A Nuclear Strategy for India

By Mahnken, Thomas G. | Naval War College Review, Autumn 2001 | Go to article overview

A Nuclear Strategy for India


Mahnken, Thomas G., Naval War College Review


Menon, Raja. A Nuclear Strategy for India. New Delhi: Sage, 2000. 316pp. $45

Indian officers have written remarkably little about nuclear strategy in the more than quarter-century since India first demonstrated its ability to produce nuclear weapons. The cloak of secrecy that has traditionally surrounded India's nuclear program, New Delhi's declared policy of maintaining a nonweaponized nuclear stockpile, and a lack of interest in nuclear issues on the part of the Indian officer corps stifled discussion of nuclear issues. It is notable that the two most comprehensive accounts of India's nuclear and missile programs written to date-- George Perkovich's India's Nuclear Bomb (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1999) and Raj Chengappa's Weapons of Peace (New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2000)-were written by an American scholar and an Indian journalist, respectively. India and Pakistan's 1998 nuclear weapon tests changed all that, bringing New Delhi's nuclear program into the open and triggering a new wave of thinking and writing about nuclear strategy. Raja Menon's A Nuclear Strategy for India represents one of the first serious attempts by an Indian officer to address the doctrinal and force posture issues arising from India's decision to go nuclear. The author, a naval officer who retired in 1994 as Assistant Chief of the Indian Naval Staff for Operations, is well qualified to write on this subject.

Menon begins by reviewing the history of New Delhi's nuclear program and the development, such as it is, of Indian nuclear strategy. He is sharply critical of the Indian government and armed forces' traditional approach toward nuclear weapons. He argues that decisions on nuclear weapons have been fueled by a mixture of political rhetoric and organizational politics but have occurred in a strategic vacuum. The secrecy that has always surrounded the Indian nuclear weapon program has prevented a dialogue between the political leadership, the military, and defense scientists on strategy and force posture issues. He argues that rational analysis, not emotion, should guide Indian nuclear policy.

The remainder of the book offers just such an analysis. Menon begins by giving the reader a primer on nuclear strategy, one that borrows heavily from U.S. literature on nuclear deterrence of the 1970s and 1980s. …

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