India’s nuclear amateurism

Secretary of State John Kerry reminded New Delhi that the United States expects India to toe its line on non-proliferation and get a move on in signing the Missile Technology Control Regime, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. One hopes New Delhi will not give way on any of these issues even if membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group is the prize because, as it is, the Indian nuclear deterrent is grievously handicapped. First, by untested, unproven, thermonuclear weapons with design flaws no amount of simulation can correct, whence resumption of testing becomes imperative, and secondly, matching this hardware deficiency are the “software” problems – doctrinal weaknesses and inadequate understanding in government circles of nuclear weapons and strategy.

The latter aspect was illustrated by Shyam Saran, Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and former Foreign Secretary holding forth last month (May 3) on nuclear issues and, predictably, making a hash of it. Considering a Chinese military unit was holding Ladakhi real estate then, Saran went off on an anti-Pakistan tangent instead! It confirmed the suspicion that the government is unable to differentiate issues of strategic importance from lesser concerns and, as regards nuclear security, is all at sea. Informed Pakistanis promptly dismissed it as “bluster”, deeming India “a blundering nuclear power”.

At the heart of Saran’s talk was the wrong take on nuclear matters that has calcified into a strategic gospel in official quarters, courtesy the late K. Subrahmanyam, starting with the belief that nuclear testing is incidental to the credibility of the deterrent, evident in his canvassing for India’s signature on CTBT in 1995-96 which Saran rightly said “would have permanently foreclosed [development of] a credible and fully tested nuclear deterrent”. Except, the problem of untested hydrogen weapons persists owing to the no-testing predicate of the India-US nuclear deal supported by Subrahmanyam and Company, and negotiated by Saran. It reflects the cavalier disregard for nuclear testing which is particularly stark in the context of the Field Director of the 1998 tests, K. Santhanam recommending the re-testing of a rectified thermonuclear weapon design because the one that was tested failed.

Saran’s plea to “make public” the official nuclear doctrine, which he said was virtually the draft produced by NSAB in 1998, was of a piece with his asking for an annual numerical accounting of the country’s nuclear forces. He didn’t pause to wonder why no other nuclear weapon state to-date has disclosed its nuclear doctrine, and why China and Pakistan are unlikely ever to reveal their weapons inventory details. The public release of the draft-doctrine to win points for transparency with America and gain traction for the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), was an appalling mistake by the BJP government that the Congress regime converted into the wrecking ball of the Indo-US nuclear deal, which destroyed the integrity of the country’s dual-use nuclear energy programme.

Ambiguity is at the core of nuclear deterrence and dissuasion. It isn’t advanced by making the doctrine an open document, even less by revealing weapons strength. Having disclosed the doctrine, however, the strategic initiative passed to the adversary states with the good sense to divulge nothing. China increased the “daunting uncertainties” for India by bringing conventional missiles under the control of its Second Artillery nuclear forces, and Pakistan developed the 60 km Nasr (Hatf IX) guided rocket.

The dense fog of ignorance of nuclear deterrence matters blanketing Indian government circles has eventuated in a hollow strategy emphasizing “massive retaliation” as response to tactical first use of nuclear weapon by Pakistan (on Indian armour, say, inside Pakistani territory). Promising massive nuclear destruction as retaliatory action, in the circumstances, only undermines the credibility of the Indian deterrent as it violates the principle of proportionality, which is the essence of “flexible response”. A version of this concept — “punitive response” was central to the original NSAB draft-doctrine. Owing to the usual mix of abominable advice and mindless attitudinizing lashed with deep illiteracy on these issues, “punitive response” was replaced by “massive retaliation”. All it did was spur accelerated production of weapon-grade plutonium, warheads, and missiles by Pakistan which an India, fixated on Pakistan and “minimum” deterrence, finds unable to match, what to talk of China! Truth is massive retaliation cannot doctrinally coexist with the “minimum deterrence” notion the Indian government seems wedded to. That is common sense but try telling it to the glib talkers in official quarters.

Much was also made by him of commentaries concluding India acquired nuclear weapons for status and prestige, not for reasons of security. But why is this conclusion wrong considering India reached the weapons threshold with its plutonium reprocessing capability in early 1964 but did not weaponize after China exploded an atomic device in October that year, and with the military humiliation of 1962 as backdrop? Contrast this with the single-minded, no-nonsense, threat-propelled, Chinese and Pakistani programmes to obtain meaningful nuclear arsenals fast, even as the Indian weapons programme meandered, its progress hampered by dreams of disarmament last manifested in the 1988 Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan.

That the Indian government has time and again veered off into the murk of nuclear power politics without being equipped for the task is due to the generalist diplomats and civil servants playing at nuclear strategists. Saran admitted that the country had suffered from bad advice to “defer the acquisition of a nuclear weapon arsenal as long as there was still hope that the world would eventually move towards a complete elimination of these weapons”, and that it was “undeniable” that “mistakes [were] made, sometimes opportunities [were] missed or our judgements were misplaced.”

