India’s Continued Threat Before the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

Commissioning of India's INS Vela submarine. Photo Credit: India's Ministry of DefenseCommissioning of India’s INS Vela submarine. Photo Credit: India’s Ministry of Defense

India Launches Third Arihant-Class Nuclear-Powered Submarine – OpEd

 Sher Bano

By Sher Bano*

As per report by the UK based Janes Defence Weekly on December 29, 2021, India on November 23, 2021 quietly launched its third SSBN (Nuclear Missile Submarine) at the secretive SBC (Ship Building Centre) in Visakhapatnam. Neither the Indian Navy nor the Ministry of Defense confirmed the news but according to the sources in the SBC (Ship Building Centre) in Visakhapatnam and Indian navy, the launch of the submarine was confirmed. The newly launched SSBN called S4 could be critical for India’s credible nuclear deterrence like the previous two SSBNs and could have serious implications for South Asian security.

The submarine has been built jointly by the DAE (Department of Atomic Energy), DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation), Russian technicians and scientist and Indian Navy personnel. The publication also reported that the submarine has been relocated near the fitting-out wharf that was previously occupied by the INS Arighat which was launched in 2014 but still awaits its commissioning delayed due to pandemic. As per the report the satellite imagery shows that at 7000 tonnes, the SSBN is slightly larger, with 125.4m load water line measurement as compared to the 6000 tonne and 111.6 m load water line measurement of INS Arighat which is considered the lead boat in its class. Hence the S4 could be categorized as successive boat of Arihant class variants.

The magazine further reported that the additional length of the submarine shows the expansion of vertical launch system of the submarine, it could support nearly eight launch tubes (missiles) which is double as compared to the previous SSBN. The submarine would be able to carry eight K-4 SLBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles) or 24 K-15 SLBMs with 3500 km and 750 km strike range respectively.  However, the K-4 missile is still under development and not launched yet. 

India in its quest to complete its nuclear triad plans to build six SSNs (Nuclear Powered Submarines). The naval platform is considered to be the most significant leg of the nuclear triad as it assures the second-strike capability of the state. But looking at India’s ambiguous NFU (No First Use Policy) such developments could become huge threat to the strategic stability of the South Asia. Development of SSBNs by India are matter of concern for not only Pakistan and Indian Ocean littoral states but for the international community as well. With the development of nuclear-powered submarines, India has entered the club of handful of countries that can construct, design and operate such submarines. 

The belligerent and aggressive attitude of the India’s leadership raises serious concerns regarding responsible nuclear stewardship in India and threatens the strategic stability of South Asia. Construction of SSBNs and increased frequency of missile tests every year shows the aggressive posturing of India. Moreover, the deployment of nuclear weapons by India also requires the international community to reassess the non-proliferation benefits provided to India by various arms control and non-proliferation cartels. Pakistan being a responsible nuclear state is committed to objective of strategic stability in the region. Pakistan believes that the only way forward for both the states is to agree on nuclear and missile restraint measures. 

Pakistan is also continuously strengthening its sea-based capabilities in order to deter India’s triad of land, sea and air launched nuclear weapons. There should not be any doubt about Pakistan’s capabilities and resolve to the challenges postured by the latest developments both in conventional and nuclear realms in South Asia. Pakistan has already built Baber-3 (Sea Launched Cruise Missile) that has MIRV (Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle) capability to counter growing submarine capability of India. It would provide a credible second-strike capability to Pakistan which would augment the existing deterrence considering the provocative nuclear posture and strategies in neighborhood by developing ship borne nuclear missiles and nuclear submarines. Other than that, even though India had successfully tested K-4 missiles, its range still remains sub-optimal that would require the SSBN to operate at Bay of Bengal north eastern fringes. This means that these submarines in order to target China’s economic and political hubs would have to travel round the Bangladeshi and Burmese littoral waters. Hence India’s sea-based deterrence capability would remain incomplete unless it is able to deploy SSBN fleet with inter-continental range missiles. 

*The writer is working as a Research Affiliate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think-tank based out of Islamabad, Pakistan.

100 seconds to midnight: Bowls of Wrath closer than ever: Revelation 16

 A city is seen burning in an artistic imagining of a man-made apocalypse. With the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, could this happen soon? (photo credit: PIXABAY)

100 seconds to midnight: Man-made apocalypse closer than ever

The Doomsday Clock is at 100 seconds to midnight once again, with a number of crises revealing just how close we may be to imminent disaster.

Earth is closer to a catastrophic global demise than ever before, with the famous Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists being at 100 seconds to midnight.

The Doomsday Clock was first created in 1947 as a metaphorical countdown to the end of the world as we know it. Specifically, it refers to the impending global disaster that is solely caused by human hands, and it is adjusted every January upon review by scientists from the Bulletin.

Upon its unveiling in 1947, the clock was seven minutes to midnight. Since that time, it has moved back and forth a total of 24 different times. 

