Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security/India's Maritime Security

By Winner, Andrew C. | Naval War College Review, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security/India's Maritime Security


Winner, Andrew C., Naval War College Review


Karnad, Bharat. Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security. New Delhi: Macmillan India, 2002. 724pp. Rs795

Roy-Chaudhury, Rahul. India's Maritime Security. New Delhi: Knowledge World, 2000. 208pp. $42.64

Analysts and observers interested in global security issues would do well to pay closer attention to the always rich debate in Indian security circles about that country's future national policies, supporting budgets, and force structures. India is a rising power with a rapidly growing economy, an increasing military budget, and in some key areas, a newly enhanced national will to translate its potential into broader influence on the world stage. These two books are excellent examples of the national debate on how India should use its power to protect and advance its growing national interests. Each covers specific elements of India's national security-nuclear weapons and maritime security. Bharat Karnad is an unabashed advocate of a robust Indian nuclear weapons structure, doctrine, and policy. Karnad, a national security policy analyst at an Indian think tank, the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, was a member of the First National security Advisor Board to the National security Council of India. In that capacity, he was a member of the Nuclear Doctrine Drafting Group. In the wake of India's May 1998 nuclear weapons tests, the group produced a draft nuclear doctrine that was submitted to the National security Council in August 1999. (After significant delay, the essence of the doctrine was adopted formally in January 2003.) The author is squarely and proudly in the realist school of political science, basing his arguments and assessments on the proposition that the world is an anarchic place, that states are the primary international actors, and that power-with military power at its core-is all that matters.

The book is sweeping in scope. Karnad is prescriptive and uses his interpretation of history to create a strong case for his prescribed end state for India and its nuclear forces. This end state consists of a nuclear force for India containing 350-400 nuclear warheads/ weapons, some with megaton yields, and a set of delivery systems that includes "sizable numbers" of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and long-range cruise missiles. Given what the author assumes will be the ICBM force's problems with accuracy, he recommends a countervalue strategy that he deems sufficient to deter U.S. intervention in Indian affairs. he also notes that a force of this size and structure would be sufficient to achieve notional parity with China.

While it is easy to focus on the headline-making conclusions that arise from Karnad's tome, a reader would do well to take the time to read the entire piece carefully. The first half of the book is a comprehensive history and analysis of India's evolution as a nuclear power. In this section, the author convincingly challenges conventional wisdom about the teachings and actions of India's revered "father of the nation," Mahatma Gandhi. Karnad argues that the nation's misinterpretations of Gandhi's teachings gave rise to a mistaken, and strategically misguided, "moralpolitik" that limited India's ability to act decisively to advance and protect its own national interests in a Hobbesian world. In fact, the author seeks to debunk the oft-cited link between this moralpolitik and traditional Indian culture and values as expressed in the texts of ancient India. The result of this political philosophy, which championed morality in pursuit of interests and led to "doctrinaire positions on the exercise of force" was that India as a collective lacked the will to achieve power in the decades following its independence.

In the second thematic half of the book, a 250-page chapter 5, Karnad uses more recent historical examples and analyses of real and potential great-power scenarios to make the case that India must fashion a set of nuclear doctrines, policies, and capabilities to advance its regional and global interests.

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