The cumulative debilitating effect of such rank bad, and amateurish, counsel is reflected in the manner India is strategically handicapped today. It indicates a fool’s world our diplomats (especially, denizens of MEA’s Disarmament Division that Saran served in), senior civil servants, political leaders and increasingly senior military officers hewing to the government line, live in. Elimination of nuclear weapons, really?

[Published in the New Indian Express, June 28, 2013 at

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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29 Responses to India’s nuclear amateurism

  1. Shaurya says:

    About two months back, I posted this question on the forum

    • This debate is as old as the draft doctrine. Indeed, it is precisely discussions on the proportionality principle that eventuated in the “punitive response” concept in the draft doctrine, which unfortunately was changed to “massive retaliation” by CSS in January 2003. I have brought this issue up time and again in my writings, and in various national fora and even in seminars/conferences abroad since then.

  2. RK Anuj says:

    The inimitable ability of BK to misquote and misrepresent the very person that he wants to discredit!! No where in his speech did Shyam Saran aver that Indian decision not to go the declared NWS route was based on bad advice………….”had suffered from bad advice to “defer the acquisition of a nuclear weapon arsenal as long as there was still hope that the world would eventually move towards a complete elimination of these weapons”……………BK’s quote. On the contrary, in his speech, Shyam Saran was very categoric that the decision was based on a principled stand which till a certain point in time was quite relevant. Till the international strategic environment changed for the worse.

    More such……….”and that it was “undeniable” that “mistakes [were] made, sometimes opportunities [were] missed or our judgements were misplaced.”……………..this statement mentioned in the same vein, in the piece above, about the decision not to overtly weaponise is an absolute subversion of the intent behind this statement made in an entirely different context. Anyone who heard that talk would understand!!

    It’s amazing, this ability to subvert the truth and shroud it in nebulous academic dross, based on western learning, where the gentleman earned his spurs, so to say, in an era of a binary nuclear equation, uncomplicated by the complexities of a multi- dimensional nuclear threat.

    Talk of ………….”Ambiguity is at the core of nuclear deterrence and dissuasion”…………..from a man who has endeavoured, the past decade, to trash Indian capabilities, howsoever modest, in every forum……including in this very blog day after day and only a few weeks back, where he was all for an unequivocal declaration of nuclear prowess against my argument for the benefits of ambiguity, is ironical, if not outright comical!!

    There’s plenty more in the piece above that one can dig a hole……or rather a crevasse in…… but then, one expects the wisdom of the readers to understand such debatable concepts like “punitive deterrence” and “massive retaliation” …issues that Brodie and the academia that he spawned, the iconic deterrence guru of BK who he selectively quotes when it doesn’t discredit his standpoint, has dwelt upon in detail.

    Notwithstanding any of the above, my thanks for bringing this blog back to strategic issues, for a change, from the political hue that it has off- late taken. Better it stays there………….more readable at least, if only for a laugh!!

  3. It is tiresome to argue deterrence with an apparently establishment person with some stake in the extant confusion that passes for strategic posture. And there’s no point in bringing up finer points of deterrence literature with someone who dismisses Bernard Brodie so casually. The best counter is for readers to access Saran’s speech to see if I have misinterpreted him. The speech can be accessed at .

    Much as @Anuj would like to believe otherwise, nuclear deterrence literature is a spawn of the Cold War phenomena, the result of leading thinktanks and universities in the US tasked with rigorous analyses in the realm of heuristics in the absence of empirical evidence of nuclearized conflict. All the nomenclature, terms. concepts are, therefore, of Western origin. And local meanings cannot be ascribed to concepts, such as minimum deterrence, for instance, without reference to Cold War usage. Indeed, Saran seems to understand the problem here about addressing Western conclusions on Western terms — that’s the dominant discourse, because he seeks to refute unsuccessfully mostly Western analyses (re: India seeking nuclear weapons for status & prestige, not security, etc). The alternative is for the Indian strategic community to create their own language of deterrence and to get it universally accepted, which of course is beyond their ken.

    The uniqueness of the Indian situation and its “complexities” are overblown, primarily because it is a thin cover for doing little or nothing — an expression of the policy of self-containment New Delhi has practiced since March 1964 and the acquisition of the Pu reprocessing capability. No one stopped India from weaponizing in the wake of the Chinese test in October 1964, except the Indian Govt., or doing to China, say, what China did to us — nuclear missile arm Vietnam, et al for the N-arsenal gifted to Pakistan. Nehru was indecisive but he understood hardpower. His successors didn’t. So what transpired was the institutionalized, near idiotic, other-worldly expectation that nuclear weapons could be eliminated and all that was needed was an extra effort by India (1988 Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan)! What does it say of our leaders and strategic enclaves that they were so unrealistic? Additionally, was the debilitating belief of our own moral superiority resulting in India’s exemplary restraint. No one in the outside world gives a damn for India’s moral pretensions. But they do hope, wish, desire and pray that Indians will continue in their policy of extreme self-restraint and self-abnegation. It centrally hurts India’s national interest, but damned if it doesn’t help the cause of the P-5 to keep India an insignificant nuclear weapons state in perpetuity, and reduced to minding the “Pakistan threat”.