Originally, the biggest factor at play in evaluating how close humanity is to its end was a nuclear apocalypse. This makes sense, considering it was formed right after nuclear bombs ended World War II and right before the arms race of the Cold War started. In fact, the record for the closest the Doomsday Clock had been to disaster used to be in 1953, set two minutes to midnight, when the US and Soviet Union both started to test hydrogen bombs. 

This was seen again in 2018 when the clock once again moved back to two minutes to midnight in light of provocations between the US and North Korea pushing the chance of nuclear war even further.

 Lawrence Krauss, a member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, talks to a reporter about their decision to move the 'Doomsday Clock' hands to two minutes until midnight after a news conference in Washington, US, January 25, 2018. (credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)

Lawrence Krauss, a member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, talks to a reporter about their decision to move the ‘Doomsday Clock’ hands to two minutes until midnight after a news conference in Washington, US, January 25, 2018. (credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)

Nowadays, it isn’t just nuclear weapons that the Bulletin is concerned with. While the case in 2018 shows that nuclear weapons are far from irrelevant in the chance that humanity can thrust itself into a global armageddon, and it is likely the fastest way humans can do so.

A number of other issues are also factored into these estimates. Specifically, the factors nowadays that are being factored in are, aside from nuclear weapons, COVID-19, climate change and disruptive technologies. 

This change to 100 seconds to midnight was first done in 2020. At the time, Bulletin executive chairman Jerry Brown pointed to both nuclear war and climate change.

The dangerous rivalry and hostility among the superpowers increase the likelihood of nuclear blunder,” he said. “Climate change just compounds the crisis. If there’s ever a time to wake up, it’s now.”

Evidently, however, humanity has not done so. Since 2020, the Doomsday Clock has not changed from 100 seconds to midnight. This is because of the many factors mentioned above, which, despite some glimmers of hope at reversing this man-made impending disaster, were all made worse by “a corrupted information ecosphere that undermines rational decision making,” the Bulletin noted in a statement.

Positive changes made in 2021 noted by Bulletin editor John Mecklin included new US policies made by the new Biden administration that included arms control deals, strategic talks with Russia, an attempted return to the Iran nuclear deal and rejoining the Paris climate accord. Especially positive, however, was a renewed emphasis on science and evidence in US policy-making, which is very notable regarding its handling of COVID-19.

But the situation is still tense. 

Problematic factors include tensions with the US, Russia and China who are now all working to develop anti-satellite weapons and hypersonic missiles that could eventually lead to a new nuclear arms race in addition to making the problem of space debris much worse; North Korea’s continued missile tests; Iran nuclear talks remaining unfruitful; and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine border tensions. There is also the fact that efforts have been made to develop biological weapons programs, something the Bulletin argues has marked the start of the biological arms race.

But that’s just in the political sphere. Climate change is still a major factor, and despite many countries have pledged to reduce greenhouse gases, there is still much work to be done for there to be an impact.

This concern was highlighted in a report from late 2021 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that warned that not only was the climate change issue not improving, but it is actually getting much worse. In fact, it is happening far faster than expected

At the current rate, if global temperatures get to a certain point within the next five years, it could spark a positive feedback process that would make climate change self-sustaining.

This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus parti (credit: NIAID-RML/FILE PHOTO/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus parti (credit: NIAID-RML/FILE PHOTO/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Then, there is the issue of COVID-19. 

While vaccine rollouts have seen responses to the pandemic improve on a national level, internationally the situation remains “entirely insufficient,” according to Bulletin. 

Poorer countries remain significantly unvaccinated. This, in turn, has led to the development of new variants. In particular, Delta and Omicron have been deadly and widespread, making the pandemic much worse as the virus continues to entrench itself.

This is further compounded with disinformation spread online, which is very problematic regarding battling the pandemic.

However, it is also a major threat to global democracy, something highlighted by the instability in the US that was sparked by rumors that Joe Biden did not win the 2020 elections. As noted by the Bulletin, “continued efforts to foster this narrative threaten to undermine US elections, American democracy in general, and, therefore, the United States’ ability to lead global efforts to manage existential risk.”

This is compounded by other technological threats, which include the use of surveillance technology, artificial intelligence and facial recognition systems. This is something the Bulletin specifically calls out China for using against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and notes that “the potential widespread deployment of these technologies presents a distinct threat to human rights around the world and, therefore, civilization as we know and practice it.”

Also problematic are cybersecurity threats, such as the hacks on SolarWinds, Microsoft and the Colonial Pipeline.

But can something be done about it?

Maybe, and the Bulletin has made suggestions to push doomsday back.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Collaboration to limit nuclear weapons
  • Eliminate the US president’s sole authority in launching US nuclear weapons
  • Both Iran and the US rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal
  • Have Russia rejoin the NATO-Russia Council to push for risk-reduction measures
  • Accelerating decarbonization efforts and live up to commitments
  • Have China’s Belt and Road Initiative push for sustainable development, not fossil fuel projects
  • Public and private sectors alike should fund climate-friendly projects, not fossil fuels
  • Citizens should hold leaders accountable and always ask what they are doing to address climate change
  • Work with the World Health Organization and other groups to reduce biological risks, improve disease surveillance, expand hospital capacity and better production and distribution of medical supplies.

