Brigadier Vijai K Nair

In the words of Admiral Nayyar, Chairman of the Forum for Strategic & 
Security Studies, "The global strategic atlas was radically changed on 11 May 
when India conducted three nuclear tests, landing itself firmly in the 
category of a nuclear weapon state [NWS]." 

As expected international recrimination on India's nuclear testing is pouring 
in. The US with its massive arsenal of over 10,000 nuclear weapons poised for 
'first use' to resolve conflict, having just conducted a sub-critical nuclear 
test of its own, has announced the imposition of sanctions on India. The 
sanctimonious Australian Government, while sheltering behind the nuclear 
umbrella provided by the US, in exchange for bases in Australia for the 
projection of the US nuclear war fighting machine, has recalled its High 
Commissioner. Japan, while accumulating a weapons usable plutonium inventory 
of many 100s of tons, and secure under a guaranteed US nuclear umbrella, has 
withdrawn its aid package to India. Space consideration precludes listing the 
totality of the hypocrisy of the developed world, in its misguided effort to 
stop horizontal proliferation while giving nuclear benefactors free rein to 
proliferate vertically.

For what? To penalise India who, having fought to advance the cause of 
elimination of nuclear weapons for 44 years, has had the temerity to take 
into consideration the progressively debilitating security environment and 
create its own defensive deterrent capability to safeguard its security 

The experience of seeing, what they considered an ineffectual, state thumb 
its nose at them has, left the developed world traumatised. So much so that 
they have failed to understand that even 'economic deterrence' has failed. If 
the intention is to prove that economic retaliation will bring India to its 
knees, they have a second surprise coming their way. Finally, if not now, the 
realisation will hit them. They will understand that they need mechanisms 
other than sanctions to meet this fundamentally changed scenario. They must 
either, adjust to the reality that nuclear non-proliferation is unattainable, 
and decide to live in a world of nuclear weapon states as posited by Kenneth 
Waltz. Or bow to the aspirations of the larger global community, fast 
swelling with disaffection amongst their own people with the continued 
retention of nuclear weapons. India, having broken out from the artificial 
barriers of political and economic ostracisation, has forced these two 
choices on the Nuclear Weapon States [NWS], who have hitherto blocked all 
efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Having taken the step to go overtly nuclear, after three decades of avoiding 
the issue, India cannot now sit back and hope that the elimination goal will 
come about on its own. This bold step to challenge the NWS and their nuclear 
beneficiaries must be made to pay. This requires a well orchestrated, 
two-track policy.

1. Seize the initiative and press for immediate and irreversible negotiations 
to the final elimination of nuclear weapons globally while guarding against 
temptation to succumb to economic and political pressures to become party to 
the horizontal non-proliferation regime.

2. Relentless development of its nuclear strategy to demonstrate to the NWS 
that it will survive and flourish in a nuclear weapon infested world, despite 
all the mechanisms they may employ to circumscribe that capability, in the 
event that the first track policy does not succeed.

The first, if it succeeds is the ideal, it means the realisation of the core 
on which the Indian philosophy has been built over the past five decades. The 
second is a fall back position which cannot be ignored in the event the NWS, 
in their misplaced confidence, decide they would prefer to live in a world 
with numerous nuclear weapon states.

Then where can India be expected to go after having successfully completed 
its series of five nuclear weapons tests? Within the framework of the larger 
strategy, which it has put into play, it needs a quick follow up along both 
tracks. Allowing a vacuum to build up will be counterproductive with a 
negative affect on the national well being.

Track one requires India to pitch its initiatives immediately at the CD while 
the world is still paying attention. Without making any apologies for its 
actions, India should, as a NWS, insist on the commencement of negotiations 
at the CD, for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. In initiating the 
revitalisation of the nuclear disarmament agenda India must lay its objective 
clearly on the table and explain the two-track concept it intends to follow. 
It must clearly articulate a commitment to reverse its nuclear strategy 
within the negotiated framework of elimination of nuclear weapons, in keeping 
with similar drawing down by the other NWS.

