Nuclear-wise, India is seriously handicapped (by govt!)

Agni 5, India's Longest Range Ballistic Missile, Successfully Test-Fired
[Agni-5 – Lift Off]

A decision approving a series of test firings of the Agni-5 intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) has been pending for the last 10 years. When it was finally taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi it was done, it seems, again on a one-off basis, and with some reluctance. As to why this should be so is one of those mysteries only Modiji can unravel. It is clear the trigger for the test launch of Agni-5 was not some longview calculation in the wake of the news of the spectacular Chinese test of a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) in the guise of testing a hypersonic glide vehicle, but an attempt by India, a nuclear minnow, to say: Hey, notice me — I’m in the game too!!

Just how far ahead China is may be guaged from the Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, calling the Chinese achievement “significant” and a near “Sputnik moment” for America.

First re: Milley’s Sputnik ejaculation. The US was startled out of its wits when the Soviet Union in October 1957, launched the first man-made satellite — the 80kg, football-sized, orbiter — Sputnik-1, which event the History Division of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), heralds as the “Dawn of the space age”. Incidentally, NASA was created by the stirred and much shaken Eisenhower Administration in 1958. It led, in that period, to the US handily winning the space race by landing Neil Armstrong on the moon in May1969, and meeting President John F Kennedy’s May 1961 challenge to the American science & technology community and industry to do so by the end of that decade.

The shock in a complacent Washington at China’s successfully testing FOBS is as great as when a doubting US was rendered aghast at the Soviet Union’s pulling off a Sputnik some 65 years ago. We can now expect a full-fledged arms race in space to get underway with American companies being pushed, pulled, prodded and incentivised to, as soon as possible, have the US military not just field an array of FOBS, but also technology to neutralize hypersonic glide weapons able to home in on targets at 21 kms per second (Mach 5 to Mach 7 speeds) after transiting through space and re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.

The Chinese FOBS occasioned the 5,000 km Agni-5 IRBM test, which was a sort of small, “me too” reaction by India. There’s no parity, of course, because DRDO’s hypersonic programme is having the usual kind of troubles with this tech relating to the design of the glide vehicle (for smooth reentry) as also with the propellant mix for the initial and terminal phases of hypersonic flight. It may not be like for like, but Agni-5 is the only weapon available to India to blunt Beijing’s tendency to show India up as a strategic nonentity and to prevent nuclear bullying of the kind the Indian army, in the conventional arena, routinely suffers at the hands of the PLA on the disputed border.

Hence, the great mystery about the Indian government’s reticence in showboating with the A-5. And why it is that these Agni’s aren’t regularly fired into the southern Indian Ocean after pointedly sending Beijing notices warning Chinese naval and merchant ships to keep off the designated target areas (whether there are any Chinese ships in the vicinity or not); the idea being to make a splash on the minds of Chinese strategists who are contemptuous of what they consider India’s strategic pretensions.

At the heart of this tragedy is a wimpy Indian government. Consider the pattern: Talented and highly motivated missileers at the Advanced Systems Laboratory, Hyderabad, design and develop missiles of various kinds and associated weapons technologies only for things to come to a shuddering halt as Delhi dithers endlessly first on testing, and then on inducting and deploying these systems, thus keeping the country in a state of peril.

The reason the A-5 is a formidable weapon is its “guidance on chip” — its unique selling point, that gives it extraordinary accuracy at extreme range. [For more details about ‘guidance on chip’, see my posts from 2012! — “Agni-5 tidbits”, April 23, 2012 at https://bharatkarnad.com/2012/04/23/agni-5-tid-bits/ and “Agni-V – guidance on chip”, April 26, 2012 at https://bharatkarnad.com/2012/04/26/agni-v-guidance-on-chip/%5D.

