india-must-be-cautious-of-chinas-nuclear-arsenal

Context: The growing tensions along LAC (Line of Actual Control) calls for New Delhi to keep an eye on Chinese Nuclear arsenal.

Background:

  • The dispute along the border escalated amidst the lockdown when China tried to occupy Indian regions along LAC especially in Ladakh.
  • Pangong Lake, HotSprings  and Galwan valley are currently the hotbeds of this confrontation where the two armies are standing in front of each other.

China’s Growing Nuclear Arsenal:

  • The country is expanding its nuclear arsenal primarily to create deterrence on smaller states and to bring itself in conformity with the U.S and Russia.
  • The country is arming its missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Re- entry Vehicles (MIRVs) capabilities to neutralise America’s missile shield.
    • A multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) is a ballistic missile payload containing several warheads, each capable of hitting one of a group of targets. By contrast a unitary warhead is a single warhead on a single missile.
  • China’s DF-31As, which are road mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), are equipped with MIRVs and potent penetration aids.
  • The People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) has also deployed a range of Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) and Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs).
  • The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said that China’s nuclear arsenal increased to 320 warheads in 2020, up by 30 in comparison to 2019.

Concerns for India:

  • It has very less nuclear capabilities in comparison to China. 
    • For instance, according to the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM),  China is estimated to possess approximately 2.9 metric tonnes of Weapons-grade Plutonium (WGP) compared to India's 0.6 tonnes of WGP. 
  • Greater arsenal can be used by China for enhancing its assertiveness across the border, thereby diminishing the probability of retreat by chinese forces.
  • It could become a staging ground for further PLA ingress triggering hostilities that widen to the Karakoram and Arunachal Pradesh. 
  • Not only on the border but  Chinese DF-26 IRBMs with a range of 4,000 kilometres can potentially strike targets across most of India
  • Nuclear advantage can also be used to pressurise India for reversing the economic restrictions placed on chinese goods.
  • Pakistan is also a nuclear state and a good friend China in the current scenario, if the latter supplies some arsenal to the former, then it would be very difficult to control the western front of the border as well.

Way Ahead:

  • The conventional escalation between Chinese and Indian forces along the LAC must factor in the role of nuclear weapons and their impact on military operations executed by the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force. 
  • India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) needs to be on a heightened state of alert to ward off Chinese nuclear threats and brinkmanship.
  • New Delhi must reassess its nuclear doctrine and strengthen efforts to attain robust triadic capability for deterrence.

India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC):

  • It is responsible for the management and administration of the country's tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile.
  • It is also called Strategic Nuclear Command and forms part of India's Nuclear Command Authority (NCA).
  • It operationalizes the directives of the NCA under the leadership of a Commander-in-Chief who is a three-star rank officer. 
  • It will have the sole responsibility of initiating the process of delivering nuclear weapons and warheads, after acquiring explicit approval from the NCA. 
  • The SFC manages and administers all strategic forces by exercising complete command and control over nuclear assets, and producing all contingency plans as needed to fulfill the required tasks. 
  • Since its inception in 2003, the SFC’s command, control and communication systems have been firmly established, and the command has attained a high state of operational readiness.

Nuclear Command Authority:

  • It is the authority responsible for command, control and operational decisions regarding India's nuclear weapons programme.
  • On 4 January 2003, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) constituted the Political Council and the Executive Council of the NCA. 
  • The Executive Council gives its opinion to the Political Council, which authorises a nuclear attack when deemed necessary. 
  • While the Executive Council is chaired by the National Security Advisor (NSA), the Political Council is chaired by the Prime Minister. 
  • This mechanism was implemented to ensure that Indian nukes remain firmly in civilian control and that there exists a sophisticated Command and Control (C2) mechanism to prevent their accidental or unauthorised use.

 

India’s Nuclear Doctrine:

It states how a nuclear state will use its nuclear weapons against other states.

Features -

  • Maintaining a credible minimum deterrence of nuclear arsenal 
  •  “No First Use”  of Nuclear weapons - They can be used only in retaliation against a Nuclear attack.
  • Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be “massive” and designed to inflict “unacceptable damage”.
  • Nuclear retaliatory attacks to be authorized only by civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority.
  • Non use of nuclear weapons against non nuclear weapon states.
  • India can retaliate with nuclear weapons in the event of a major attack against it with biological or chemical weapons
  • Continuance of strict controls on export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies. 
  • Continued moratorium on testing
  • Continued commitment to Nuclear Disarmament through global, verifiable and non discriminatory disarmament.

Source:

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/in-stand-off-keeping-an-eye-on-the-nuclear-ball/article32016062.ece 

Image Source: The Hindu