    • RK Anuj says:

      Good that you posted the link to SS’s talk. Now quoting from the same……….

      ” India did not overnight become a nuclear weapon capable state in May 1998, but until then a deliberate choice had been made to defer the acquisition of a nuclear weapon arsenal as long as there was still hope that the world would eventually move towards a complete elimination of these weapons of mass destruction. India’s leaders recognised the prudence of developing and maintaining national capability and capacity to develop strategic assets if this became necessary but the preference remained for realising the objective of a nuclear weapon free world.”

      And more, after having dwelt on, at length, on the entire history of Indian nuclear development from the early 60s to the geopolitical compulsions of the 90s that led to overt weaponisation in ’98, as a summation of Indian policy choices over nearly 4 decades………

      “That mistakes have been made, that sometimes opportunities have been missed or our judgements were misplaced is undeniable. But if having a strategy means the readiness to make reasoned choices, then India has demonstrated an ability to think and act strategically.”

      Now compare that to your misquote from the same talk……

      “Saran admitted that the country had suffered from bad advice to “defer the acquisition of a nuclear weapon arsenal as long as there was still hope that the world would eventually move towards a complete elimination of these weapons”, and that it was “undeniable” that “mistakes [were] made, sometimes opportunities [were] missed or our judgements were misplaced.”

      It’s an old habit…misquote, misrepresent………..discredit.

      In the same vein, about me casually dismissing Brodie!! On the contrary, I have posited Brodie as the deterrence Guru, who spawned an entire academia. And I have hoped in my post that the readers with some knowledge of his literature will understand the complexity of the debate that BK, a student of Brodie, no less, so casually dismisses!! And he’s done it before on the same blog, when my quote from Brodie did not suit the case that BK was making, a few months back!!

      And to top that, you begin your counterargument, by insinuating that I am an establishment person with some stake in the extant confusion. I have been previously called a DRDO scientist or a MEA staffer by you, in the hope that, my linkage to the establishment will automatically nullify my arguments. Well Sir, you’ll have to do better than that, because I may just be a concerned Indian who abhors your ceaseless harangue against Indian establishments of a certain shade that does not match yours and your deplorable efforts to discredit the modest but credible Indian capabilities by ……misquoting, misrepresenting……….falsifying and lying………as I have exposed on more occasion than one, not counting the instant case!!

      You expose your rather blinkered knowledge of history, intentional or otherwise, (the former, I suspect, considering your penchant for misguiding gullible readers) when you write in the manner you do above about Nehru and his successors.

      About the impact of western literature on nuclear theorising, strange to find aspersions being cast on my intent while nowhere have I doubted it’s importance. But to equate the Indian context to the Cold War equations between the super powers, is a display of extreme obfuscation by one having pretensions to being the sole repository of deterrence knowledge!!

  4. Most of the early evolution of the Indian nuclear weapons program is detailed at length in my book — ‘Nuclear Weapons & Indian Security’ all 750 pages of it, and the political stop-go it was subjected to, costing it precious momentum and drive. Who knows, may be, SS got that knowledge by reading my book! Still not sure why you think I have misrepresented SS, considering he admits to the mistakes made — thank God for small mercies — by deferring the weapons decision on the basis that a NWs-free world was round the corner, and the cost to the country. I know SS, have personally engaged in long discussions with him on many issues, and his views are featured in my next book “India’s Rise: Why It’s Not a Great Power (Yet)”. He may have insights into foreign policy — but these are not, as far as I can make out, transferable to the nuclear weapons or nuclear strategy fields.

    • RK Anuj says:

      Your immense knowledge of the evolution of the Indian nuclear weapons program is indisputable. But somewhere down the line the Indian establishment began to disagree with your views, or rather, developed a view of its own which was not in line with yours. And that hasn’t gone down too well!! I am surprised that you are still not sure why I think you have misrepresented SS, considering your mastery of the funny English language! His talk is crystal clear…………the Indian establishment made a considered choice to develop a strategic capability while retaining deniability till such time that the goal of global disarmament was plausible……….when it was no longer manageable in the prevailing geopolitical environment, the choice to weaponise was exercised. SS’s admission of mistakes over a 40 year span, completely unrelated to the specific issue of weaponisation, is a humble submission of a reasonable person who has no pretensions to perfection, unlike some of our other worthies, pun intended, with ignoble assumptions to greatness!!

      It’s no secret that you know SS and possibly share a drink over your debates, and also that your books, each page of which I have devoured, have added to the Indian strategic culture, but that doesn’t permit you the assumption that you are the fountainhead and sole repository of the same. Many came before and will continue to do after. We all learnt from you, but also from many more. From you, seemingly, most folks learnt exactly what not to do!!

