MAD: mutually assured destruction (Rev 16)

Regular missile tests maintain India-Pakistan status quo

New Delhi, May 15 Abheet Singh Sethi IANS1 day ago

Last month, India tested its indigenously-developed 3,000-km Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) Agni III, while Pakistan tested its 1,300-km Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) Ghauri.

Both missiles are part of an ever-growing arsenal capable of reaching every corner of rival territory (including India’s Andaman Islands) and carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Ironically, these tests are also a good way of ensuring the two countries do not go to war.
“Such tests are considered routine exercises for the two arch-rivals since they developed nuclear weapons capabilities in 1998,” according to Foreign Policy.

Nuclear weapons carried by ballistic missiles are strategic weapons of mass destruction meant primarily to scare and deter, usually ending in strategic stalemates between countries that possess such arsenals.

The possibility of “mutually assured destruction“, or MAD, as it is commonly known, also prevents their use on the subcontinent.

India’s ballistic-missile programme is driven by the threat it perceives from its nuclear armed neighbours Pakistan and China.

On May 11, 1998, India’s then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared to the world that India had become a nuclear weapons state after successfully detonating three devices. Less than three weeks later, Pakistan also conducted nuclear weapons tests.

On the 17th year anniversary of India’s nuclear weapons test, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the efforts of Indian scientists with the following tweet.

“We salute efforts of our scientists & political leadership behind the success of Pokhran Tests on this day in 1998. — Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 11, 2015″

Almost 17 years later, the arch rivals each test fired ballistic missiles. These are strategic delivery systems capable of delivering either nuclear or conventional warheads deep inside each other’s territory, with the focus being predominantly on the former.

Land, fire and falcons

When it comes to Pakistan, India has developed/is developing the Prithvi and Agni series of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.

The Prithvi series comprises three short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) with a range of 150-350 km, capable of targeting major Pakistani cities, such as Lahore, Sialkot, the capital Islamabad and Rawalpindi according to an IndiaSpend analysis.

The Prithvi series are road mobile and deployed. Development of the Prithvi series began in 1983.
Agni I and II, with ranges of 700 km and 2,000 km respectively, are capable of targeting almost all major Pakistani cities, including Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta and Gwadar.

The development of the Agni I began in 1999, and it was first tested in January 2002. The Agni I fills the gap between the SRBM Prithvi series and medium-range Agni II missile. It has been in service since 2004.

The Agni II is a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), first tested in April 1999. It allows India to attack all of Pakistan, although it falls short of major targets within China. Like Agni I, it too is highly accurate and is road and rail mobile.

Agni III, IV and V, with their longer ranges, might be able to reach all of Pakistan, but it can be safely said that they are directed more towards China.

Pakistan’s Hatf (named after the sword of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) series of ballistic missiles have been developed–and is still under development–keeping India in mind. These missiles have varying ranges starting from 70 km, and go up to 2750 km. Some of these missiles are variants of existing Chinese and North Korean ballistic missiles, according to a report on Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore.

Of these, the operational SRBM Ghaznavi (named after the 11th-century Afghan invader Mahmud Ghazni) is a shortened version of the Chinese M-11 missile and has a range of between 270 km to 350 km; this means it can target Ludhiana, Ahmedabad and the outer perimeter of Delhi.

The recently-tested Ghauri (named after 12th-century Afghan king Shahbuddin Ghauri, also known as Muhammad of Ghauri) is an MRBM, with a claimed range of 1,300 km and is “clearly and unambiguously North Korean in origin”, according to the NIAS report. The report adds that the missile is deployed and can target Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Bhopal and Lucknow.