In the CEP (circular error probable) metric to assess accuracy of missiles, the Indian A-5 is as good as any missile in the world. In the event, the country should by now have had, quite literally, hundreds of these missiles — conventional and nuclear warheaded, to provide flexible strike options to take out the most distant countervalue or counterforce targets in China. Alas, test firings of the A-5 have been few and far between, and even though there are variants of the A-5, including one that is road mobile, the A-5 technology would gain refinement from many more and regular test firings. The strategic situation versus China is aggravated, moreover, by a low production rate of Agni-5s with its numbers to-date in the arsenal constituting only a fraction of the desired strength. But at least the A-5 has some testing behind it. They also remain relatively exposed owing to a marked deficiency of invulnerable mountain tunnel complexes to store and stockpile these Agni’s and, in crisis, to trundle out into firing positions clear of the mountainous overhang. The tunnel complexes is was I had advocated during my time on the first National Security Advisroy Board and then in my 2002 book — Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security.

The equally indigenous MIRV (multiple independently maneuverable vehicle) technology that allows a single missile to carry several warheads and to fire them at widely dispersed targets has not been so lucky. Designed, developed and readied for testing as far back as 2001-2002, the MIRV design and tech has been collecting dust in ASL ever since. Three governments in the new millennium –Vajpayee’s, Manmohan Singh’s and Modi’s, have felt no urgency whatsoever to give the green signal to test the MIRV prototype! More likely, as I have argued in my books, they have succumbed to American pressure to not test and induct this disruptive tech. Meanwhile, China took only a couple of years, from design to deployment, for its MIRV-ed missiles to enter the PLA strategic rocket forces’ inventory. [For details of the Indian MIRV tech, see my 2008 book — India’s Nuclear Policy].

If all these factors were not liability enough, we have the Indian government whose lack of strategic intellect is shocking, if not surprising. The collective ignorance of the phenomenon of nuclear deterrence and its dynamics in the highest reaches of the government, the military, in the bureaucracy, generally, and in MEA in particular, is a sad but costly joke at the expense of national security. It is evidenced in the statement issued by the Indian government following the IRBM test launch: “The successful test of Agni-5 is in line with India’s stated policy to have credible minimum deterrence that underpins the commitment to ‘No First Use’.” !!! This is on par with the endlessly repeated piece of idiocy mouthed by politcal leaders, military chieftains, and addle-brained diplomats alike that “nuclear weapons are meant for deterrence, not war fighting.” These strategic-nuclear illiterates are also convinced, for instance, that India’s gazetted doctrine emphasizing “massive retaliation” works even though the last two decades have clearly proven otherwise with even Pakistan mocking India’s nuclear posture by continuing to play the terrorism card and by speedily building up its stock of tactical nuclear weapons whose first use pronouncements, it surmises and the record bears it out, clearly deters India from exploiting its conventional military edge.

Despite the examples of Kim Jong-un threatening to take out Tokyo and the mid-Pacific US military island base of Guam in response to Trump’s talk of “fire and fury” that led to Trump slinking away and earlier, of China preparing to go with nuclear first use if the US tried to impose its military will, Delhi sticks with the simpletonish, one dimensional, view of the utility of nuclear weapons. Hence, the voicing of half-understood concepts like ‘minimum deterrence’ and ‘no first use’ from the Indian government and its representatives. It has consigned the country to a state of permanent strategic disadvantage and left it with no means to leverage a more respectful Chinese attitude to India’s national interest and its position on LAC, or to dissuade Beijing from pushing and pressuring this country at every turn. Xi Jinping and his team are by now only too aware that the Indian worm — nuclear or otherwise, does not turn.

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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46 Responses to Nuclear-wise, India is seriously handicapped (by govt!)

  1. RK Narang says:

    Thank You Sir, I successfully defended my Ph.D thesis last week. Warm Regards Gp Capt (Dr.) R K Narang VM (Retd.)9911222003

    • Congratulations and Good Luck in future endeavours, Dr. Narang!

    • Kuru says:

      Milley is just hyping the Chinese test to get more funding for the bloated American MIC. China has gained pretty much no new advantage over America or even India, that it did not already have with this FOBS test (a Soviet technology). This is especially true for India as we are already so close to China as to make fractional orbit strikes impractical.

      American ABM tech is already pretty unreliable, a few Chinese MIRVed missiles could already destroy American targets before this test.

