Security and the Nuclear Dilemma

28 Nov, 1997    ·   31

Lt. Gen. Raghavan makes a strong plea for the constructive use of India’s nuclear weapons capability.

Lt Gen. V. R. Rahgavan (Retd.), Director, Delhi Policy group, and former Director-General of Military Operations at Army Headquarters made a strong plea for the constructive use of India ’s nuclear weapons capability. Delivering the Nehru Memorial Lecture the General recommended that the real advantage of the nascent nuclear weapons capability for India lies in obtaining conditions to facilitate rapid economic development. Since economic development and removal of poverty are the primary conditions of security in the post Cold War era, India cannot allow its nuclear capability to become a barrier to progress by inviting trade and other control regimes.



The dilemma



India needs the nuclear weapons capability as long as the possession of nuclear weapons is considered legitimate by other states. However, the creation of a nuclear arms race in South Asia will not be in India ’s interest. Nuclear weapons have the inherent capacity to create dilemmas that are never easy to resolve. The experience of nuclear weapons during the Cold War is relevant to India . Nuclear weapons by their absolute nature of power create compulsions in those not possessing them to obtain them at all costs. Since absolute security for one nation means absolute insecurity for others, an arms race becomes inevitable.



When India is closer then ever to the possibility of gaining for its people the second freedom - freedom from absolute poverty - it needs to view the concept of security in a wider sense. The traditional military content of security would require balancing in the larger contexts of economic and social stability. India ’s nuclear choice should therefore be influenced by its need to freely optimise on the economic and technological opportunities in the new world order.



What should India do?



General Raghavan recommended that India ’s nuclear choice should be based on three essential needs.



·                     It should further India ’s economic, technological and developmental needs.




·                     It should stabilise the weapons threshold at current levels and stop induction of additional systems into the region.




·                     It should regain for India the high ground on issues of nuclear disarmament, of no first use, and in speedily reducing the range and numbers of nuclear weapons existing in the world.




In the post cold war world, the need for controlling the spread of nuclear weapons cannot be denied. India has been the initiator of this movement since long.



However, its nuclear weapons capabilities have brought in their wake sanctions, control regimes and placed India in an avoidable isolationist position. The need of the hour is to dismantle these regimes, without giving up the capability that India has created for its security. The answer, according to General Raghvan, lies in accepting a ceiling on weapons capability. 




It also means stabilising the nuclear balance on the subcontinent and making clear that India ’s nuclear capability is commensurate with the aim of ensuring stability. The Indian government’s record of nuclear restraint is proof enough of its responsible intentions.



Nuclear deterrence with economic growth



The logic of nuclear weapons capability should be extended beyond mere weaponising or not weaponising. The true strategic choice for India rests in using the advantage of its nuclear weapons capability in obtaining conditions in which economic and technological benefits can be obtained unhindered. India and the major powers will both need to accommodate each other’s security concerns. These issues should form the essential basis of future strategic dialogues inside and outside South Asia . That would create the desired but new dimension to nuclear deterrence – of freedom to benefit from the global dimensions of economic growth. That would also be in keeping with Mr. Nehru’s world vision.