The Shaheen-III, a road-mobile IRBM was tested this March and has a claimed range of 2,750 km.
Addressing the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference 2015 in Washington, Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai (retd), a former head of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons division, said Pakistan has developed the Shaheen III to prevent India from attaining a nuclear second-strike capability from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

(In arrangement with, a data-driven, non-profit, public-interest journalism platform, with which Abheet Singh Sethi is a policy analyst. The views expressed are personal. Additional inputs from Ramya Panuganty, junior research fellow, National Institute of Advanced Studies)


The Indian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:8)

India’s Nuclear-Weapons Program: 5 Things You Need to Know

Akhilesh Pillalamarri
April 22, 2015

India is one of the world’s greatest emerging powers today. Its economy is growing rapidly and its military is one of the largest in the world, with over a million soldiers.

India sees its nuclear weapons capacity to be an integral part of its vision as a great power, and its nuclear program is important for both its prestige and security doctrine.

Yet, India’s nuclear weapons program has not been free of controversy and criticism. India is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), and is not one of the five nuclear weapons powers the treaty recognizes. India’s nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 led to criticism and even sanctions.

Since then however, sanctions have largely been lifted and the United States had quietly accepted India’s possession of nuclear weapons so long as India does not carry out further nuclear tests, though officially, the United States has not recognized India as a nuclear weapons state. This has also led to many claims of double standards on the part of the United States for making exceptions for India—including getting the Nuclear Suppliers Group to agree to a waiver on export restrictions of nuclear materials for India—that have been granted to no other countries. This demonstrates the strategic importance of India for the West and the general global perception of its trustworthiness and stability.

Here are five things you need to know about India’s interesting nuclear program.

Why did India build Nukes?

Indian nationalist leaders speculated about the possibility of acquiring nuclear weapons even before its independence. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru justified this by arguing: “As long as the world is constituted as it is, every country will have to devise and use the latest devices for its protection. I have no doubt India will develop her scientific researches and I hope Indian scientists will use the atomic force for constructive purposes. But if India is threatened, she will inevitably try to defend herself by all means at her disposal.”

The main impetus for India going nuclear, however, was China, which tested a nuclear weapon in 1964. Two years prior, China defeated India in a short but decisive border conflict and relations between the two countries were subsequently tense. Taken together, Indian leaders felt that India needed nuclear weapons to counter China’s conventional superiority and defend Indian territory, some of which China was perceived to have occupied.

Nonetheless, India and China both have nuclear no-first use doctrines and it is highly unlikely that either would risk nuclear war over a non-existential border dispute. This raises the question of why India felt it needed a nuclear weapon to counter China, a luxury many other countries with disputed borders with China forewent. Yet, India’s nuclear program was not just about countering China, but being equal to it, since Indian leaders believed that India and China were both destined to be the leaders of Asia.

Today, India’s nuclear weapons are also important as a deterrent toward Pakistan, though it developed them first and Pakistan only later developed its weapons in response. However, given Pakistan’s military stance and weapons, India’s continued possession of weapons is necessary for its security vis-à-vis its western neighbor.


Nuclear research in India first began at the Institute of Fundamental Research (IFR) from 1944 onward, and even prior to then, Indians had access to some Western scientific journals, the result being that India was theoretically more ahead on the path to a nuclear weapon that most other developing countries at the time. In addition to enriching plutonium and uranium, a unique component of India’s nuclear activity has been thorium, as India contains twenty-five percent of the world’s thorium deposits. Thorium is not ideal for weapons, but its use for civilian power could free up virtually all of India’s uranium and plutonium for military uses.

After India’s defeat by China in 1962, India moved toward the construction of a nuclear weapon and design work began in 1965 under Dr. Homi Bhabha. Development accelerated under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who both wanted to accentuate her popularity and due to fears of Chinese or American involvement in India’s 1971 war with Pakistan.

In 1974, India detonated its first plutonium device, although it characterized it as a “peaceful nuclear explosive.” Because of this characterization, India was able to avoid the worst of criticism directed against it for alleged developing a nuclear weapon, though independent observers maintained that it was part of a nuclear weapons program and Indian scientists privately admitted as much.