This list comes on the 75th anniversary of the Doomsday Clock’s unveiling. In that time, we are now closer to a global manmade apocalypse than ever before.

“Without swift and focused action, truly catastrophic events — events that could end civilization as we know it — are more likely,” the Bulletin said. 

“When the Clock stands at 100 seconds to midnight, we are all threatened. The moment is both perilous and unsustainable, and the time to act is now.”

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.

India’s Nuclear Posture Before the First Nuclear War: Revelation 8

India’s N-project going strong

Capable of meeting challenges faced by national security

G Parthasarathy 
Chancellor, Jammu Central University & former High Commissioner to Pakistan

An important feature of India’s nuclear deterrent has been the calibrated secrecy surrounding its growth. This is essential, as India’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes have a large involvement of dedicated scientists and engineers from the DRDO, the Department of Atomic Energy, academic institutions, and commercial organisations from the public and private sectors. India’s nuclear weapons programme is under continuing worldwide scrutiny, including by specialist organisations like the Federation of American Scientists and similar organisations in the UK, France, Russia, and doubtless, China and Pakistan.

India has produced three nuclear-powered submarines, and could induct the fourth next year.

While Indian scientists have made discreet statements about our ballistic missile tests, one finds more details of our nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in studies by American scientific publications like the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and other organisations like the MacArthur Foundation. Such studies are carefully researched and counterchecked. These are not significantly different from what one periodically finds in writings in India.

According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, India has enough weapons grade plutonium to produce 150 to 200 nuclear weapons, with a current estimated stockpile of 150 nuclear weapons. There is potential to step up production of fissile material significantly through the growing numbers of fast breeder and other plutonium reactors. According to the infamous Dr AQ Khan, Pakistan provided China with the centrifuge technology for enriched uranium, whose details he had purloined in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. China, in turn, provided Pakistan the knowhow to utilise enriched uranium produced in Pakistan for nuclear weapons. The then US President Jimmy Carter looked the other way at these developments after he was swept off his feet by his ‘friendship’ with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

China now possesses 350 nuclear warheads, while Pakistan has 165, and India 156, according to the latest assessment of the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI). Apart from its land-based nuclear missiles, India launched its third nuclear submarine barely a month ago. It is said to have a capability to launch eight ballistic missiles. The two earlier submarines can reportedly launch four missiles each. India now has the capability of ‘canisterising’, or storing the missiles in a sealed, climate controlled tube to protect them during transportation. This would apply to the entire range of missiles, including the recently tested Agni-P and the Agni-V, which has a range of 5,500 km. Many studies allude to an important role of the French-built Mirage 2000 and Rafale, as carriers of India’s nuclear weapons.

China has provided Pakistan with the designs for its nuclear weapons and a wide range of missiles. The missiles provided by China to Pakistan extend from the short range (320 km) Ghaznavi missiles to Shaheen 2 (2,500 km) and Shaheen 3 (2,750 km). The Chinese nuclear weapons designs given to Pakistan were transferred by AQ Khan to Islamic countries with nuclear ambitions, like Libya and Iraq. While India now has produced three nuclear-powered submarines, there are reports that a fourth submarine could be inducted next year. There are also reports that India is developing the technology for multiple warheads on its missiles. A recent report by the Federation of American Scientists noted that India carried out the second test of its Agni-P missile. The first test of the missile was reportedly carried out in January 2020. This could lead to the missile being berthed in the growing fleet of India’s nuclear submarines. This would be complemented by submarine-launched Agni-V missiles with multiple warheads.

China will inevitably continue to pretend it has no interest in having any nuclear dialogue with India. India is, in the meantime, also developing a K-4 submarine-launched missile, with a 3,500-km range. It is a naval version of Agni-3, an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The K-4 has undergone a number of tests but it has yet to be deployed. The missile was tested in January 2020. Though the DRDO did not confirm the test, media reports, quoting officials, claimed that the launch was successful. While Pakistan has not formally enunciated a nuclear doctrine, the long-time head of the Strategic Planning Division of its Nuclear Command Authority, Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai, told a team of physicists from Italy’s Landau Network in 2002 that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were ‘aimed solely at India’. Kidwai added that Pakistan would use nuclear weapons if India conquers a large part of Pakistan’s territory, or destroys a large part of Pakistan’s land and air forces, or if India tries to ‘economically strangle’ Pakistan, or pushes it to political destabilisation.

