India — Force Planning To Shape India’s Maritime Space: The Nuclear Dimension

Con­tem­po­rary chal­lenges in the IOEO in con­text of Pol­i­cy are dom­i­nat­ed by three cur­rents. These are:

  • The chal­lenge of a ris­ing Chi­na: Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in its rela­tion­ship with India it has shown no propen­si­ty to estab­lish co-oper­a­tive sta­bil­is­ing arrange­ments nor has it tak­en any mea­sures to resolve long stand­ing bound­ary dis­putes. Its col­lu­sion with repro­bate states fur­ther push­es rela­tion­ships down­hill, the nuclear tie-up both in the weapon and civil­ian field with Pak­istan along with pos­si­ble doc­tri­nal links; and in March 2010 fail­ure to issue a con­dem­na­tion when North Korea sank a South Kore­an war­ship does not suggest
  • a pacif­ic approach to rela­tions. Its dis­putes with Japan and its force­ful reasser­tion of claims to the Sprat­ly and Para­cel islands and to sov­er­eign­ty over vir­tu­al­ly the entire South Chi­na Sea are very seri­ous ulcers in cur­rent rela­tion­ships in the East­ern Oceans (see Map 1). This conun­drum con­tin­ues to push affect­ed par­ties and like mind­ed states into coun­ter­vail­ing arrangements.
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Richard Behar, draws our atten­tion to the “par­a­sitic rela­tion­ship” between Chi­na and the sub-Saha­ran nations.” These are strate­gic moves which are more than like­ly to cause fric­tion between pow­ers and demand an approach that embraces coop­er­a­tion. Pow­ers can coex­ist peace­ful­ly only when their rise is seen as one that does not hin­der the other. 

  • The hyper pow­er: Is the Amer­i­can pos­ture in the South Chi­na Sea intrin­si­cal­ly antag­o­nis­tic and would it break out into a hot con­flict giv­en the links that USA enjoys with Japan, South Korea, Tai­wan and the oth­er lit­torals of this region? The nois­es that cur­rent­ly emanate would seem to sug­gest that the war of words is just a few turns away from a con­flict­ual situation.
  • The mixed bless­ings of glob­al­i­sa­tion and the rise of nation­al­ism: The impact of glob­al­i­sa­tion and the inabil­i­ty of the state to rec­on­cile with the stress­es that it places on the very con­cept of sov­er­eign­ty, ought to be the focus. Nation­al­ism which was the under­ly­ing force that sparked off the wars of the 20th cen­tu­ry has today, become the source of China’s con­fi­dence. Accord­ing to Yuan Peng of the Chi­na Insti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions “many Chi­nese schol­ars sug­gest that the govt. give up the illu­sion of US part­ner­ship and face square­ly the pro­found and inevitable strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion”. It is also appar­ent that the surge of nation­al­ism that sweeps Chi­na has led it to for­mu­late an afford­able mil­i­tary strat­e­gy of asym­met­ric weapons (the ‘assassin’s mace’ is part of such a strat­e­gy) This unortho­dox strat­e­gy has set into motion three areas of rapid mod­erni­sa­tion in the mil­i­tary estab­lish­ment; first­ly the most active land based bal­lis­tic and cruise mis­sile pro­gramme in the world, sec­ond­ly an enlarged nuclear attack and nuclear bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­ma­rine fleet and last­ly a con­cen­tra­tion on what Chi­na calls “infor­ma­ti­sa­tion” an active and pas­sive method of wag­ing infor­ma­tion war­fare. China’s carous­ing with mav­er­ick nations such as Pak­istan and North Korea does not in any­way enthuse con­fi­dence for the prospects of a sta­ble future. 
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What­ev­er force struc­tures are devel­oped should cater for the dom­i­nant three chal­lenges. In the broad­est of terms our vision would be ‘to cre­ate and deploy such forces which would estab­lish and con­tribute to sta­bil­i­ty with­in these waters and should the need arise to deter hos­tile action, deny access to waters and lit­torals of inter­est or estab­lish con­trol over select­ed sea spaces’

Indo-US strate­gic framework

Of the three dom­i­nant cur­rents dis­cussed above, what direc­tion China’s rise will take will be influ­enced by both inter­nal as well as exter­nal fac­tors. With the com­ing of the Third Island Chain (see Map 2); the matur­ing of the long range access denial strat­e­gy and the cul­ti­va­tion of the string of pearls, what is of rel­e­vance is that the poten­tial for a col­li­sion is a real­i­ty and the only con­sid­er­a­tion that could deter it, is the abil­i­ty of India to attain a strate­gic pos­ture in the IOEO that serves to sta­bilise and should the need arise to deny or con­trol. On the ‘glob­al­i­sa­tionn a t i o n a l i sm’ non-state actor c o n u n d r um, clear­ly plur­al soci­eties with decen­tralised con­trol are more like­ly to trans­form, adjust, adapt and tweak their sys­tems, than mono­lith­ic cen­tral­ly con­trolled states such as Chi­na which are intrin­si­cal­ly brit­tle; and as cracks begin to show, the fall­out on the region can only be traumatic.

Since Inde­pen­dence, Indo-US rela­tions have seen dizzy highs and plum­met­ing lows. It began with the Roo­sevelt, Tru­man and Eisen­how­er admin­is­tra­tions (1940s and 50s) pump­ing in mas­sive funds to build infra­struc­ture with­out giv­ing too much thought to build­ing a strate­gic rela­tion­ship. By the 1971 war rela­tions had touched rock-bot­tom and remained there through Pokhran 1, the break up of the Sovi­et Union and into the 1990s. The peri­od was marked by a state of knee-jerk ‘drift and sanc­tion’ and in the absence of a strate­gic locus, left the rela­tion­ship rudderless.

