Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Indian Armed forces lose sleep over delivery systems

Rajat Pandit

 Instead of being all aflutter over the raging controversy on whether India has a credible thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb, the armed forces are more worried about the delivery systems — the yet-to-be-fully proven Agni missiles and the still-to-be-developed SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles).

‘‘Nuclear weapons are not war-fighting weapons. But without reliable and secure ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and SLBMs, it’s difficult to even brandish a credible deterrent,’’ a top military officer said on Tuesday.

‘‘Even a small stockpile of nuclear warheads, whether they are 25 kiloton fission bombs or the much-larger thermonuclear ones, is enough to deter an adversary only if you have tried and tested delivery systems and command and control structures for an effective second-strike,’’ he added.

This comes in the backdrop of two successive failures of the Agni-II missile, with a strike range over 2,000-km, on May 19 and November 23. There have also been reports in recent days that Pakistan now has a nuclear arsenal of 70-90 warheads compared to India’s 60-80.

India has no ICBM or SLBM at present. While China has always been far ahead in the strategic missile arena, even Pakistan has now nudged ahead of India in this as well, as reported by TOI earlier.

Be that as it may, DRDO seems quite confident of India’s nuclear and missile arsenal. After former Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar, it was DRDO chief V K Saraswat’s turn on Tuesday to reject doubts raised by nuclear scientists like K Santhanam and P K Iyengar about the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrence.

Santhanam, associated with the Pokhran-II tests, has maintained the 45-kiloton thermonuclear device tested in 1998 was actually ‘‘a fizzle’’ and not the success it has been proclaimed to be. Saraswat, however, said, ‘‘In terms of deterrence, India has the capability which it needs to have. Any deterrence is the function of what is the threat against which you are creating it and in that particular aspect, we are totally self-sufficient,’’ said Saraswat.


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