This elucidation, by the man who has been the de facto custodian of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal for over a decade and a POW in India in 1971-73, was a precise formulation of Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds. It is now clear that a bankrupt Pakistan facing pressure from international finance organisations will have to think carefully before resorting to support for terrorists seeking to destabilise India. With the Taliban supporting Pashtun aspirations on issues like the Durand Line, India’s readiness to provide essential economic assistance to Kabul should be taken forward. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently noted that while India presently stood by its commitment of ‘no first use’ of nuclear weapons, ‘what happens in future depends on the circumstances’.

The nation needs to always remember the contribution of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, his team of engineers and scientists, and the distinguished scientists in the Department of Atomic Energy for developing the country’s nuclear and missile potential to meet the challenges to national security, posed jointly by China and Pakistan. There is also need to remember those in the private sector, who discreetly played a key role in this effort.

The Doomsday Clock is really counting down to the Bowls of Wrath Revelation 16

The test detonation of a nuclear bomb in Nevada in 1957.

What the Doomsday Clock is really counting down to

The number of human-made existential risks has ballooned, but the most pressing one is the original: nuclear war.

Jan 21, 2022, 3:00pm EST

The Doomsday Clock shows 100 seconds to midnight on January 20, 2022.

One hundred seconds to midnight. That’s the latest setting of the Doomsday Clock, unveiled yesterday morning by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

That matches the setting in 2020 and 2021, making all three years the closest the Clock has been to midnight in its 75-year history. “The world is no safer than it was last year at this time,” said Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “The Doomsday Clock continues to hover dangerously, reminding us how much work is needed to ensure a safer and healthier planet.” 

As for why the world is supposedly lingering on the edge of Armageddon, take your pick. Covid-19 has amply demonstrated just how unprepared the world was to handle a major new infectious virus, and both increasing global interconnectedness and the spread of new biological engineering tools mean that the threat from both natural and human-made pathogens will only grow. Even with increasing efforts to reduce carbon emissions, climate change is worsening year after year. New technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, even advanced cyberhacking present harder-to-gauge but still very real dangers. 

The sheer number of factors that now go into Bulletin’s annual decision can obscure the bracing clarity that the Doomsday Clock was meant to evoke. But the Clock still works for the biggest existential threat facing the world right now, the one that the Doomsday Clock was invented to illustrate 75 years ago. It’s one that has been with us for so long that it has receded into the background of our nightmares: nuclear war — and the threat is arguably greater at this moment than it has been since the end of the Cold War.

The Doomsday Clock, explained

The Clock was originally the work of Martyl Langsdorf, an abstract landscape artist whose husband Alexander had been a physicist with the Manhattan ProjectHe was also a founder of the Bulletin, which began as a magazine put out by scientists worried about the dangers of the nuclear age and is now a nonprofit media organization that focuses on existential risks to humanity.

Martyl Langsdorf was asked to design a cover for the magazine’s June 1947 issue. Inspired by the idea of a countdown to a nuclear explosion, Langdorf chose the image of a clock with hands ticking down to midnight, because — as the Bulletin’s editors wrote in a tribute to the artist — “it suggested the destruction that awaited if no one took action to stop it.”

As a symbol of the unique existential peril posed by thousands of nuclear warheads kept on a hair trigger, the Doomsday Clock is unparalleled, one of the 20th century’s most iconic pieces of graphic art. It’s been referenced in rock songs and TV shows, and it adorned the cover of the first issue of the Watchmen graphic novel series. 

Its value is its stark simplicity. At a glance, anyone can see how close the Bulletin’s science and security experts, who meet twice a year to determine the Clock’s annual setting, believe the world is to existential catastrophe. The Clock may be wrong — predicting the apocalypse is a near-impossible task — but it cannot be misread.

Since its introduction 75 years ago, the hands of the Clock have moved backward and forward in response to geopolitical shifts and scientific advances. In 1953, it was set to two minutes to midnight after the U.S. and Soviet Union both tested thermonuclear weapons for the first time; in 1991, after the collapse of the USSR and the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, it was moved back to 17 minutes to midnight, the furthest its been to 12 in its history. 

In 2018, thanks to what the Bulletin’s experts called a “breakdown in the international order” of nuclear actors and the growing threat of climate change, it was moved to 2 minutes to midnight and has been at 100 seconds since 2020.

You may begin to notice the problem here. The metaphor of a clock provides the clarity of a countdown, but the closer the hands get to midnight, the more difficult it is to attempt to accurately reflect the small changes that could push the world closer or further from doomsday. 

Nor does it help that beginning in 2007 the Bulletin expanded the Clock to include any human-made threat, from climate change to anti-satellite weapons. The result is a kind of “doomsday creep,” as dangers that are real but unlikely to bring about the immediate end of human civilization — and which fit in poorly with the original metaphor of a clock — muddy its message.

It’s also difficult to square a clock ticking ever closer to midnight with the fact that human life on Earth, broadly defined, has been getting better over the past 75 years, not worse. Even with the Covid-19 pandemic, the growing effects of climate change, and whatever might be brewing in an AI or biotech lab somewhere, humans are far healthierwealthier, and — at least on a day-to-day basis — safer in 2022 than they were in 1947, and odds are that will still be true in 2023 regardless of the Clock’s next annual setting. 