      Also, Sputnik demonstrated the Soviet ability to hit America with nukes via missile, as opposed to bombers, so it really was upping the ante, not so with this Chinese test.

      Even Pakistan tested a MIRV a few years ago, who knows why India still hasn’t done so, would be a real game changer against China.

  2. Amit says:

    Professor,

    I’ve been thinking about India’s defensive mind set – it seems to be steeped culturally in our defensive strategies – even the defensive offence we talk about is still pretty defensive.

    What India needs is a total paradigm shift in the way it thinks about its influence and power. While Sam Huntington has been criticised for his Clash of Civilisations ideas, I think he made some brilliant points which are still relevant.

    India is fighting extreme political Islam in its northwest and the Sinic civilization on its North and East. I do not see any way of reconciling Political Islam with the Indic civilisation – it has not been pluralistic for a 1000 years and current events in the Islamic world do not show any indication that these societies will allow pluralistic values to prevail (which is what Islam preaches btw). Maybe the changes happening in Saudi and UAE are good portends, but Political Islam has a long way to go before it is acceptable to non Muslims. There is a possibility of the Indic and Sinic to co exist, but the current leadership in China has ensured that this won’t happen anytime soon.

    India should have a goal to defeat political Islam and Sinic encroachment, and establish Indic thought and values in South Asia – this goes from Afghanistan in the Northwest to Myanmar in the East, and perhaps SE Asia. It should do this through a combination of hard and soft power. The reason is that Indic thoughts and values are pluralistic, support free thought, speech, innovation and wealth creation, and promote the idea of mutual coexistence with peoples from all religions and cultures. So giving primacy to Indic thought and values will ensure the survival and thriving of over 2-3B people. These thoughts and values are quite in alignment with the Western and Slavic civilisations as well. So India must partner with them to achieve this. Note that I say Indic and not Hindu.

    What this means is that Indic values should dominate Political Islam to the west and Sinic culture to the North, I.e., Tibet. India should have a 50-100 year horizon to achieve this result so that Political Islam is defeated and subdued to its Northwest, and Tibetan culture, which has more in common with Indic be re established to its Northeast.

    India should shed its reticence about promoting its values at least in its neighbourhood, and call a spade a spade. The first step should be to improve India’s current economic potential and ensure social harmony is maintained within. But do this without any qualms about promoting Indic thoughts and values. Then ensure (maybe sometimes in parallel) that Indic thought dominates in the place of its birth – the whole of South Asia. Let Political Islam and the Sinic culture feel the full force of the dominance of Indic values.

    • DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

      Dear Mr Karnad another very thoughtful article by your mighty pen.

      Just yesterday Praveen Sawhney mentioned that “Pakistan is an Overmatch for India” when it comes to tactical and operational battles.

      Do you agree with that theory given by Mr Sawhney ?

    • DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

      Amit@ — Very interesting concept Amit. Can you kindly define what constittues Indic civilization or Indic values Amit ?

      Where do you classify Bangladesh ? Should Bangladesh be categorized within Indic or Islamic civilization ?

      • Amit says:

        @Debanjan,

        As I mention in my comments, ‘Indic thoughts and values are pluralistic, support free thought, speech, innovation and wealth creation, and promote the idea of mutual coexistence with peoples from all religions and cultures’.

        Bangladesh is currently a pluralistic regime, Like India it is a ‘cleft’ civilisation (as Sam Huntington calls it). There is danger of Political Islam – this ties into your ideas of Bangladesh being an opponent. If India develops and uses its soft power, it can influence Bangladesh to remain pluralistic etc. India’s long term goal should be to ensure that Political Islam does not dominate in this region. India’s methods of dealing with Bangladesh would be very different from those with Pakistan.

  3. By email from Joydeep Sircar:
    Fri, 29 Oct at 9:27 am

    Superb piece!

    Gutless Modi is a little puppy following a geriatric tottering Biden. India testing MIRV would have enraged Xi whom Biden is trying to appease.

