In recent years, a considerable amount of debate on India’s nuclear strategy ostensibly suggests that India’s nuclear weapons are inadequate for deterrence; therefore, a qualitative as well as quantitative augmentation in nuclear weapon arsenals is needed for security of India. That is why, according to Indian writers, India is continuously working on the concept of assured second strike capability to meet the requirements of ‘minimum deterrence.’

India’s second strategic nuclear submarine Aridhaman (The Destroyer of Enemies) is ready to be launched in the near future. According to The Hindu, “Aridhaman’s final checks are under way. All the three modules have been integrated. It is likely to be launched in late November,” and its launch in November may be difficult, but “in December, it will definitely be in the sea.”

Last October, India authorized its first Ballistic Nuclear Submarine, INS Arihant. The vessel, weighing 6,000 tons, is fueled by 83 MW pressurized light water nuclear reactor. The project pertaining to the development of a strategic nuclear submarine to lug nuclear missiles began as the Advanced Technology Vessel project in the 1980s. As a result, the vessel project was launched in 2009 by Dr. Manmohan Singh. Arihant can carry nuclear tipped ballistic missiles and is of the ship submersible ballistic nuclear class. The Arihant is based on the Russian Project 971 Akula I-class nuclear-powered attack submarine design. It mainly serves a training platform for rest of the class and for future submarine crews.

Aridhaman, of the Arihant class, will convey a few new bits of gear including new-age sensors and periscope, contrasted with the first ship. Development of the third submarine of a similar class is under route in four unique parts, and could be finished around in a year. This would likewise be of an indistinguishable size from Arihant and Aridhaman, yet have further developed weapons and sensors. The third submarine is to be launched in late 2018. When Aridhaman is propelled, the last coordination of the third submarine will start in Visakhapatnam.

The Aridhaman will purportedly have a more capable reactor than the 6,000-ton Arihant and somewhat greater as well. Furthermore, the Aridhaman will have twofold the quantity of rocket hatches, with eight dispatch tubes as opposed to the Arihant’s four. The Aridhaman will possess more developed sensors than its sister watercraft and “the indigenously-created USHUS coordinated sonar framework and the Panchendriya sonar, a submarine sonar and strategic control framework utilized for identifying and following submarines, torpedoes, and additionally submerged hindrances. It can likewise be utilized for submerged correspondence.”

On the contrary, it does not take much to deter. Weak states can and do deter strong ones, even when the imbalance between them is extreme. The entire calculus that secure second strike capability is vital for effective deterrence lacks empirical grounding. All deterrence is, in this sense, minimum deterrence. Even a small risk of retaliation is enough.

Moreover, the danger of escalation in the haze of war implies that any intersection of the nuclear threshold can rapidly bring about mass nuclear pulverisation. In essence, there is no requirement for deterrence to lay on guaranteed second strike or to stress excessively over the defenselessness of one’s powers. Indian policy makers and strategists, in this sense, need to reconsider their evolving policy and various basic principles of minimum deterrence should be thought about realistically as Indian open ended expansion of nuclear arsenals may benefit the sectional interests of specific organizations, but not national security interests.

As far as Pakistan is concerned in this debate, India’s larger and rapidly expanding nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities has generated pressure on Pakistan to augment its minimum credible deterrence (MCD) into full spectrum deterrence capability (FSD) in order to maintain deterrence equilibrium vis-à-vis India. Pakistan, in this context, faces the challenge to improve upon the technological capacities of its ballistic missiles as well as submarines for effective deterrence.


The writer works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).