After 1974, India continued to develop and improve upon its nuclear weapons, experimenting with different types of designs and materials. India officially went nuclear in 1998, conducting five nuclear tests (one fusion bomb, four fission bombs), a move met with high domestic approval. Pakistan responded with its own nuclear tests, bringing South Asia’s nuclear-armed reality into the open.

The India Security Debate

While much criticism has been levied against the dangers of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program, a valid debate can also be had over whether the Indian nuclear weapons program actually improved or hurt security and stability in South Asia. This point was debated right here on The National Interest back in 2013 in a series of articles by Zachary Keck and Dhruva Jaishankar.

Keck argues “Indian leaders built the bomb with a very specific security threat in mind. Unfortunately, nuclear weapons have proven ill-suited for addressing that security threat, while India’s pursuit of atomic weaponry has opened up new challenges that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.” In his view, China’s limited objectives toward its dispute with India did not necessitate India getting a bomb in order to improve its own security, as nuclear weapons are only useful as deterrents against large-scale attacks. On the other hand, Pakistan developed nuclear weapons, a fact that undermined India’s own security vis-à-vis to its prior position.

Jaishankar counters that China’s objectives are more expansive than its seemingly limited border dispute with India and that China had in fact been giving Pakistan aid to go nuclear long before India’s 1998 test in a bid to contain India.

In fact, according to Jaishankar, China conducted a test for Pakistan in 1990, effectively making it a nuclear state. Combined with Pakistan’s prior incursions into India, India’s development of a nuclear weapon was an apt response for Chinese and Pakistani adventurism. In a response, however, Keck points out that Pakistan continued to use proxies after India’s acquisition of a nuke and that China seized some 640 kilometers of Indian territory.

The debate over whether or not India’s acquisition of nuclear materials improved its security situation continues to remain unresolved.


India has around 110 nuclear weapons, which is actually slightly less than how many Pakistan has (120). This is consistent with the amount of weapons-grade plutonium it has previously produced.

India, along with China, the United States, and Russia, possesses a full nuclear triad consisting of extensive air, sea, and land capabilities. India maintains multiple nuclear capable aircraft, including the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, the Mikoyan MiG-29, and the Dassault Mirage 2000, among others. India also operates nuclear submarines and has recently produced the indigenous INS Arihant. However, India’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) have limited range, and Indian submarines would therefore have to creep fairly close to Chinese shores before they would be able to deliver a nuclear weapon to the mainland.

The Indian missile arsenal is large and will soon include an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). In fact, earlier this India successfully tested its Agni-V for the third time. Although the Agni-V has a range of 5,000 kilometers, and is therefore technically only an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), it is frequently referred to an ICBM in Indian media. In any case, its range could be extended in later variants, and it is already able to reach all of China. India is also developing the Agni-VI, which may have a range of up to 10,000 kilometers.

While India is ahead of Pakistan in terms of the range of its weapons and its delivery systems, its program is mostly geared towards the nuclear threat of China rather than Pakistan. Pakistan has more smartly tailored its nuclear program to the geographical and logistical characteristics of South Asian warfare by focusing on battlefield nukes, something India has not done. However, India’s nuclear strategy does not necessarily need battlefield nukes, because of its no-first use policy; if a battlefield nuke were to be used on India, India would retaliate much more massively with regular nukes.


India is expanding its stock of nuclear weapons, but not as fast as Pakistan is, since India’s has met the minimum needed for deterrent purposes while Pakistan may intend to use its nuclear weapons for offensive or battlefield purposes. India’s industrial base also enables it to build more and different types of nuclear weapons at shorter notice than Pakistan so it does not necessarily need to redirect its energies to building more weapons unless it feels them necessary.

India is also less reliant on nuclear weapons for its security as Pakistan and is focused on improving its military capabilities elsewhere, especially naval and Himalayan-based land capabilities. Additionally, India’s largest focus remains economic development and it does not feel existentially threatened.