    India and Taiwan will probably meet the fate of Czechoslovakia and Poland at the hands of Germany at the beginning of WW2 – they also relied on western powers to uphold their independence. India’s nuclear deterrence will mean nothing, for at the crucial moment USA will tell our govt. that using nukes will mean the permanent destruction of lndia, and our cowards in Delhi will take their finger off the trigger. They will continue on the trajectory of Hindu cowardice embedded in us by a thousand years of servility reinforced by Gandhi’s blathering.

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Joydeep Sircar- “Hindu cowardice embedded in us by a thousand years of servility reinforced by Gandhi’s blathering”

      Gandhi fooled his followers by publicly propagating abstinence from sexual acts while he continued his close encounters with females.

  4. Surajit Purkait says:

    India’s biggest triumph over China is not in the development of nuclear warheads and missiles but in building up the severe consequences for China if it ever engages in one. India is much much ahead of China in goodwill diplomacy which ensures that the whole world will stand behind India and not China in case of an unprovoked attack on its mainland by a neighbour which is acting like a big bully these days.

    China has strong friends with only Pakistan and North Korea. Even Russia will not support it in case it attacks India. The US, UK, FRANCE, GERMANY and other western countries will fully back India and will support it fully both militarily and diplomatically incase its territorial integrity is threatened.

    In such circumstances China’s image will take a severe beating as it will come up as a rogue nation and although a very powerful nation will find it hard to live with international isolation in a globalised world and with a globalised economy.

    • surajit purkait@ — Sorry to prick your balloon, but goodwill, diplomacy and all those nice things don’t count for much in the harsh world of interational affairs, and especially not when hostilities are afoot and the balance of advantage is uncertain for third parties.

  5. Aona says:

    Asked if India will also increase the range of the Agni-V missile, which can reach targets as far Beijing with a range of over 5,000 km, Christopher denied it.
    “We may not do it because it can antagonise someone,” he said without naming any country.?What he deliberately did not mention was that someone was none other than USA and UK. These so-called friends and allies of India, who unlike Russia, have always hindered Indian military capability.
    This is the level of Indian impotency before The Angloanericans. India can openly aggravate China by saying that her missile is being specific to hit and attack Bejing and Shangai but can not increase missile range for fear of the West.
    **********************************
    In an effort to move closer to the U.S., the Vajpayee government had considered sending troops to Iraq in 2003, but aborted the move after domestic opposition. Iraq was a secular and friendly state in the Middle East and was betrayed by Indians. India is an untrustworthy nation. Full stop.
    Narendra Modi now bribes USA with buys of spyware-infested junk weaponary costing billions of òf dollars.
    combat-operations-pentagon-report/ri18562
    combat-operations-pentagon-report/ri18562

    India is a weakling, like a small boy who recently discovered a big bully in the school yard and wants to enchant that bully by feeding him a grand lunch every day. It is association with that bully that makes Indians feel strong. So Delusional Indians think they are strong? India has bad relationship with almost all her neighbours. This is the effect of English-medium education system — another colonial legacy that today mass produces software specialists, engineers, doctors and financial managers itching to service the post- industrial economies of the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Indian policies to keep this ‘brain bank’ solvent have helped firm up domestic support for US-friendly policies among the middle-class and other aspiring sections of the Indian society.”

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Aona- Your opinion regarding India is spot on.

      What else one can expect from a “Khichdii”nation, which came into existence in 1947.

      The landmass known as India had 600 odd kingdoms in the medieval times. Every King led a luxurious life while the subjects toiled.

      These Kings collided with foreign invaders to maintain their lavish lifestyles.

      Patel bribed these kings into joining the newly carved nation of India post British ‘transfer of power’ to British crony, Nehru.

      Patel offered them “privy purses”. It was a heavy burden on India’s annual GDP, providing huge funds every month to these useless so called royals.

      Indira Gandhi had the common sense to abolish the aforementioned drain of national resources somewhere in the 1960’s.

      Post the dissolution of erstwhile USSR. American intelligence completely penetrated the Indian corridors of power.

