for instance, India’s best bet would be to retract its NFU pledge. In any case, Chinese strategists aver that NFU does not apply “to disputed territories like Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh, South China, East China Sea, etc., (and to) Chinese territories (including Tibet and Taiwan). And Pakistan plans to introduce tactical nuclear weapons, which will force India “to reserve the right to respond in a proportionate and reciprocal manner, if required.”