Nonetheless, India is developing its nuclear capabilities and expanding its weapons, enriching uranium in addition to plutonium. India’s nuclear deal with the United States and the granting of a waiver for importing nuclear materials (which must be for non-military purposes) allows it to use more of its indigenously produced nuclear material for weapons. India is has also heavily invested in research on using thorium in reactors (or even potentially weapons), which will free up its other nuclear material for weapons. India hopes to soon operate thorium reactors.

One problem India needs to resolve going into the future is how to make its nuclear deterrent useful. The fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons makes it difficult for India to make good on its threats of retaliation in the case of a terrorist attack originating from Pakistan on Indian soil. Ultimately, no Indian leader wants to trigger a nuclear war in South Asia, but no Indian leader wants to allow Pakistan to make mischief in India. Obviously, India will not give up its nuclear weapons to get Pakistan to do so, so a nuclear-armed South Asia is the premise of any future discussion on the region. Figuring out a strategy to handle this dilemma will be an important task for the Indian establishment.

Akhilesh Pillalamarri is an assistant editor at the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter:@AkhiPill.

India Sends A Nuclear Warning To Pakistan

India test-fires nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile from Odisha

India test-fired nuclear-capable Prithvi-II missile from a test range at Chandipur in Odisha on Thursday.

The missile was test-fired several times earlier and has a strike range of 350 kilometres.

The Prithvi II missile was inducted into India’s Strategic Forces Command in 2003 and is the first missile developed by DRDO under India’s IGMDP (Integrated Guided Missile Development Program). It is capable of carrying 500 to 1000 kilograms of warheads according to The Hindu.
On January 31, India also succeeded for the first time in using a mobile launcher to test-fire a long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead deep inside rival China.

Although the launch was the third test of the Agni V missile, it was the first time the weapon was fired from a so-called canister mounted on a truck rather than from a concrete launchpad used in previous trials. The new delivery mechanism gave the armed forces increased operational flexibility.

India And Pakistan Exchange Fire Nuclear Capable Missiles

India and Pakistan conduct user trials of nuclear-capable missiles

18 November 2014


The Indian Air Force (IAF) has conducted yet another launch of the Akash nuclear capable supersonic missile from the launch complex III of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, Odhisa, India.

Undertaken as part of a routine user trial, the test featured an air force version of Akash, and successfully met its objectives.

Akash mission director G Chandramouli was quoted by The Hindu as saying the missile flew at a supersonic speed over a distance of 14km prior to destroying a target at a low-altitude of 1.2km.
Called para flare, the target was reportedly dropped by a MiG-27 fighter aircraft belonging to the air force.

ITR director M V K V Prasad told Press Trust of India that the trial of was fully successful, saying: “Some more similar trials of the missile will be conducted in this week.”

The trial comes on the same day as the Pakistani military conducted a successful test launch of the upgraded version of its Shaheen I intermediate range ballistic missile.

Carried out from an undisclosed location with impact point in Arabian Sea, the trial was aimed at re-validating various design and technical parameters of Shaheen IA weapon system.

“The trial comes on the same day as the Pakistani military conducted a successful test launch of the upgraded version of its Shaheen I intermediate range ballistic missile.”

Shaheen1A missile can carry nuclear and conventional warheads to a range of 900km, whereas Akash is an all-weather surface-to-air missile system capable of engaging aerial threats up to a distance of 25km.

Developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation and Bharat Electronics Limited as part of the integrated guided missile development programme, Akash has already entered into IAF’s operational service, and is awaiting induction into the Indian Army.

Since last week, both Indian and Pakistan have conducted a series of missile launches to evaluate the performance of the domestically built weapons systems.

While India test-fired Dhanush and Prithvi-II ballistic missiles from test ranges in the state of Odhisa, the Pakistani Army conducted operational launch of Shaheen-II intermediate range ballistic missile from an undisclosed location.