  5. I try not to get personal in a public discourse, so won’t respond to your personal asides which you think advances your argument. Whether it does or not is for others to judge. The hard core of my perplexity is, and has always been, why GOI — representing the sovereign interests of the country — having developed the capability on the sly and reached the weapons takeoff point in early 1964, felt the desperate need to “retain deniability” as long as disarmament was “plausible”? If you look at some of the US National Intelligence Estimates — the advance of the Indian weapons capability is tracked using the NIEs in my last book — “Índia’s Nuclear Policy” (Praeger, 2008), the US govt was better clued into where India was, weapons-wise, than most people in in GOI (including, MEA, which had no access). Indeed, the 1968 NPT was designed expressly to deny India legitimate nuclear weapons state status. So, where was the question of deniability? As to realizing N-disarmament, why was the cutoff point not 1953 when rather than CTBT, a PTBT is all that the US and USSR agreed to? What did it take for GOI to wake up and smell the coffee — again, not when China exploded its first device in Oct 1964 offering India the most perfect and ample justification to make its N-weaponization program overt and proceed with open-ended testing and arsenal build-up, but only when Pakistan fielded its purloined-cum-gifted N-capability??!! Any wonder nobody takes India that is determined to equate itself with a Pakistan (for God’s sake!) seriously. If you and others like you, in and out of govt portals, think this is fine, hey, who’s to argue?

    • RK Anuj says:

      If the use of words like idiotic, squeamish, weak- kneed, cowardly and many more such, that you liberally use in your writings against those not in tune with, are not personal asides in a public discourse, I wonder what in my post qualifies for it. Nevertheless, that’s the subject matter for another debate that I will let pass for the moment.

      Building capacity but retaining deniability is not with reference to the information that the US Govt was quite capable of acquiring and in fact did acquire. It refers specifically to the deniability of the intent to weaponise despite possessing the capability, which was the stated position of GOI till 1998. I presume that it is a well established historical fact that post 74 specifically and for at least 6-7 years before that, none that mattered in the world were unaware of Indian efforts and capability.

      I don’t think I need to go into the events of the 95- 96 CTBT negotiations here, but your claim that India…… “What did it take for GOI to wake up………proceed with open-ended testing and arsenal build-up, but only when Pakistan fielded its purloined-cum-gifted N-capability??!!”……hence equating itself with Pakistan…….only overtly weaponised as a reaction to Pak efforts, may be a figment of your imagination, but does not stand to any historical/ strategic scrutiny. If some folks, indoctrinated by your relentless anti- establishment propaganda believe that the Indian deterrence is Pak- centric, one can only pity their myopic wisdom.

      incidentally, the PTBT was signed not in 1953 but in 1963, by which year, four of the P5 were already in the club (a typo I presume, or am I missing some piece of history?). Could it be that the rapid advances that China made in the late 50s, but specially between ’64 and ’67, was the driving force behind the ’68 NPT, negotiations for which had already begun by ’61!! In ’61 was India even on the nuclear radar that the world started negotiating treaties expressly against India, as you would have us believe!! It’s this strange notion of the centrality of India in the lop- sided nuclear regime which makes you believe that the walls are closing in. But the establishment was wiser and suffered no such paranoia. Hence, it delayed an expensive( even by super power standards) nuke race in the sub- continent by at least three decades, till global circumstances, and not just Paki shenanigans, forced it’s hand in ’98.

      I really wonder, does nobody take India seriously………but we can save that for another day.

  6. All these adjectives you have mentioned I have used, mostly in reference to the collective/abstraction called the Govt of India or the policy establishment, rarely personally.

    The reason I mentioned 1953 — and I didn’t make it clear — was the Nehru correspondence with Eisenhower proposing a total test ban, which rejection made clear the US (and mirror-image Soviet) intent.

    Suggest you read up a bit on NPT history before venturing the view that China was the reason for it. With NIEs starting in 1963 suggesting India was on the cusp of testing (and capable of weaponisation) that’s what Washington was motivated by. In that period, China was outside the pale.

    Didn’t Rajiv Gandhi mention Pak NWs — which Ind estab was exercised about from when AQ Khan’s Observer interview — hinted at the time of 1987 Brasstacks. Surely, you are not serious in making China the prod — when they had this justification from 1964.

    Whether the arsenal is Pak-centric can be judged by (1) the nuclear orbat, and (2) the massive retaliation strategy. Hope I don’t have to dilate on these two factors. I don’t expect you’ll be persuaded in which case we really have nothing more to say to each other, or progress this discussion further. I’m allowing you the last word on this blog.

    • RK Anuj says:

      I can quote from your own blog the instances when you have used these adjectives against specific personalities, but then, you and the readers are well aware of that.