This is the paradox of life in the age of existential risk — the sheer number of ways that we can cause planetary catastrophe can make it feel as if it’s nearly midnight, but compared to how life has been through most of human history, we’re living under the noonday sun.

The one event that could change that instantlyis the existential threat that the Doomsday Clock was originally designed to convey: nuclear war.

Tick, tick, tick

There’s a virtual reality program designed by security researchers at Princeton University that’s been making the rounds in Washington over the past month. 

Users don VR goggles and are transported to the Oval Office, where they play the role of the American president. A siren goes off and a military official transports you to the Situation Room, where users are confronted with a horrifying scenario: early warning sensors have detected the launch of 299 nuclear missiles from Russia that are believed with high confidence to be on a path to the American mainland and its ICBM sites, as Julian Borger describes in a recent Guardian piece.

An estimated 2 million Americans will die. As president, you have fewer than 15 minutes to decide whether the attack is real and whether to launch American ICBMs in response before they are potentially destroyed on the ground.

That’s a true ticking clock, and while it might feel like a throwback to Dr. Strangelove, it’s one that could still take place at any minute of any day. Though global nuclear arsenals are far smaller than they were in the darkest days of the Cold War, there are still thousands of operational nuclear warheads, more than enough to cause catastrophe on an unimaginable scale. 

And while earlier this month the five permanent members of the UN Security Council put out a joint statement affirming that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” — words first said by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 — what’s actually happening on the ground is making that horrifying VR simulation more likely, not less.

A possible Russian invasion of Ukraine could realistically result in a conventional ground war fought on European soil, and it raises the risk of conflict between the US and Russia, which together possess most of the world’s remaining nuclear arsenal. Russia has hintedat the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons close to the US coastline, which would further reduce the warning time after launch to as little as five minutes, while Russian media has made claims that the country could somehow prevail in a nuclear conflict with the US. 

Washington is pursuing a modernization of the US nuclear arsenal that could cost as much as $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years, while Moscow undertakes its own nuclear update. China is reportedly expanding its own nuclear arsenal in an effort to close the gap with the US and Russia, even as tensions grow over Taiwan. 

The risk of a nuclear conflict is “dangerously high,” Jon B. Wolfsthal, a senior adviser at the anti-nuclear initiative Global Zero and the former senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council, wrote recently in the Washington Post

The result of such a war would be as predictable as it is unthinkable. The heat and shockwave from a single 800-kiloton warhead, which is the yield of most of the warheads in Russia’s ICBM arsenal, above a city of 4 million people would likely kill120,000 people immediately, with more dying in the firestorms and radiation fallout that would follow.

A regional or even global nuclear war would multiply that death toll, collapse global supply chains, and potentially lead to devastating long-term climatic change. In the worst-case scenario, as Rutgers University environmental scientist Alan Robock told Vox in 2018, “almost everybody on the planet would die.”

And unlike the other human-made threats the Doomsday Clock now aims to capture, it could unfold almost instantly — and even by accident. Multiple times during the Cold War technical glitches in the machinery of nuclear defense nearly led the US or the USSR to launch their missiles by mistake, and as the VR simulation demonstrates, the sheer speed of a nuclear crisis leaves very little room for error when the clock is ticking.

Moving away from midnight

As long as nuclear weapons exist in significant numbers, they present an existential threat to humanity. Unlike other disruptive technologies like AI or biological engineering, or even the fossil fuels that are the chief driver of climate change, they have no benign side. They are merely weapons, weapons of unimaginably destructive power, whether or not they inspire the dread they once did.

Yet we’ve survived the nuclear age so far because we’ve had the wisdom — and the luck — not to use them since 1945, and more can be done to ensure that remains the case.

Last year the US and Russia extended the New START nuclear weapons treaty, which put limits on the size of each nation’s deployed nuclear arsenal, for another five years, pausing the erosion of the post-Cold War arms control regime and giving diplomats more time to negotiate tighter limits in the future.

The US and Russia also agreed to begin new sets of dialogues on how to better maintain nuclear stability in the future, and the White House is preparing a Nuclear Posture Reviewthat could see the US specifically pledge not to use nuclear weapons first or in response to a conventional or cyber conflict, which could help reduce the chances of a renewed nuclear arms race. Fifty-nine nations have signed onto an international treaty calling for a global ban on nuclear weapons (though none of the signatories are nuclear powers themselves). 

While it will reliably continue to be set every year — at least until midnight really does strike — the Doomsday Clock may have outlived its meaning as a symbol of existential risks in a rapidly changing world where the dangers and benefits of new technologies are so co-mingled. But as a warning for the original human-made catastrophic threat, the Doomsday Clock can still tell the time — and it may be later than we think.

