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Monika Chansoria

Dr. Monika Chansoria is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

Needed, a nuclear triad

India awaits the third and most elusive leg of the triad, INS Arihant, an SSBN.

ndia's desired objective of possessing a fully-operational nuclear triad will be instrumental in defining and providing New Delhi with a credible survivable deterrent. Presently, India awaits the third and perhaps, most elusive, underwater leg of its nuclear triad, namely, the INS Arihant, an indigenous nuclear-powered submarine armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles (SSBN). Likely to be fully operational and out at sea by early 2013, the "harbour-acceptance trials" and the "sea-acceptance trials" of INS Arihant have been slated for this year and upon their completion, the SSBN shall be commissioned into the Indian Navy. As the Indian Navy stands poised to complete the nation's nuclear triad, it is expected that the final nuclear insurance will come from the seas once the INS Arihant begins undertaking deterrent patrols.

Given India's policy of "retaliation only", it is prudent to assume that the survivability of India's nuclear arsenal will delineate its second-strike capability, thereby ensuring credible deterrence. India's nuclear doctrine calls for sufficient, survivable and operationally prepared nuclear forces; a robust command and control system; effective intelligence and early warning capabilities; comprehensive planning and training for operations in line with strategy; and the requisite primary and alternate chain of command to employ nuclear forces and weapons.

The possession of a nuclear triad primarily includes development of three major delivery components, namely strategic bombers (carrier-based or land-based, armed with bombs or missiles), land-based missiles and SSBNs. India's force structure is largely based upon its existing military assets including the Sukhoi-30 MKIs and Mirage-2000s ensuring that India's limited arsenal can execute a successful second strike to cause damage that would be unacceptable to the adversary and therefore influence its cost-benefit analysis of undertaking a first strike to begin with.

Besides, more recently in April 2012, the Indian Navy formally inducted the INS Chakra, an 8,140 tonne nuclear-powered Akula-II class attack submarine, armed with the 300 km range "Klub-S" land-attack cruise missiles and advanced torpedoes, leased from Russia for a period of 10 years. However, the INS Chakra falls short of providing India with its long-awaited third leg of the nuclear weapons triad, since it will not be armed with long-range strategic missiles.

Nevertheless, the INS Chakra strengthens India's underwater combat arm by offering operational flexibility in blue-water operations, and additionally presenting with the capability to deploy a potent weapons delivery platform at a place of its choosing at long distances in stealth. In the meanwhile, India also looks towards its second SSBN following induction of INS Arihant, named the INS Aridhaman.

Additionally, the successful test-launch of the long-range Agni V missile by India in April 2012 has undoubtedly bolstered India's deterrent, and the Agni V is being considered as the mainstay of India's nuclear delivery vectors. The accuracy of the Agni V missile can only be ascertained with frequent validation tests, before it gets fully inducted into the Indian armed forces by 2014-15. In that sense, it will be another two years before New Delhi sees the fully integrated and operational version of the Agni V missile.

A fully functional and cohesive nuclear triad force structure composition that includes nuclear-capable long-range aircraft, inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and SSBNs, with actual weaponisation being held back, (i.e., nuclear weapons in a mated format) will be the ultimate platform for India's nuclear triad.

That the mere possession of nuclear weapons paves way for an implicit threat of use or actual use, a well propounded "no-first-use" of nuclear weapons is India's elementary commitment, and in furtherance to this reference, every possible effort should be made to persuade as many nations who are in possession of nuclear weapons, to join an international treaty which seeks to ban its first use. Till the time nuclear weapons will be present in the world, the related threats shall also remain. The sole permanent solution to this quandary remains a global commitment towards achieving universal, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament, which will enhance and grant a sense of permanence to the conceptual as well as operational levels of collective security. This is a cause, long espoused by India, and being a national security objective, New Delhi should continue its efforts towards seeking to achieve the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world.

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