      Thanks for clarifying your take on the 1953 LTBT, I really did begin to have serious doubts on my information. But then the Nehru- Eisenhower exchange and the rejection by the US also happened in 1957, if I am not seriously mistaken. Nehru, in fact, had much earlier, in 1954 proposed a Standstill Agreement on testing, a subject matter that was introduced as the original draft CTB by the US and UK, in 1961, following the French tests.

      Infact, it was in the late 50s and early 60s that the US was very seriously considering facilitating an Indian explosion to beat the rapidly developing Red Communist Chinese program, which eventually beat the US design by fructifying in the ’64 test. Formal negotiations for the CTB and NPT were by then well underway, having begun formally in ’61 though they were on the agenda since 1954. So, hard to believe that these were targetted at India, which till then was far from acquiring the prowess, much like many other countries with a declared intent of harnessing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. That by ’68 China was a formal member of the P5, was a fait accompli that it presented by the time the NPT was adopted. India, having taken the lead in test ban and disarmament matters by then, was obviously still far from considering weaponisation of its own. And it stayed that way as a principled choice, though pursuing its nuclear ambitions to forestall any adverse eventuality. My knowledge of the history of NPT is not too misplaced, I presume.

      I am surprised that you mention Brasstacks and the events between ’83 and ’87, to present the case that the Indian tests were Pak- centric. In fact, these events go to confirm that India under RG then, still considered a conventional response enough to deal with Pak, while pushing in international fora for complete disarmament, an effort that RG once again renewed in ’88.

      There were plenty of prods well before ’98 that could have forced India to weaponise. But the point is that the establishment had made a very considered choice. And it stuck to it till feasible, regardless of the party in power. That changed post ’96, due to reasons mostly global, partially domestic politics and yes even for issues of pride and prestige, since that is what satisfies a certain hawkish Indian lobby.

      We can debate matters of orbat and massive retaliation strategies and how they prove that the Indian deterrence is not Pak- centric, but then we have indulged it in the past and it’s evident that you have an axe to grind in negating all logic.

      The privilege of the last word is not for you to give, whether you wish to respond or not is, of course, a choice entirely yours.

      • What is remarkable is just how deftly establishment types try to escape very simple questions. A rule of thumb — any time a govt/reps refer to “principled” stand, one can be certain that’principle is the last thing that motivated it. You want an entire history on NPT evolution when you yourself have been impatient about going into details, and rightly so. Every response can’t be a classroom lecture! Whatever the dateline you alight on and the original goals, the fact is starting in 1966-67 the NPT, having failed to corral Chinese ambitions, had fully turned on denying India weapons status by any means. This may have been a secular objective as regards spread of of WMD but the fact is India came within not just the NPT but the crosshairs of all the other arms control treaty regimes (CTBT, FMCT, MTCR). And this is the galling thing — while China was setting up its weapons capability with intensive Russian aid and hands-on assistance, India was as per Bhabha’s “growing science” method reaching the threshold on its own (with help, of course, from the technical parts of the ‘Átoms for peace’ literature). India reached the threshold and then marched in place awaiting Nehru’s decision. But all they got was more of the same lordly “Wait, until I tell you”. It kept the scientists and engineers, including Bhabha, in a state of growing psychological wretchedness as they saw the Chinese moving smoothly and rapidly from the fission test in 64 to the hydrogen weapon test in 67 (by when Nehru and Bhabha had departed the scene) — a matter of mere three yrs even as the Trombay gang all but twiddled their thumbs. Bhabha tried time and again, after the 1962 war, to break through Nehru’s reticence and failed. In the wake of 62 conflict, Bhabha after being encouraged by Kistikiaowsky (look up my book for the right spelling and details of this episode) — white house science adviser, Bhabha thought a shortcut offered by the US — of weapon design and fissile material, would be no bad thing from a strategic point of view of speedily achieving parity with China at that stage. It is this that Perkovich deliberately misinterprets (by absenting Kistikiaowsky from the unfolding events) to suggest Bhabha, aware of the skills and Pu shortfalls in Trombay) — and it was 1962 — not 1961 as you say — had gone to WashDC begging for technical help. In the meanwhile the Gilpatrick Committee decided to encourage India, with US help, to send up a satellite to show the Third World India’s supposed technical advancement. The trouble was the N-decision loop was simply Nehru-Bhabha and the weapons work was super-secret in a paperless regime, so no one had a clue. Shastri’s PPS LK Jha even expressed puzzlement that Nehru could be the classical statesman and devious — speaking one thing (disarmament), doing the exact opposite. Thereafter the simpletons of the Indira Gandhi and subsequent eras took over and actually began linking Indian weapons capability to disarmament, morality, principle, motherhood, mango pie, and whatnot, and the country went strategically off the rails. This is irrefutable history, you can cavil all you want. I have always said that the utter secracy of the W-program in the early days is what killed it because it prevented emergence of stakeholders in the bureaucracy who’d know the score and would front for and plead the case of scientists, and push the right decisions with the govt, because the BARC denizens are not now, and never were, very eloquent and persuasive salesmen. The less said about the so-called strategic analytic community in India the better — all of them kneading the official line at all times.