      • Debanjan Banerjee says:

        @Gaurav Tyagi, very interesting observation. Since you live in China do you feel that the Chinese have sized up India ? Do they fear India or not? How the Chinese view towards India and Pakistan differ?

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @Debanjan Banerjee- Chinese have a low opinion of India as well as Indians. They don’t regard Pakistanis as any better.

        Their show of friendship towards Pakistan is just a strategic calculation to keep India pre-occupied with Pakistan.

  6. Deepak says:

    MIRV not tested,no news about Agni 6 for such a long time after Agni 5 testing,not sure why not retesting HSTDV after a partial success last year which is very important to develop next generation hypersonic missile.whether Modi,Nehru,Indira ,Vajapayee or any other prime minister always lacked guts,strategic thinking.All our so called great leaders still not come out of dimmi attitude no matter what they say about in public about Islamic invaders or Christian colonizers.

    • Apna says:

      Cryogenic engine given by Russia has helped India to send a probe to the Moon.(Chandrayaan 2). This feat could have been achieved earlier but for the fact that the ISRO scientist, Nambi Narayan, the lead in Indianizing Russian rocket engine design was implicated in a spurious spying case and jailed, with the Manmohan Singh government doing nothing.

      • Deepak says:

        Manmohan govt was highly corrupt and useless remote controlled govt. Modi could have done much better with the big mandate he got 2 times but he has let down the people who voted him thinking he has guts who ll undo blunders of Manmohan era.But so far Modi remained only paper Tiger doing a job of lecturer giving lengthy speeches, getting credit for others hard work and dumping failures on ministers and bureaucrats.

  7. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    Army officials said that the area, where the explosion took place, is dotted with landmines planted by the army as part of the counter-infiltration arrangement.

    https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/two-army-jawans-killed-one-injured-in-mine-blast-in-jammu-and-kashmir-s-rajouri-1871501-2021-10-30

    So, they both stepped on the landmines planted by their own army colleagues.

  8. Sankar says:

    Here is an interesting pointer:
    https://chellaney.net/2021/10/30/why-the-u-s-let-pakistan-nuclear-scientist-aq-khan-off-the-hook%ef%bf%bc/
    I guess the message of it has been doing rounds in intelligence and diplomatic circles for many years now, Professor Karnad, could you please give us your insight into the context!

    • sankar@ — The US was complicit in Chinese transfer of nuclear weapons and missiles and technologies to Pakistan. This was dealt with in extenso in my 2002 book — Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security, as was the fact of AQ Khan’s purloined URENCO centrifuge design blueprints given to China in exchange. For a shorter, more recent, wrap-up on this subject see my 2016 piece — ‘Countering The Rogue Nuclear Triad Of China, Pakistan And North Korea’ in The Wire, 25 July 2016 at https://thewire.in/world/countering-the-rogue-nuclear-triad-of-china-pakistan-north-korea. This piece, incidentally, was first solicited by the Washington security website — ‘War on the Rocks’ before deciding not to print it!

  9. DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

    Dear Readers,

    I have further discussed the reasons why I believe Bangladesh could potentially be a more formidable opponent to India compared to Pakistan.

    https://wonderfuldistractions.substack.com/p/bangladesh-could-be-more-formidable-a94?justPublished=true

    I would love your views on my writeup.

    @Amit
    When it comes to the Indic civilization and Bangladesh, I believe Bangladesh considers herself as a separate unique civilization which is Bangla civilization which is separate and unique from that of the Indic civilization. I believe Pakistan in recent times also has started to look into her ancient past to defineherself as a civilization state i.e. a blend of Indic and Islamic civilizations which is distinct from the gangetic-plain based Indic civilization.

    Also you seem to assume that only the presence of political Islamists in Bangladesh is bad for the interests of India. In my perspective even the secular nationalists led by Awami league need an external enemy in India to continue to justify their rule in the present scenario of grave democratic and economic problems in that country.

    I do not therefore believe that either Bangladesh or Pakistan will in future accept Indic civilization dominating this region. For further details you can have a look at my latest article on Bangladesh.