India and Pakistan Continue to Ramp Up for the first nuclear war : Revelation 8

Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two over Kashmir, since 1947. In a short fight between their air forces in 2019, Pakistan claimed downing two Indan jets and captured one pilot.

India, Pakistan tested dozens of missiles but North Korea grabbed eyeballs

India (16) and Pakistan (10) conducted 26 ballistic and cruise missile tests in 2021 while North Korea conducted just six missile tests but they became media headlines.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two over Kashmir, since 1947. In a short fight between their air forces in 2019, Pakistan claimed downing two Indan jets and captured one pilot. (Reuters)

South Asia’s nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan have conducted 26 missile tests in 2021, making it a year of intense arms rivalry.

While India tested 16 ballistic and cruise missiles, Pakistan tested 10 missiles with nearly identical capabilities in a tit-for-tat response. This equates to two missile tests in a month.

Pakistan and India, both of which have nuclear weapons, have fought three wars, two over disputed Kashmir, since 1947 and had a number of military skirmishes, most recently a limited engagement between their air forces in 2019.

According to India’s Defence Ministry, trials for Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missiles (LRSAM) for its navy have also concluded.

The missile system has been jointly developed by India’s Defence Research Development Organization and Israel’s Aerospace Industries.

India also conducted two flight tests of the Agni P, a new generation nuclear-capable ballistic-canisterised missile with a range capability of 1,000 km to 2,000 km. The country ended the year by conducting a maiden flight test of surface-to-surface missile Pralay.

The missile is powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor and many new technologies. 

With a range of 150-500 km, it can be launched from a mobile launcher and its guidance system includes a state-of-the-art navigation system and integrated avionics.

Pakistan’s missile tests

Pakistan responded by testing the Shaheen III and Shaheen 1A surface-to-surface ballistic missiles with ranges of 2,750 km and 900 km, respectively.

In response to India’s BrahMos cruise missile, Pakistan tested the Babur Cruise Missile IA, which has a range of 450 km, twice this year, according to data collected from the website of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations – the media wing of the Pakistan armed forces.

While Pakistan launched the surface-to-air LY-80 missile air defence weapon system on April 7, India tested a new generation Akash Missile (Akash-NG) on July 21, demonstrating the Indian air force’s defence capabilities.

In contrast, North Korea conducted just six missile tests during the same time period, but they grabbed international headlines.

Nuclear powers

India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea have together around 460 nuclear warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. 

According to a January 2021 tally by the institute, which includes retired warheads –– not counted in the State Department’s numbers –– the United States had 5,550 warheads, compared to 6,255 in Russia, 350 in China, 225 in Britain, and 290 in France.

Doomsday clock remains at closest point to midnight: Revelation 8

Doomsday clock remains at closest point to midnight

By Rebecca Beitsch and Laura KellyJanuary 20, 2022 – 11:36 AM EST

Like the sands of the hourglass, the world is slipping toward self-destruction one second at a time, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists concluded Thursday, once again setting the hands of the famed Doomsday clock at 100 seconds to midnight. 

For the third year in a row, the clock was set in seconds, not minutes, to show urgency behind the metaphor of how close the Earth is to annihilation. 

“Steady is not good news. In fact, it reflects the judgment of the board that we are stuck in a perilous moment, one that brings neither stability nor security,” Sharon Squassoni, co-chair of the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin and a professor at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, said at a press conference.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the clock in 1947 to represent how close the planet was to annihilation by nuclear weapons. In more recent years, the journal has also weighed the effects of climate change and other emerging threats in setting the clock. 

On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the clock, the bulletin’s experts outlined a host of threats facing the world, from disinformation stoking division, an increase in global tensions fueling a nuclear arms race, a pandemic highlighting nation’s inability to battle increasingly frequent outbreaks, and climate change exacerbating natural disasters and global instability. 

The group noted that power struggles continue to exacerbate the world’s risk of destruction, with the extension of the New START nuclear treaty offset by nuclear ambitions in Iran, North Korea, India and Pakistan, while competition between the U.S., China and Russia only adds to instability on a security front.   

“The Doomsday Clock is not set by good intentions, but rather by evidence of action, or in this case inaction,” Scott D. Sagan, a Stanford University professor, told reporters. “Signs of nuclear arms races are clear.” 

Disinformation also played a particularly notable role in keeping the clock at the closest point to midnight in history, with experts noting its impact on democracy, climate change, and the pandemic, with an increasing number of people falsely believing in widespread voter fraud, skeptical of vaccination, and disinterested in curbing behavior that warms the planet.  

“The resulting factors mean a world in which different and antagonistic political tribes each live in their own factual universes. This is not a world governed by reason or reality and is itself an existential threat to modern civilization as we have come to know it,” said Herb Lin, a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. 

Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin, noted that global challenges had changed little since 2021, when the clock stayed at 100 seconds to midnight in a reflection of optimism over the election of President Bidenand pronouncements to address the threat of nuclear weapons, through the New START missile treaty with Russia and an intention to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.   