It was after the 1998 nuclear tests that the two coun­tries awoke to the real­i­ties that an engage­ment sug­gest­ed. The con­se­quence was the ink­ing of the ‘Next Step in Strate­gic Part­ner­ship’ an agree­ment that iden­ti­fied and for­malised areas of bilat­er­al coop­er­a­tion in Jan­u­ary 2004 which includ­ed civ­il nuclear enter­pris­es, civ­il space pro­grammes, mis­sile defence and high tech­nol­o­gy deals. Of crit­i­cal impor­tance was the open­ing of tech­nol­o­gy doors which cul­mi­nat­ed in the water­shed Indo-US nuclear agree­ment of 18 July 2005. The larg­er sig­nif­i­cance of this deal was the arrival of India on the glob­al stage as an equal and an accep­tance of its poten­tial to play an influ­enc­ing role.

India today stands as a strong soci­ety that pro­vides an oasis of sta­bil­i­ty amidst a clutch of dis­in­te­grat­ing and fail­ing states in a rough neigh­bour­hood that hosts two inim­i­cal nuclear armed nations with close mil­i­tary and doc­tri­nal links. Robust Indo-US rela­tions pro­vide the means to bring­ing about bal­ance in the region. While it remains pre­ma­ture to trans­late these ties to deep­er involve­ment, it is the mar­itime dimen­sion, that opens up the max­i­mum pos­si­bil­i­ties. India has shown itself; through restraint, plu­ral­is­tic and pop­u­lar form of gov­er­nance to be a respon­si­ble state that upholds the sta­tus quo yet invites change through demo­c­ra­t­ic forces. Its rise, in the main, is not only wel­comed in South­east Asia but is seen as a har­mon­is­ing hap­pen­ing that could coun­ter­poise Chi­na. Giv­en the objec­tive real­i­ties of the sit­u­a­tion, the next step would log­i­cal­ly be to estab­lish an Indo-US strate­gic frame­work in the mar­itime domain.

The Indi­an nuclear doctrine

India’s strate­gic nuclear pol­i­cy is artic­u­lat­ed in her nuclear doc­trine made pub­lic on 04 Jan­u­ary 2003. The doc­trine presents two per­spec­tives; the first deals with ‘Form,’ nuclear war avoid­ance is the leit motif. It rein­forces the belief that nuclear weapons are not for use, so ‘No First Use (NFU)’ is a nat­ur­al choice. And yet the log­ic of self-preser­va­tion and of fore­see­able pow­er equa­tions demand­ed that rela­tions not be held to ran­som on account of an inabil­i­ty to respond in a man­ner to deter con­vinc­ing­ly. The exis­ten­tial nuclear chal­lenges demand­ed cred­i­bil­i­ty of the deter­rent rest­ing on the three pil­lars of sur­veil­lance, readi­ness and sur­viv­abil­i­ty. Giv­en these set­tings the arse­nal pro­vides for alter­na­tives and a guar­an­tee that the sec­ond strike would cause unac­cept­able dam­age with­out any sug­ges­tion of a cal­i­brat­ed response.

A major infra­struc­tur­al cen­tre in the Andaman Sea must be accom­pa­nied by estab­lish­ing base sup­port facil­i­ty arrange­ments in Indone­sia, Viet­nam and Japan in the South­ern islands (Kyushu / Shikoku). To the west, the Indi­an Ocean lit­torals such as South Africa, Mala­gasy, Tan­za­nia, Mau­ri­tius and Sey­chelles will have to be cultivated

The sec­ond part of the doc­trine deals with ‘Sub­stance’, with oper­a­tional­is­ing the deter­rent and Com­mand and Con­trol as the main themes. Devel­op­ment and deploy­ment of the ‘Tri­ad’ are so struc­tured that the three pil­lars of cred­i­bil­i­ty are nei­ther com­pro­mised nor readi­ness under­mined. Com­mand and Con­trol is arranged in a man­ner that there exists clear divi­sion between Con­trol and Cus­to­di­an with mul­ti­ple redun­dan­cy and dual-rule release autho­ri­sa­tion at every lev­el. Sep­a­ra­tion of Con­trol from Cus­to­di­an, effec­tive­ly rules out con­ven­tion­al­is­ing the deter­rent. Com­mand of the arse­nal under all cir­cum­stances remains a polit­i­cal pre­rog­a­tive with com­pre­hen­sive ‘hot stand-by’ pro­vid­ed in the Nuclear Com­mand Authority.

To reca­pit­u­late, salients of the Indi­an Nuclear Doc­trine are list­ed below: 

  • Nuclear weapons are polit­i­cal tools.
  • The nuclear pol­i­cy would be steered by a ‘Pun­ish­ment Strat­e­gy’ its guid­ing prin­ci­ple would be No First Use.
  • India would devel­op and oper­a­tionalise a cred­i­ble min­i­mum deter­rence with the nec­es­sary flex­i­bil­i­ty, mobil­i­ty and mass.
  • Retal­i­a­tion to a first strike would be mas­sive and would seek to cause unac­cept­able dam­age. Unac­cept­abil­i­ty of dam­age is direct­ly linked to the cred­i­bil­i­ty of deter­rence. It would be of such mag­ni­tude that a‑would-be ‘first-strik­er’ is dis­suad­ed from con­tem­plat­ing the strike.
  • The use of Chem­i­cal, Bio­log­i­cal or any oth­er WMDs will invite the nuclear option.
  • Nuclear weapons will not be used against non-weapon state.
  • India declared a uni­lat­er­al mora­to­ri­um against nuclear test­ing. It also assured the world of con­tin­ued strin­gent con­trols over proliferation.
  • The goal of glob­al nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment remains.

Team GlobDef

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