    Looking forward to your views on my latest article.

    • Amit says:

      @Debanjan,

      You bring out many relevant points about Bangla history and psyche (which was educative for me) in your article. I’m not saying that Bangladesh cannot go down the path you highlight relative to India. However, the make up of their population is such that they will face similar problems as India if overt Muslim domination happens.

      My point about why India should have an aim to establish Indic values is precisely to prevent this kind of Religious Islamic dominance. The last 1000 years of history has taught us that Political Islam requires reform to accept and allow pluralistic societies to flourish (even though Islam preaches this). It is time for India to define what it wants in this region. Not be reactive and take what it gets.

      Indic values are not opposed to Sufi traditions. Bangladesh’s slide into social disharmony will also be negative to them. It will be a threat to India if India slides economically relative to Bangladesh and would worsen if social disharmony also prevails in India. That is why India has to have a vision to define the agenda for the region rather than being reactive to events around it. We are too steeped in defensive strategies rather than being proactive and defining what should be.

      First, focus on growing India economically, and second truly promote Indic or Dharmic values as opposed to Hindu (while Hinduism preaches religious harmony etc., promoting Hinduism will be more divisive than dharmic, which is the true tradition of India).. Bangladesh will not accept Indic values on its own, but India should develop its power such that it does dominate. Also, Indic/Dharmic values are not opposed to peaceful co-existence with Islam, while it is not true the other way around. Indians should be unabashed about this and call a spade a spade. Religious fundamentalism MUST BE DESTROYED.

      Therefore India needs to have a vision to defeat Political Islam in its current form or force it to reform. For too long, Political Islam has been imposed by foreign powers in this region. For an Indic vision to happen, India also has to employ hard power along with soft power. It also has to reform internally to be truly inclusive – this is a necessary condition, and possible. It is precisely because of the dangers of Political Islam and how divisive it is, I’m proposing a grander vision for Indian politics. It won’t happen overnight. History tells us that India has never been united in as large as entity as it currently is for more than 40-50 years, but it can set a different future if it develops a truly inclusive vision along with strong democratic/dharmic institutions.

      • Debanjan Banerjee says:

        Thanks a lot for your esteemed opinion Amit. I feel that when it comes to China and Pakistan, we are falling for the Huntingtonian trap of the ” Clash of civilizations”. The west will feel very happy to set us up as a garrison state or frontline state against China whereby west will be fighting China till the last Indian. I will soon write another series of blog-posts that will highlight different angles of India’s problem with her neighbors. I will start with China, first. I request all the esteemed readers in this forum like you to give their views on the same.

  10. whatsintanyway says:

    I have heard that MIRV is not that complex it won’t take years to develop(even from Indian perpective) so why waste money…. The Chinese already think of us as a benign state. Also @ Bharat ji I figure that Americans in some arcane way are already thinking of ‘passing the batton’.

  11. Amit says:

    @Debanjan,

    I welcome your views on India’s relations with its neighbours. But I’m not aligned with views which say that the Clash of a civilisations is a Western Huntingtonian trap. Sam Huntington was a Professor. His book is a brilliant analysis of how states interact with each other. His student Francis Fukuyama is another brilliant political scientist/historian some of whose books are absolutely brilliant. These people don’t have any Western agenda in mind – they are studying political history and global power structures and coming up with models to describe what is happening.

    While Sam Huntington gets a lot of flak for his controversial topic/headline, I observe that many of his observations are actually playing out. I go with facts. I’m not talking about Western agendas, but the Indian agenda. Your very comment about the Western agendas and India plays into some kind of ‘clash’ thinking.

    In any case, I want to avoid discussing templates and models (like Clash of Civilisations). They distract from what is central – how should India act and behave. I enjoy discussing these topics on this platform that Professor Karnad has so enabled. I look forward to your comments/blog posts.

  12. RG says:

    Happy Diwali,Sir.

    If China uses its rocket forces to saturate a sector/mainland India with conventional missiles aka Russian style what should we do? Should we let go of no first use nuk thing?What do u think about such a scenario?

