India Has Effective Deterrence Against Chinese, Pakistani Nuclear Weapons: Former NSA Shivshankar Menon
India Has Effective Deterrence Against Chinese, Pakistani Nuclear Weapons: Former NSA Shivshankar Menon

Former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon. Photo credit: MATHEMA/AFP/GettyImages

India has effective deterrence against both China and Pakistan, but while China's nuclear weapons are a major strategic concern for India, Pakistan's nuclear programme "remains a daily source of tactical worry" and both countries' nuclear weapons programmes “are so closely linked... that they may effectively be treated as one", former National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon has said.

In his newly-published book Choices, Menon, who served in the government of prime minister Manmohan Singh, first as foreign secretary and then as NSA, writes that Pakistan Army seems to believe, mistakenly though, that the country's "nuclear shield permits Pakistan to undertake terrorist attacks on India without fear of retaliation".

But India's main worry is that Islamabad has developed "tactical nuclear weapons and their delivery systems" in the short, 60-km range and the decision to use these weapons would be in the hands of young officers "in an army increasingly religiously motivated and less professional and that has consistently produced rogue officers", Menon adds.

However, says Menon, if Pakistan were to use tactical nuclear weapons in the battlefield – as the country's Defence Minister recently hinted darkly – "it would effectively be opening the doors to a massive Indian first-strike, having crossed India's declared red lines". That red line, Menon underlined, would also apply to the use of tactical weapons "even against Indian forces in Pakistan.”

"In other words," reiterates Menon, "Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons use would effectively free India to undertake a comprehensive first-strike against Pakistan" in what is perhaps the most clear enunciation of India's nuclear doctrine to date by someone who has been closely involved in its policy-making and implementation.

Menon says India's nuclear weapons have always been treated as "political instruments that deter nuclear attack and attempts at coercion" and the "clearer and simpler the task of our nuclear weapons, the more credible they are". He says while there is a "clear difference" between India's nuclear doctrine and Pakistan's, New Delhi's doctrine is "closest to the Chinese doctrine" in no-first-use policy (though somewhat hedged).

For its nuclear strategy to be truly effective, India must develop a "genuine delivery triad on land, sea and air as soon as possible to ensure survivability of its second-strike capability and to assure retaliation", Menon noted and added that the nuclear-armed Prithvi missiles developed with their limited range of 350 km "were effective deterrents in our situation".

With inputs from IANS.

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