        So once again time to raise the same seminal Q again that the establishment types never answer. Were people at the highest levels in govt and MEA so purblind about events in the outside world starting as late as 1964 to really believe that disarmament was practicable long after it became a chimera? I mean, were they, are they, living in the real world to misread so basic a trend?

        As to Pak threat, pls do look up statements coming out of GOI where Paki weapons is what galvanized everybody into okaying weaponisation. It became virtually official justification because, and lets be honest about it, the political leaders could count on rousing popular support because of Pak being in the pic. It also inspired the jt India-Israeli op to take out Kahuta in 1983 that, as in other things, ended in a failure of nerve (Indira’s, who repeated in early 1984), and when the strike option was once again negatived, after nursing it, by Rajiv for the same reasons of nerve.

        No, the country has been grievously ill-served by its ostensible servants — the polt class and the bureaucracy. They have driven India strategically into the ground. Pulling the program back onto even ground will require some taking.

        You’ll come back with some inane iteration of the govt viewpoint and not answer the Q. That’s what almost everybody in the GOI establishment and those associated with it, do. ‘Nough said. In advance, do forgive my not responding to your next missive. There are others perusing this site who may wish to do so, and engage you in extended debate.

  7. Shaurya says:

    ^^High Time, either Anuj comes up with real arguments or facts with good reasoning. All I have seen so far is personal attacks and innuendos – with an absolute zero as an argument. When one seen opposition no matter what Bharat ji writes, it is clear the poster has an agenda or has lost his bearings.

    • RK Anuj says:

      When I quote form a document that BK refers to, I think it is an argument/ fact like none other. While posting on this blog, it has been my assumption that the facts, history and statistical information is available to any one with an interest and ability to work for it, its not for me to educate folks. It is interpretations of the facts that BK deals in and that is what I have responded to. If that’s beyond your comprehension, none’s my loss.

  8. satyaki says:

    Dear Anuj,

    When you say that it is not BKs privilege to say the last word, you seem to indirectly say that it is your privilege to say so…

    In any case, BKs core objection is to the undue restraint in expanding the deterrent capability. This restraint persists to this day. After all, beyond our technical capability and what we can pay for, there should be no additional political reason for strategic restraint. Expanding power is always a good thing.

    Since the CTBT/FMCT close our future options for enhancing the deterrent, they should be opposed tooth and nail. Why object so vehemently to this ? Do you hope for India to come under the CTBT/FMCT ambit ? That is the core question. If no, then all of us are on the same page quibbling over semantics.

  9. satyaki says:

    One more point: when we did test a thermonuclear device in 1998, it was certainly not for prestige. Clearly, the establishment would have made a carefully considered decision that thermonuclear weapons would be a necessary part of the deterrent.

    When someone from within the establishment as senior as Dr. Santhanam disagrees with the results of the 1998 thermonuclear test, it becomes imperative that testing happens once again (at an opportune moment) until there is absolute unanimity within the establishment (this means the scientific as well as military establishment) regarding our ability to field thermonuclear warheads of the yield deemed necessary back then (going by what DAE says, this means yields upto 200 kilotons).

    Until this point (Dr. Santhanam himself states in his interviews that he expects this to be a handful of further tests rather than open ended testing), the CTBT should be absolutely unacceptable to any government. In fact, it should be made clear that undue pressure on India regarding CTBT signature would only precipitate thermonuclear tests, if anything. Once the above mentioned condition is satisfied, CTBT signing would be acceptable…

    The FMCT should be a no-no for the indefinite future (even if we do pay some lip service to it). If Pakistan changes its stand on the FMCT and there is no one else (not even NoKo) willing to scuttle the FMCT, we should not filch from unequivocally rejecting it. This is because more nuclear firepower would be required to deter our potential adversaries: primarily owing to the development and proliferation of missile defences (though PRC has none as of now, it is only a matter of time before they acquire effective missile defences as well)). MIRVs and maneuverable warheads can make things difficult for future missile defences, but they cant be solely relied upon to make such defences irrelevant to the deterrence equation. The “required mass” for our deterrent to be credible will only increase owing to such steps by our rivals.

    • RK Anuj says:

      You mistake the intention behind my reference to the last word, which, I suspect BK has correctly interpreted.

      I am with you about the need to stay away from the CTBT till such time there are iron- clad guarantees regarding disarmament, which is unlikely, and hence India has stayed out of the same till date.

      • satyaki says:

        Not just the CTBT (which may become acceptable if, in the future, we conduct a successful round of thermonuclear tests validating designs upto 200kt), but, more importantly, the FMCT (which will never become acceptable at least until there are iron clad guarantees on global disarmament, which, as you point out, is unlikely).

