Recently India reportedly expanded its missile force from two Prithvi missile groups to four, and formally inducted two Agni missile groups. Between them the two types of Prithvi missiles with their ranges of 150 km and 250 km respectively, and the Agni I and II missiles with ranges of 700 km and 2500 km respectively, can reach all of Pakistan and most of China. India is aiming to induct a 350 km Prithvi missile into the Navy and a 3500 km Agni III missile soon, thereby covering Pakistan more comprehensively and bringing China completely within reach from India's hinterland. Both series can carry nuclear warheads; India has already demonstrated its capability of miniaturization of nuclear warheads in detonating two sub kiloton devices in May 1998.
These developments indicate that India has formally moved towards giving credibility to its nuclear capability - 'capability' and 'credibility' being two pillars of nuclear deterrence in theory. Mr. Fernandes, India's Defence Minister, has revealed that duplicate command and control facilities have been created for preserving the nuclear chain of command from a decapitating strike beginning with the Prime Minister as head of the Political Council of the National Security Council. Presently it appears that the scientific establishment has custody of the warheads while the military will control the missiles. This is in keeping with the logic of 'force-in-being' - a descriptive term for 'India's emerging nuclear posture' by a leading India watcher, Dr. Ashley Tellis.
A third pillar of deterrence theory is communication. Communication of credible capacity, intent and resolve to potential adversaries is taken as instilling deterrence. In early January this year, India's NSC had given its imprimatur to eight principles that are to constitute the official nuclear doctrine. Such developments constitute India's challenge to the international nuclear order resting on the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty's dated definition of a Nuclear Weapon State as one that acquired the status prior to the date of the Treaty.
Nuclear India is no longer a propaganda plank; it is reality. All crises and conflicts over the past two decades have the nuclear factor as a crucial tension heightening element. The latest warning by General Musharraf reads thus: 'They (Indians) must know that we can retaliate in a big way and they should know that.' If history is any guide, there can be little doubt that not only will crisis recur but also that this time round the nuclear factor will no longer be merely a backdrop. With the ongoing progress towards consolidating the nuclear status, it is time to ask if we have acquired sufficient credibility to 'vacate any threat' to our security, as was advertised by the nuclear scientific lobby in the aftermath of Pokhran II.
That national security is a political football is no secret. As with the Draft Nuclear Doctrine that was released at the cusp of the post Kargil national elections, it is no coincidence that release of information on these developments has been synchronized with the state assembly elections at the doorstep. Information being power, informing the public of these initiatives also has internal political dividend for the ruling party in projecting it as one seized with national security issues. It helps divert attention from embarrassing issues alighted on by the opposition as the Kargil War 'coffin scam' and the Ayodhya 'conspiracy' case. In the bargain We, the People are the gainers in that information is available on an otherwise opaque topic that can be dispassionately weighed to gauge whether 'We' are any more secure now.
The State would like to project that India is now more secure given that it has the necessary deterrent against nuclear threat or use. Increasing numbers of all types of missiles would over time ensure a survivable 'second strike' capability even against China, thereby buttressing the primary doctrinal principle of No First Use. Additionally, 'minimum credible deterrence' should ensure that 'more is not found necessary where less is enough' - to paraphrase late Gen Sundarji. This will avert a continuing nuclear arms race. The expectation is that the growing economy, historical and newly forged strategic ties with global powers, and institutional innovations pioneered by Mr. Arun Singh in the defence sector will combine to make India secure.
Second, and more importantly, the notion that 'power is the answer' only appears logical when security is interpreted narrowly. There is little doubt that Arundhati Roy and Harsh Mander express today's security problematic better than arch realists like Satish Nambiar and J N Dixit. The problems that the 'power is the answer' thesis is unable to address are varied; these include environmental catastrophes, sexual violence against women in Delhi's gardens and parking lots, majority communalism and minority fundamentalism, persistence of naxalism, and subcontinent-wide issues such as AIDS, migration, illiteracy, poverty, health and social justice. Each of these has security implications, but isn't usually thought of by realists and the public as such.
From the narrow mainstream security analysis viewpoint, as well as from a more expansive analysis, we must concluded that security has not been enhanced by recent developments in the nuclearisation of India, no matter what the security establishment would like us to believe. At the next crisis, their claims of enhanced deterrence will likely prove them wrong. The challenge is for the people themselves - as the principal potential victims of errors of misperception, omission and commission - to compel the two governments to negotiate a mutual restraint regime.