“We continue to believe that human beings can manage the dangers posed by modern technology even in times of crisis. But if humanity is to avoid an existential catastrophe, one that would dwarf anything it has yet seen, national leaders must do a far better job of countering disinformation, heeding science and cooperating to diminish global risks,” she said. 

“The COVID 19 pandemic serves as a historic wake up call, a vivid illustration, that national governments and international organizations are unprepared to manage complex and dangerous challenges like those of nuclear weapons and climate change, which currently puts existential threat to humanity, or other dangers including more virulent pandemics [or] next generation warfare that could threaten civilization in the near future.” 

2020 marked the first time the doomsday clock moved to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been to the endpoint for destruction and the first time it was measured in seconds rather than minutes, reflecting the urgency of the moment. 

The announcement reflected an increase in tensions between the U.S. and Iran that came in January of that year with the U.S.’ targeted killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, and the growing dangers of failing to address climate change. 

The 2020 announcement, made in January, occurred ahead of the World Health Organization declaring the quickly circulating coronavirus a global pandemic. 

—Updated at 5:50 p.m.

India’s open invitation to the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

India’s open invitation to a nuclear Armageddon

Published 12 hours ago 

on January 18, 2022

ByAmjed Jaaved

Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that “India was not averse to the possible demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier ,  the world’s highest battleground and an old sore in India-Pakistan ties , provided the neighbour accepted the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) that separates Indian and Pakistani positions. Acceptance of AGPL is the first step towards demilitarisation but the Pakistan side loathes doing that”. He said, ‘The Siachen situation occurred because of unilateral attempts by Pakistan to change status quo and countermeasures taken by the Indian Army’ (Not averse to demilitarisation of Siachen if Pak meets pre-condition: Army chief, Hindustan Times January 13, 2022).

Reacting to the Indian army chief’s statement, Pakistan’s former foreign secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan reminisced that the Siachen could not fructify into a written agreement because India wanted Siachen and Kashmir to be settled together. India’s approach ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ scuttled the agreement. As for Kashmir, “a simultaneous effort was made through the backchannel …in what is commonly known as the Four-Point Formula” (Siachen recollections, Dawn January 16, 2022). Riaz laments Indi’s distrust that hindered a solution.

Shyam Saran, a voice in the wilderness

Shyam Saran, in his book How India Sees the World (pp. 88-93) makes startling revelations about how this issue eluded solution at last minute. India itself created the Siachen problem.  Saran reminisces, in the 1970s, US maps began to show 23000 kilometers of Siachen area under Pakistan’s control. Thereupon, Indian forces were sent to occupy the glacier in a pre-emptive strike, named Operation Meghdoot. Pakistani attempts to dislodge them did not succeed. But they did manage to occupy and fortify the lower reaches’.

He recalls how Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek agreements could not fructify for lack of political will or foot dragging. He says ‘NN Vohra, who was the defence secretary at the time, confirmed in a newspaper interview that an agreement on Siachen had been reached. At the last moment, however, a political decision was taken by the Narasimha Rao government to defer its signing to the next round of talks scheduled for January the following year. But, this did not happen…My defence of the deal became a voice in the wilderness’.

Saran says, `Kautliyan template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.).

India’s current first option

It appears that Kautliya’s last-advised option,yana, as visualised by Shyam Saran, is India’s first option nowadays. Kautlya also talks about koota yuddha (no holds barred warfare), and maya yuddha (war by tricks) that India is engaged in.

Cartographic annexation

By unilaterally declaring the disputed Jammu and Kashmir its territory does not solve the Kashmir problem. This step reflects that India has embarked upon the policy “might is right”. In Kotliyan parlance it would be “matsy nyaya, or mach nyaya”, that is big fish eats the small one. What if China also annexes disputed borders with India?  India annexed Kashmir presuming that Pakistan is not currently in a position to respond militarily, nor could it agitate the matter at international forums for fear of US ennui.  

India’s annexation smacks of acceptance of quasi-Dixon Plan, barring mention of plebiscite and division of Jammu. . Dixon proposed: Ladakh should be awarded to India. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (including Gilgit and Baltistan) should remain with Pakistan. Whole Kashmir valley should have a plebiscite with no option to independence. Jammu should be divided on religious basis. The river Chmab should be the dividing line. Northern Jammu (Muslims dominated) should go to Pakistan and Hindu majority parts of Jammu to remain with India.

In short Muslim areas should have gone with Pakistan and Hindu-Buddhist majority areas should have remained with India.

India’s annexation has no legal sanctity. But, it could have bbeen sanctified in a mutually agreed Kashmir solution.

India’s propaganda

India portrays the freedom movement in Kashmir as `terrorism’. What about India’s terrorism in neighbouring countries?