        Regarding global nuclear disarmament in general, I sometimes wonder whether it is futile to think about it until such a time as nations worldwide eschew the temptation for “power from the barrel of the gun”. In fact, without the latter fundamental issue being addressed (which is practically impossible during our lifetimes), global disarmament might only end up enhancing the relative military advantage and freedom of action of nation states that have aggressive military policies combined with a conventional military edge. There is more than one such nation with this combination, and India is not among them. Given that, a situation where we have a hefty thermonuclear arsenal backed up by a reasonable conventional capability (rather than one that enables us to go around attacking far awe y countries if we choose to) may be more in our interest than a nuclear free world where conventional might is right. Point to ponder …

  10. RK Anuj says:

    @ Bharat karnad- One is forced to go into the details of history because of your propensity, firstly, to dismiss anything otherwise as generalist inanities and secondly, but more importantly, your habit of either omitting or misinterpreting the facts that do not suit your line of argument. I think we understand that we have left classroom lectures behind us.

    Your ability to shift goalposts……from 53 to 66-67………. Nevertheless, so, we agree that it was not until after the Chinese explosions that the NIEs started worrying about an Indian decision to weaponise. But right until ’63, by which time negotiations for the CTB and NPT had begun, all of them were confident that India will not weaponise, but the biggest concerns were China, some European countries, Japan and Israel (even Australia figures there). Your premise that the NPT was to specifically target India holds little water. The secular goal of WMD non- proliferation that you so casually dismiss, to weigh in your argument of the Indian centrality to the NPT, can be quite easily demolished if I start quoting some of the NIEs that you conveniently overlook. Obviously, India was very much in the cross- hairs, having developed a capability with no little assistance from the west, just like there were so many others on the threshold of a test.

    It ought to be a tribute to the astute diplomatic efforts of the time, that despite not joining the NPT/ CTB regime finally and till date, India was able to extract much diplomatic mileage and technological assistance in the run- up to it’s ’68 adoption and later, whether it was the Gilpatric recommendations that you incorrectly mention or the actual Soviet assistance for its first satellite launch. The truth is that both the cold- war powers were actively vying to get India in their camp by giving all sorts of inducements they could politically afford.

    Anybody with a passing knowledge of history will be astonished by your rendition of IG and successors as simpletons, when it was she who sent ominous signals in ’74 and the later ’95 efforts of the then regime, before ’98 finally happened.

    History can be interpreted which way you like, but in so- doing, at least, give a bit of credit where it’s due, without overlooking facts at your convenience, and not trash everyone undeservedly. Asking for too much!!

    Regarding your essential grouse about establishment types not answering your big Q. Much as you may disagree, because it diminishes your counterarguments, I do not claim to be one. But I will answer the Q, in brief. The very same NIEs that you quote in your books also mention a cost calculation for developing and sustaining a bare essential deterrence comprising only a handful of basic bombs, which by your contemplation requires a few hundred advanced TNs. But that itself, you can not disagree, does not preclude the need to maintain and develop an advanced conventional force. Consider the GDP and its growth upto the 90s, all HD indices upto the time, the state of the technological/ education base in the country, the effect that the wars of the 60s and 70s had on the above and also the basic essential fact that India was never in the race for status that emerges from the barrel of gun. You may worry that India has been strategically driven to the ground, paranoia has no cure, but not many will disagree about the difference in status that India enjoys today in the world, vis- a vis many of the others who have also been in the cross hairs of the CTB since the 60s. Our so- called grounded strategy has ensured that India has survived and thrived.

    I appreciate your inability to respond due to the compulsions of shifting attention to the next article……….will wait till then!!

  11. Can’t resist rising…Where did I shift goalposts — I assumed you –because you claim to know much of NPT and all things N, I responded to you with ’53 — how was I to know the Nehru-Ike correspondence wouldn’t occur to you? I suppose I’m expected to hazard what you don’t know!
    Further, NO Anuj, NIEs assessing Indian nuclear weapons capability began to come in, the first of these around,1959-60, when the tocsin began to be sounded in Washington — NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH CHINA, etc.!!!

    Re: the costs — have tackled this aspect in particular in my tome. As also the desperate efforts by the US CIA to deter GOI from a weapon decision by literally inventing daunting costing-data — pure poppycock, which Bhabha contested to the end . Look up my book.

    Even assuming economic dire straits, and Bhabha understated the costs — Rs 100 crores for a mix of fission and fusion weapons in 1962 in the wake of China War, surely GOI would have been able to afford just a few weapons — the idea being to test and weaponize if only to a limited extent and then await better times to test again and increase the arsenal — precisely what China did. (WHY? because its leadership had the strategic vision and foresight to just go OVER the weapon line. Had India done that, an entire alternative universe would have obtained (No NPT and tech-denial regimes, no sanctions — all of which India suffered for some 25 odd years), and India at the top table. Instead, we have the history that we have starting with IG. Surely, even you would concede this.

