An incremental deterrence
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The second threshold is to acquire submarine-launched missiles with greater ranges, such as the 3,500 km range K-4. The third is to acquire a fleet of three to four nuclear-powered submarines, so that at least one is always on patrol during military contingencies. This will take perhaps 15 to 20 years, and by then Pakistan and China could acquire defences that diminish India's missile capabilities against their major cities.
Simply put, India is unlikely to deploy a genuine nuclear triad until 2030 or 2040. This will require huge expenditure, and would provide for a better but still not assured deterrent.
Beyond just fielding the three legs of its triad, India will have to continuously modernise them so that each remains invulnerable, is under firm command and control, and can overcome rival defences. Invulnerable forces must be highly mobile, able to evade a first strike, and yet be launched at short notice. However, dispersing nuclear forces to make them less vulnerable compounds the problem of establishing solid control over them. Another complicating factor is missile defence. Washington and Moscow prevented defences from undermining deterrence through the anti-ballistic missile treaty, but such a treaty between New Delhi, Islamabad, and Beijing is very unlikely.
Finally, there is the question of deterrence itself. Nuclear deterrence aims to inflict unacceptable damage on one's rivals and thereby deter major military threats from them — threats such as a nuclear attack, a major conventional conflict, or coercion. Yet each successive technological advance in India's nuclear forces does not really deter successively greater threats from its rivals. Thus, the additional costs of developing better technologies may not bring commensurate security benefits. These are the challenges of maintaining the stability and credibility of India's deterrent.
The writer is an associate professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and author of 'Containing Missile Proliferation', firstname.lastname@example.org
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