Deterrence is not a fantasy

There is a relentless campaign to depict India's nuclear weapons programme as motivated by prestige rather than a necessary means to meet real security threats. Despite all evidence to the contrary, such criticism continues to find votaries even among Indian analysts ('Nuclear weapons, costs and myths', C. Gharekhan, IE, August 27). There are also more recent questions about India's nuclear posture. Developments in delivery capabilities are portrayed as destabilising and leading to a nuclear arms race ('Five myths about India's nuclear posture', Vipin Narang, The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2013).

India's nuclear posture has evolved in the context of both regional and global nuclear threats. Nuclear weapons by their very nature are weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which recognise no national or regional boundaries. The interactive web of multiple nuclear-weapon capable states also creates a dynamic far more complex and unpredictable than that which prevailed during the Cold War, with an essentially binary nuclear equation between the two superpowers. India's nuclear posture not only takes account of an adverse nuclearised threat environment regionally, it also takes cognisance of the impact on its security of global developments in this regard. To frame India's nuclear posture in relation to Pakistan and/ or China and then to pick holes in it, is to miss the strategic calculus that underlies it.

India's nuclear weapons are for deterring a WMD attack against India. It has never been argued in this country that acquiring nuclear weapons would save money by substituting conventional capabilities with nuclear assets. The contention that India has neutralised its conventional superiority vis-a-vis Pakistan by going overtly nuclear has no basis in fact. India's conventional superiority did not deter Pakistan from repeated acts of aggression against India in 1947, 1965 and 1971, when nuclear weapons were not a factor. Even later misadventures like Kargil, as revealed in Benazir Bhutto's memoirs, were planned years before the overt nuclear transition of 1998. India will require capabilities to meet both conventional and nuclear threats from Pakistan.

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