    • RK Anuj says:

      It keeps getting better. Surely, I know half as little as many of the Academicians dealing with N matters but how am I supposed to link your reference to the ’53 PTBT (………”As to realizing N-disarmament, why was the cutoff point not 1953 when rather than CTBT, a PTBT is all that the US and USSR agreed to?” ………… ) with an unstated Nehru- Ike correspondence on the subject, which itself actually happened in ’57!! Guess, I am expected to have telepathic abilities while debating with you.

      The NIEs, thankfully, are today available for anyone to see, and I will leave it to the readers’ judgement whether they really have NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH CHINA, ETC and are so Indo- phobic. You may not admit because it flies in the face of your argument, but the fact is that US was very clear( IN BOLD CAPITALS– CLEAR) that India will not weaponise unless the Chinese did so and in 1963 their biggest worry was the Chinese advances and looming test. Post ’64 Red tests, they turned their attention to India, Japan and others. But the point is, well before this time, NPT/ CTB were already being negotiated. Its Indian- centricity is a figment of the imagination.

      As to the cost analysis, the CIA was itself doubtful whether the Indians, and others to whom it was being presented, will digest their daunting figures. Certainly, Bhabha and the others would have seen through it. But what about the cost analysis by the GOI, which at that time was running pillar to post, seeking aid for petty issues ( to your ilk) like food, fertiliser, steel, power and other basic requirements. You talk now of ….just a few weapons….when in every blog, article and book you argue about the pettiness of the 100 odd Indian weapons. If China had in response to the Indian tests post ’64 embarked on an arms race, as on-going elsewhere in the world then, up which gum tree would it have left India by your calculation? Yes you can imagine a rosy world with India on the high table……..but then it could also be a world where India today was nothing more than a caricature of its present self……or worse a near failed state like Pakistan, North Korea or so much of Africa, considering its diversity. If you really are a fan of the Chinese foresight and strategic vision, I guess you also understand that you wouldn’t survive a day, undermining your establishments and capabilities in the caustic manner that you do, if you were in China. The freedom that India gives to every shade of opinion is also the bane that prevents it’s leaders from taking unilateral decisions that may leave a few million starving to death as in the China of the 60s!!

      So let’s not live in a rose tinted dream world of ……what ifs……and get real!!

      • The point of getting over the weapons line is just that, crossing it. Thereafter management of the situation would have been a lesser task than what India actually faced. It included not being induced/tempted/prompted into an arms race with China. The important thing is not Nehru, not anybody, realized the strategic importance of acquiring NW-status — however basic, because then the P-5 and the world would have had to deal with it. No rose-tinted glasses here. You seem to be a fount of excuses — there is no dearth of them — for GOI not doing what it should have. And finally you fall back on the, ah, the last refuge of……the freedom I enjoy in a free state, etc. Plueeeze…!

  12. S U Zaman says:

    Nice read. Nuclear amateurism is common to South Asia as both neighbours shows same understanding towards the nuclear issue. One can only hope they become rational actors in future.

  13. RK Anuj says:

    @ Satyaki Quite right. But I don’t entirely agree about the FMCT because I have my views of what constitutes a minimum deterrent in the 21st century world. The rest of your thoughts on the problems of a nuclear free world are quite relevant. In fact that is the exact reason, besides issues of verification, why the Big 2 could never agree upon disarmament.

    • satyaki says:

      FMCT objectionable because what is minimum today will be inadequate tomorrow: not b/c people all of a sudden are willing to accept more damage but because of an increased availability of increasingly effective missile defenses, so on. This means that what 100 odd weapons can achieve today could well require, say, 300-400 odd tomorrow.

      Given this dynamic, there is no reason to accept any constraints on future expansion, even if we are happy with what we have now. In short, there can never be a all-time-valid fixed ceiling on what constitutes a minimum deterrent.

  14. RK Anuj says:

    @ Bharat Karnad you deliberately misinterpret my reference to the freedom that you and I enjoy. That sentence is not so much about us, but about China, in the late 50s and early 60s, though eventually seated on the high table, had by then starved several millions to death. That is the path a reasonable India never took. If these reasons sound like excuses, who’s to argue!!


    Though it is differnt topics I am writing here.
    Sir,Now after the election in Iran the scenario is little different.Moderate Hassan Rouhani has come to power.The nuclear negotiation with Iran may take a new turn.Still the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei is an obstacle to any peaceful outcome of negotiation with Iran on nuclear issue.US making the condition more complex.Us have to respond swiftly to any threat.Khamenei has anti US stand, on the other hand Rouhani is moderate in nature and open to talks.The backbone of anti US lobby in Iran is their supreme leader.Secret service of US ,most powerful and extremely professional should take the assignment and put Khameni to an end.It will demoralise the lobby.US relation with India is also now tensed on Iran issue.I am not for high intensity battle but a action like this with swift handling is neede for a jerk to the deadlock of the situation.

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