    • RG@ — The point I argued in my book ‘ Staggering Forward’ for first N-use, among other scenarios, is China loosing off a few missiles from Tibet base that our radars pick up. This should prompt a triggering of canisterised A-5s against the wealth-producing Chinese coastal land north and south of Shanghai to decimate the Chinese economy. The absence of any technology anywhere to distinguish the type of missile warheads on the incoming Chinese missiles means India cannot take any chances. That this will be India’s response should be main known publicly to China and everybody else.

      • Amit says:

        Professor,

        I wonder why India does not have a first use policy on nuclear weapons. We seem to revel in our defensive posture to project the image of a responsible nuclear state. All these weapons are for deterrence. I am sure the policy would have been seriously discussed in India. So I wonder what trigger is required for this defensive posture to change. Do you think it is inertia, funding required for an offensive posture, strategic ambiguity, NSG membership or plain cowardice? There was talk by Mr. Parrikar about re evaluating our policy. But nothing new came out of it, it seems.

      • San Mann says:

        Prof Karnad, I think that India should instead seek to deflect China’s attentions elsewhere, away from our Himalayan borders, towards other areas by turning Andaman & Nicobar Islands into our Gibraltar next to Malacca Straits, where we have the best leverage against China. We should do this and other things which force China to scramble in other directions toward other places of our choosing. We shouldn’t we pursue a deflection/redirection strategy? China’s main strength is as a land power, while it is much weaker and more vulnerable as a sea power, and faces the clutter of various other countries in its way on the sea front.

      • The basic weakness in this theatre-switching strategy propounded by RADM KR ‘Raja’ Menon and others many yearsago was, as I pointed out in my 2015 book — Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet) is that the maritime response will take time to develop and, whatever its level of success, will not recompense for the loss of territory on the LAC.

  13. DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

    Please find the link of the Article here. Extremely sorry to omit the same in my previous post. Looking forward to your valuable feedback.

    https://wonderfuldistractions.substack.com/p/understanding-the-current-scenario?justPublished=true

    • Gaurav Tyagi says:

      @Debanjan- Nice write up.

      “India perceives China as a country which is a tyrannical authoritarian one-party dictatorship which has become immensely powerful over last few decades albeit after oppressing its populace”

      Indians have loads of myths about China.

      As someone who is living in China. I would say that there isn’t any oppression of the masses over here.

      Chinese society is very competitive and materialistic. People here are more concerned about climbing up the social/economic ladder. Chinese population loves leisure travel within China as well as abroad.

      The restrictions imposed by the Chinese establishment (blocking of numerous websites, Facebook etc.) have no significance because people wishing to access the aforementioned all use VPN’s and can easily bypass the government restrictions.

      I have come across numerous Tibetans over here, who are running successful businesses. A large proportion of Muslims are into small eating joints/restaurants business and are economically well off.

      Saying this, of course the Chinese establishment is very sensitive about issues of Tibet, Xinjiang, Hongkong and Taiwan. So, anyone who deviates from the official line on the aforesaid issues will naturally face the wrath of the authorities.

      Tibet, Xinjiang and Hongkong are all firmly under the control of Chinese authorities. Indian as well as Western intelligence agencies can do whatever they want. The status quo will prevail.

      Taiwan will remain as it is. The Chinese authorities will continue to threaten it but they won’t initiate any war over it.

      • DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

        @Gaurav Tyagi

        Thanks a lot for your feedback. However what I like most is your this assessment that “Taiwan will remain as it is. The Chinese authorities will continue to threaten it but they won’t initiate any war over it.”

        I completely have to agree with you on this point.

        1. I feel that China’s overall long-term plan with regards to Taiwan is long-term i.e. to make sure some Chinese cities in their Eastern coast from the Guangdong province like Shenzhen etc grow much bigger than Taiwan and become much bigger in terms of technical exports compared to Taiwan.

        2. The population productivity growth of Taiwan is probably the lowest in the whole Asian region. Some cities in the Guangdong province will have more or less the same number of population as Taiwan and they are planned by the Chinese authorities to leave Taiwan behind when it comes to economic and especially high tech exports.

