Strategic and Doctrinal Implications:Post-Pokharan and Chagai

18 Jul, 1998    ·   127

Suba Chandran reports the fourth IPCS seminar series on "Implications of Nuclear Tests in South Asia" where the Strategic and Doctrinal Implications of the nuclear tests were discussed

Maj. Gen. Ashok Mehta initiated the discussion by saying that India ’s Pokharan blasts were not a sudden development. There have been continuous efforts and research since 1974. The decision of the BJP Government was a part of its election manifesto. Even before the elections it had announced that it would exercise the nuclear option and make the bomb. The Agenda of Governance announced that it would exercise the nuclear option. Sincere efforts were made during 1981, ‘82, '84,‘87, ‘89 and ’95 to test. Even Pakistan ’s decision was not a sudden development.



Mehta further said that India ’s nuclear doctrine is based primarily on “Weaponisation and Deployment ”. He argued this could be seen from the statements of Shri George Fernandes, Shri Jaswant Singh and Shri. Brajesh Mishra. Secondly, India ’s nuclear doctrine is based on  “Minimum Deterrence.” The doctrine of Minimum Deterrence is further based as No First Use. ‘No First Use' implies that the declaratory State will receive the First Strike and retaliate within 24 hours. Such a second strike will not be tactical but strategic.



Thirdly, he argued that No First Use should be the policy of India vis-à-vis Pakistan . Such a policy of No First Use should not be a mere declaration but a part of treaty or an agreement between India and Pakistan . However, there is a paradox in offering China `No First Use'. China ’s stand on `No First Use' is ambivalent. According to Mehta China has a policy of No use and No First Use against non-nuclear and nuclear weapon states with the caveat that both will be invalid on its territory’. The U.S has never adopted a No First Use policy since the Cold War and Russia has abandoned the `No First Use' concept of the Soviet Union . Militarily No First Use is relevant when only one has conventional superiority over the adversary.



Fourthly, Mehta argued  ‘Nuclear Weapons deter external aggression and augment national security’. However the major issue that confronts India today are doubts over Command and Control, Nuclear Doctrine, production of Agni and Prithvi missiles and their upgradation.



Lt Gen Raghavan followed the discussion by saying that Nuclear Strategy means the use of nuclear weapons to achieve certain policies and objectives, such as War prevention, Containment etc. Nuclear strategy is part of a grand strategy that supplanted foreign policy objectives.



Nuclear State craft of India is based on the following three objectives:



·                     Deterrence


·                     Limited War - to achieve limited objectives


·                     Arms Control


Gen. Raghavan however argued that Deterrence theories are abstract and distort the realities. Deterrence can never be quantified. What is minimal deterrence with China for India is maximal for Pakistan . This type of triangular deterrence is difficult to be solved. Further he reminded the statement of Gorbechev that Security can never be built upon Deterrence. Thus he concluded that Nuclear Weapons are not the only instrument of stability.



The discussion began with deterrence theory. One participant argued that Nuclear Weapons have failed to prevent proxy wars, small arms trafficking, drugs smuggling etc. He also argued that after declaring no fist use, if one is to receive the first strike and deliver the second, it means that deterrence has failed. He also argued that it is difficult to assess who fired first, since flight times of missiles are very short. Besides, India ’s Agni missile may not provide minimum deterrence with China .



Another participant argued that Deterrence should be quantified.  He also said that China has rejected such a minimum deterrence theory. Another participant said that the immediate task is to develop a doctrinal strategy in the post Pokharan-Chagai period. She argued that Non -Weaponisation means that weaponisation is not a part of any military doctrine. This implies that Weaponisation then means that Nuclear Weapons were a part of the military doctrine. She also mentioned that India 's Nuclear Strategy should not be based only on Indo-Pak or Indo-China aspects but against nuclear coercion.



Another participant argued that No First Use is a major policy in nuclear deterrence. He also said that Total Victory in a nuclear war is not possible hence nuclear wars cannot be won and therefore, must not be fought. He also argued that the idea of minimum deterrence based on targeting 5 Pakistani cities and 20 Chinese Cities is misleading.



Another participant argued that Weaponisation is a complex and expensive process. It should involve the following: -





·                     Developing adequate numbers of weapon cores and matching them with their delivery means.


·                     Keeping these dispersed and protected against enemy's first strike.


·                     Organising forces to handle and use the weapons and ensure their training for delivery as part of the doctrine.


·                     Structuring conventional forces to deal with the nuclear environment.


·                     Developing a command and control structure at the highest decision-making level and for operational purposes.


·                     An effective and instantaneous communication system linking various key players.


·                     Formulating a doctrine of deterrence.


Another participant stressed the need for nuclear weapons to be kept ready because in case of receiving the first strike the retaliation should be immediate and not after 24 hours. Another participant argued that in case second strike takes more than 24 hours then the credibility of deterrence would be affected.



There was also a view among the participants that No First Use is a philosophical concept, which should lead to mutual security. There was also another view regarding the same aspect that No First Use is a Psychological Weapon.



Gen. Mehta argued that Deterrence has worked between India and Pakistan . It made India and Pakistan not to violate the LoC. It has also kept the proxy war limited. He suggested evolving Confidence building Measures such as the removal of the Parliamentary Resolutions regarding LoC and Aksai Chin.



The discussion called for a coherent nuclear strategy that would involve some of the above aspects.