India’s deterrence dilemma

This is a really fascinating piece by Yogesh Joshi in War on the Rocks on the new INS Arihant, India’s first SSBN. A couple passages that jumped out at me:

“With China and Pakistan as nuclear adversaries, India confronts a unique challenge. It has to build up its nuclear capability enough to ensure that Chinese decision-makers fear it, without sending Islamabad into panic and undermining regional stability. This “Goldilocks dilemma” will be difficult to resolve, and India should not leave it to chance — especially as the United States, once South Asia’s chief crisis manager, loses both interest and influence in the region. India should reassure Pakistan by reaffirming its policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and a retaliation-only nuclear doctrine. More importantly, India should rethink its deterrence requirements vis-à-vis China.”

” Indian decision-makers must accept the reality of this modest enterprise. Rather than engaging in premature triumphalism over Arihant, India should take a page from the Chinese playbook to hide its capacities and bide its time.”

“Even after nuclear weapons have been mated with missile tubes, the military will not be in command of nuclear weapons. Any ballistic missile launch requires a two-step authorization, in which civilian authority plays a key role. Even in situations where an imminent enemy strike may be about to take out the submarine’s ballistic missiles, civilian authority will remain the sole custodian of India’s sea-based nuclear forces.”


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