India's Deterrence Programme: Defense or Development?

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India’s Nuclear Deterrence Program
Defense or Development?
Riva Patel 1/20/2013

India’s foreign policy has been profoundly affected by the nuclear explosions conducted in May 1998. The departure from the professed peaceful nuclear policies has had several implications for India’s defense and foreign policies. The explosions in Pokhran have aggravated tensions in south Asia by disrupting diplomatic initiatives with Pak and China. Diplomacy has been reduced to damage control. The object of India’s nuclear deterrence is to persuade an adversary that the costs to him of seeking a military solution to his political problems with India will far outweigh the benefits. The paper focuses on India’s guidelines governing nuclear policy, development of nuclear materials for effective deterrence as well as civil development purpose. The paper finds that security concerns and technological capabilities are important determinants of whether India develops a nuclear weapons programs, while security concerns, economic capabilities, and domestic politics help to explain the possession of nuclear weapons.

Introduction A doctrine, any doctrine, incorporates a set of beliefs or principles held by a body of persons. A national nuclear doctrine represents, therefore, the collective set of beliefs or principles held by the nation in regard to the utility of its nuclear weapons. Beliefs and principles are not permanent. Nations and their leaderships change with time, and circumstances require their national doctrines to be revisited, reviewed and recast if deemed necessary. Stagnation of thought hardly serves national interests. Applying this definition to India’s nuclear doctrine yields some revealing insights. It was promulgated in August 1999, almost over a year after the nuclear test series conducted by India in May 1998 that were reciprocated by Pakistan. It was believed at this point that the nuclear doctrine announced, was a response to the international criticism being voiced that India had conducted its nuclear tests without any concept of what it wished to achieve with its deterrent.

Background India became an independent country on August 15, 1947 and almost immediately stepped to the front lines of the movement for universal nuclear disarmament. In the same year, India introduced a resolution in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly that stressed the need for effective international control of atomic energy. In 1949, the Indian permanent representative to the UN, Sir Benegal Rau, was appointed to chair the subcommittee tasked with designing a proposal to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons.1 In 1954, India was the first country to stress the need for an end to all nuclear weapons testing, and in 1965 it proposed a non-discriminatory non-proliferation treaty. 2 In 1978, India proposed an international convention that would prohibit the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. In 1982, India called for a “nuclear freeze,” that is, a prohibition on the production of fissile material for weapons, on production of nuclear weapons, and on related delivery systems. 1

Shyam Bhatia, India's Nuclear Bomb(Ghaziabad: Vikas, 1979), p. 45.Cited in India: Nuclear Chronology, NTI, http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/India/Nuclear/chronology_1932_1949.html. Accessed September 2, 2009.

2

Jaswant Singh, “Against Nuclear Apartheid,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 77 No. 5 (Sep. / Oct. 1998), pp. 41-52.

2

At the UN General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament in 1988, India put forward a Comprehensive Plan for total elimination of weapons of mass destruction.3 Initially, India’s behaviour corresponded to its non-proliferation and disarmament posture. New Delhi’s interest in nuclear technology was restricted solely to its peaceful uses, such as the production of inexpensive electricity. India’s nuclear program, started at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Trombay, was based on the country’s abundant natural thorium...
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