        3. Taiwan will always face the threat of invasion without actually being invaded by Beijing. This is a message to both Taipei as well as Washington. This will ensure that both US as well as the Taipei authorities will be forced to divert their economic resources for defense prepared in this way to prevent a phantom invasion from Beijing. The middle Kingdom perceives this as a waste of important resources by Taipei.

        4. What China feels that with the growing weakness and discontent within the US empire system, the US will have to come to a deal with the Middle Kingdom whenever US faces an existential crisis in the coming couple of decade like the ones in 2008 or 2020-21. The terms of this deal will be to handover Taiwan in a sort of Hong Kong style deal to Beijing in a sort of “One country two systems” type deal whereby Taiwan will continue to hold elections however the foreign policy or economic policy will be dictated from Beijing.

        5. Since you live in China you will understand that the Chinese are patient people. They did wait for close to 150 years to ensure return of Hongkong. They are playing the same strategy for Taiwan I believe.

        I would love your views on my analysis. Also I would love to know how the Chinese perceive or behave towards India and Pakistan. Are their any difference in how the Chinese perceive or behave towards India and Pakistan ?

  14. andy says:

    Super analysis @Bharat.

    What’s intriguing about India is why the obvious things are not done or delayed till they become almost irrelevant. That the A5 tests should have been completed years back is a given,but what holds back the top echelons of govt from biting the bullet regarding decision making about matters that have huge consequences for national security is something beyond comprehension. Nevertheless one is better than none,so it’s been done and hopefully more on the way.

    Not much news about the K5,maybe a series of tests of this Boomer launched missile in conjunction with those of the A5 would set the cat among the pigeons

  15. DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

    @Amit I wish you and your family a very happy Diwali.

    Thanks a lot for your frank views. I believe the problem is neither funds nor the willingness to act. Mr George Fernandes had mentioned China as the number one challenge even during the 1998 Pokhran atomic explosions. The problem actually lies in the fact that we did not consider China as our primary threat till say 2020. In fact after 1999 Kargil, our main focus was on Pakistan and terrorism in Kashmir. Mr Manmohan Singh had even mentioned Maoists as India’s chief threat back in 2009.

    We also did not want to antagonize China for the fear of a two-front war from 2003 till 2020.

    With regards to nuclear weapons, we never considered these as Pakistan was our main concern and we did consider ourselves superior to them so we did not believe in the “nukes first” policy.

    When it comes to the first use of nuclear weapons , I believe that we did abandon the “no first use” policy during 2019 as after Balakot the IAF could not match PAF counter-response and we did realize that Pakistan is anything but a pushover. Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Shree Modiji did twice explicitly hint during 2019 election campaign about India first using nuclear weapons against Pakistan if need arises. However we did not still overtly mention it as a formal policy position.

    I believe this nuclear option of ours has been taken of our hand off late by China’s actions at Ladakh in 2020. We believe that we did call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff during 2019 Balakot strikes so similarly China was able to call our bluff since we did not manage to make any response when China did invade Ladakh in 2020 and continues to hold on to the territory till today.

    This was my analysis to your question of whether India does have a viable option of first use of nuclear weapons against China.

    I would love your views on my analysis.

    Please have a look on my articles regarding India-China situation. The first one of the series is right here. Love your views on this one.

    https://wonderfuldistractions.substack.com/p/understanding-the-current-scenario?justPublished=true

    • Amit says:

      @Debanjan,

      I am not very clear about India’s nuclear policy. This is an area I hope to understand more through these columns. My anguish is that both Pakistan and China treat India almost like a non nuclear state. I hope that changes, through some positive action from India.

      Wish you a happy Diwali too!

  16. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    @Debanjan- The animosity between Chinese and Indians go back a long way.

    The present day Industrial congolmerate of Tatas made their fortune through massive opium running to China in cohorts with the British East India Company.

    Indian soldiers committed loads of atrocities on local Chinese while being on British payrolls (Boxer Rebellion 1899-1901)

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