Provided India can convince the other non-nuclear weapon states [NNWS] of its 
intent, considerable pressure could be mounted on the hitherto recalcitrant 
NWS. It must also convince the fast growing anti-nuclear weapons public in 
the NWS so that internal pressures are brought to bear conjointly. To achieve 
this India could, make an undertaking, at an appropriate time, and definitely 
before the September 1999, when the CTBT is due to enter into force, that it 
would unilaterally impose a provisional moratorium on testing. This 
commitment being conditional on the commencement of negotiations for the 
institution of the NWC in a time bound framework, that would be finalised in 
the negotiating process. Failure on the part of the NWS to negotiate the NWC 
would then leave India free to test if it had doubts about the reliability of 
its nuclear arsenal or if another state was to conduct a test. If convincing 
and honestly implemented, this initiative would lead to substantially void 
mounting acrimony and provide the NAM countries cause to rally to India's 
cause "the elimination of nuclear weapons."

To engineer a trade off on its declared position, in any form whatsoever, to 
mitigate the effect of economic or political actions initiated by the NWS to 
coerce India to reverse its nuclear strategy, would be counterproductive. The 
incentive for the NWS to negotiate the NWC would substantially reduce if 
India were to project the image of a state under siege. Reversal of the 
nuclear strategy must only become apparent once the NWC is in position. 
Therefore, India must ensure that the second parameter i.e. to demonstrate 
India's nuclear deterrent is firmly in place, by simultaneously making its 
second track  policy discernible.

While the conduct of five highly sophisticated nuclear tests demonstrates a 
capability, the credibility of the strategy rests on a plethora of related 
issues. That of a capacity to effectively utilise these capabilities to meet 
the strategic objectives laid down by the political leadership. India, 
therefore, has to proceed with development and induction of hardware and be 
seen to be doing so. This includes:

(a) Develop and induct a series of missile systems that would: assuredly 
penetrate hostile airspace in the technological environment that would 
pertain two decades into the future; reach extreme ranges prescribed by the 
nation's nuclear strategy from secure launch sites, both mobile and static, 
from sea, land or air. In the existing environment it would require: an IRBM 
that could threaten retaliation against targets visualised 360 degrees around 
India; sub-surface launched missiles to guarantee survival of the strategic 
deterrent; and, cruise missiles to enhance accuracy and penetration.

(b) A warhead inventory in keeping with the targeting policy dictated by the 
nuclear strategy. This embraces numbers and types. Yields would have to be 
commensurate to the required levels of target punishment dictated by 

(c) A national policy for: command and control with an enlightened 
leadership; integration of the technological, military, intelligence and 
other agencies to maintain, secure and implement the nuclear strategy. 
Command-posts, hardened communications, space and atmospheric electronic 
support systems and so on.

(d) Validation of hardware to be incorporated in the nuclear infrastructure, 
some of which may have to be tested under pressures and temperatures of a 
nuclear explosion.

By overtly going nuclear India has made a fundamental change in her approach 
to both nuclear disarmament and the deteriorating security environment. This 
has been done at tremendous political, economic and moral costs. It cannot 
now be frittered away by bargaining an in between position through 
conceptually unsound acceptance of the discriminatory non-proliferation 
regime, even in part. The deal, if any, must be struck on the "global 
elimination of nuclear weapon" and nothing less. The slightest indication of 
weakening in the national resolve and India will singularly be the loser.

India's nuclear tests offer an unprecedented opportunity by drawing the world 
out of its smugness and dramatically focusing attention to the problem of 
nuclear weapons and providing India a credible opportunity revitalise the 
cause of the universal abolition of nuclear weapons. The next step is to get 

Brigadier Vijai K Nair
Executive Editor
Forum for Strategic & Security Studies
Safdarjung Airport
New Delhi 110 003
Tele: 091 118 572483 & 091 11 462 8336. Fax: 091 11572425
E-mail: [email protected]

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