Nuclear weapons, costs and myths
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The question is whether nuclear weapons have made us more secure against potential adversaries.
We have not had a dispassionate debate in our country about nuclear weapons: whether they have really enhanced our security or merely made us feel good about ourselves, whether they have helped in reducing our dependence and expenditure on conventional weapons, or whether the various doctrines propounded mainly by Americans during the course of the Cold War, such as mutually assured destruction, first-strike capability, second-strike capability (the basis of our "nuclear doctrine"), etc are valid, or serve any useful purpose for us.
The nuclear jargon created by "strategic" thinkers in the West might have made sense at the time, but the situation is not reproducible in our region. America and the Soviet Union did not share a land boundary, did not have emotional territorial disputes and neither was thirsting to avenge military defeat. In our region, all these factors are present, and they throw doubt on the usefulness of atomic weapons. The most relevant one for the purpose of our discussion is the doctrine of second strike. It says that if Pakistan, for example, were to attack first with nuclear weapons, we would retain the capacity to absorb the shock and destruction, and to retaliate in second strike (since we would be the second one to strike) and inflict unacceptable damage on Pakistan — indeed, erase it altogether. Ergo, Pakistan will never dare attack India. But this theory has already been proved wrong.
The first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed about 1,20,000 people and destroyed more than half the city. If a bomb of similar destructive power were to be dropped on Delhi, the casualties would be 10 times greater, considering the density of population and the nature of the habitation. Are we seriously to believe that, in the wake of such massive destruction, the government, irrespective of its composition, could retain the cohesion, the nerve, the command and control chain, no matter how convincing it might look on paper, to actually launch a counter nuclear attack? Where is the guarantee that the initial strike by Pakistan would not destroy the governing structures and that there might not be anyone left to take and pass on the necessary orders? We would, of course, be able to retain many of our nukes, since they would have been dispersed across the country and some of them would be deployed underwater in submarines.