India Releases Nuclear Doctrine, Looks to Emulate P-5 Arsenals

By Diamond, Howard | Arms Control Today, July/August 1999 | Go to article overview

India Releases Nuclear Doctrine, Looks to Emulate P-5 Arsenals


Diamond, Howard, Arms Control Today


LAYING THE FOUNDATION for an arsenal of hundreds of nuclear warheads deployed at high-alert levels on missiles, aircraft and ships, India released its first draft nuclear doctrine on August 17. (See p. 33.) Produced by the 27-member National Security Advisory Board, the sixpage document has not been formally adopted by the current caretaker government, and was released "in favor of greater transparency in decision-making" by Brajesh Mishra, the Indian prime minister's national security advisor. The United States, which has been pressing India and neighboring Pakistan to restrain their nuclear competition since their titfor-tat nuclear weapons tests in May 1998, expressed disappointment with the draft doctrine, terming it a move "in the wrong direction." Pakistani officials have warned that if put into practice, the positions laid out by India will stoke the existing arms race in South Asia.

Doctrine Released

At a press conference before releasing the document, Mishra emphasized the voluntary constraints New Delhi has already accepted on its nuclear arsenal. India, he said, has adopted a "no-first-use" policy and has pledged to never use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state. New Delhi's nuclear weapons are not "countryspecific," Mishra said, and are meant only to provide "minimum but credible deterrence." Mishra also emphasized two points made in the draft doctrine: that India's nuclear weapons are under "civilian control," and that India remains in favor of complete nuclear disarmament, its nuclear plans notwithstanding.

The new doctrine, however, focuses not on limits, but on the substantial new capabilities that India needs to provide "insurance against potential risks to peace and stability" and to guarantee New Delhi "autonomy of decision-making." Calling for a nuclear policy of "retaliation only," the draft doctrine urges India to acquire "survivable" nuclear forces; "robust" command and control mechanisms; and space-based early-warning, communications and damage-assessment systems. Reflecting the terminology of existing nuclear arsenals, the doctrine calls on India to develop an "integrated operational plan" for nuclear use and a "triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and seabased assets." India's nuclear weapons should be able to shift from "peacetime deployment to fully employable forces in the shortest possible time" and be able to "retaliate effectively" following a firststrike, the doctrine concludes.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh was quoted by The Times of India on August 20 as downplaying the stature of the arsenal being proposed in the draft doctrine. "We are not in the arms race," Singh said. "We are not for reinventing the acronyms and phraseologies of the Cold War-era." Singh told CNN on August 18 that "there is no need for anyone to fear from what is after all a discussion paper."

Bharat Karnad, a member of the National Security Advisory Board and one of the lead drafters of the proposed doctrine, said in an August 22 interview with The Times of India that his research has shown that an arsenal of 350 to 400 nuclear weapons and associated support systems would cost India $17-$177 billion spread over 30 years. According to the CIA, India's gross domestic product in 1997 was $1. …

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