The world is listless to accounts of former diplomats and RAW officers about executing insurgencies in neighbouring countries. B. Raman, in his book The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane makes no bones about India’s involvement up to the level of prime minister in Bangladesh’s insurgency.

 Will the world take notice of confessions by Indi’s former intelligence officers and diplomats?B. Raman reminds `Indian parliament passed resolution on March 31, 1971 to support insurgency. Indira Gandhi had then confided with Kao that in case Mujib was prevented from ruling Pakistan, she would liberate East Pakistan from the clutches of the military junta. Kao, through one RAW agent, hijacked a Fokker Friendship, the Ganga, of Indian Airlines hijacked from Srinagar to Lahore.

India’s ambassador Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar, with the consent of then foreign minister Jaswant Singh, `coordinated military and medical assistance that India was secretly giving to Massoud and his forces’… `helicopters, uniforms, ordnance, mortars, small armaments, refurbished Kalashnikovs seized in Kashmir, combat and winter clothes, packaged food, medicines, and funds through his brother in London, Wali Massoud’, delivered circuitously with the help of other countries who helped this outreach’. When New Delhi queried about the benefit of costly support to Northern Alliance chief Massoud, Kumar explained, “He is battling someone we should be battling. When Massoud fights the Taliban, he fights Pakistan.”

Death of back-channel

In his memoirs In the line of fire (pp.302-303), president Musharraf had proposed a personal solution of the Kashmir issue.  This solution, in essence, envisioned self-rule in demilitarised regions of Kashmir under a joint-management mechanism.   The solution pre-supposed* reciprocal flexibility.

Death of dialogue and diplomacy

Riaz warns of “incalculable” risks as the result of abrogation of Kashmir statehood (Aug 5, 2019). Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. In the absence of a dialogue on outstanding issues, war, perhaps a nuclear one,  comes up as the only option.

Concluding remark

Sans sincerity, the only Kashmir solution is a nuclear Armageddon. Or, perhaps divine intervention.

Can the Pakistani nuclear horn stop India?

Can Pakistan counter India’s new S-400 air defense system?

Jan 16, 05:30 PM

ISLAMABAD — Overconfidence in its newly acquired S-400 air defense system may give India a false sense of invulnerability and increase the likelihood of a military miscalculation involving archrival Pakistan, analysts warn.

“Indian rhetoric appears to suggest a belief that the S-400 effectively makes its airspace impenetrable and its forces invulnerable,” Mansoor Ahmed, a senior fellow at the Pakistan-based think tank Center for International Strategic Studies who studies the country’s nuclear program and delivery systems, told Defense News.

Consequently, there are concerns “India may be emboldened to resort to military adventurism, believing its ‘Cold Start’ doctrine for punishing strikes and destabilizing incursions into Pakistan” is an assured success, he said.

Deliveries of India’s five S-400 regiments began in December 2021, with initial deployments along the Indo-Pakistan border.

On paper, the defensive — and potentially offensive — anti-access, area denial capabilities of the S-400 appear formidable. The system is reportedly effective against aircraft, UAVs, and ballistic and cruise missiles, with the latter capability potentially neutralizing Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent.

Its layered coverage is provided by a combination of the 40-kilometer-range 9M96E, 120-kilometer-range 9M96E2, 250-kilometer-range 48N6, and 400-kilometer-range 40N6E missiles, enabling it to protect large areas, high-value targets and itself from attack.

It is also highly mobile, can be made operational 5 minutes after arriving at a new location and therefore can be regularly relocated to avoid detection.

However, aerospace expert Douglas Barrie at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank, told Defense News the S-400 “should not be underestimated, neither should it be over-estimated.”

A notable claimed feature of the S-400 is its potential offensive capability that would restrict an adversary’s use of its own airspace. For Pakistan, due to its geography and the long border it shares with India, the weapon system would cover most of the country.

Archrivals Pakistan and India share a tense border, and both countries have nuclear weapons. (Racide/Getty Images) 

However, Barrie is unconvinced. “Its much-touted maximum engagement range is dependent on the variant of surface-to-air missile deployed, the acquisition ranges of the associated radars in the operational area, the capacity of the personnel to effectively exploit the system, and also the steps and countermeasures any opponent might take.”

India plans to integrate the S-400 into its existing air defense network, which consists of indigenous and Indo-Israeli systems.

Consequently, Barrie said, India might “use the system more often to defend high-value targets or critical national infrastructure from air attack, rather than forward-deploy to hamper the Pakistani Air Force’s use of its own airspace [thereby] putting the systems at greater risk of attack.”

“In and of itself, I see the S-400 acquisition having little to no impact on the overall credibility of the Pakistani [nuclear] deterrent,” he added.

Similarly, Ahmed believes “its effectiveness against ballistic or cruise missiles is open to question and will depend on a variety of factors,” such as the effective engagement range. This specific factor takes into account the curvature of the Earth, the nature of nearby terrain and the location from which the system was deployed.

If deployed too far forward, an S-400 — or at least elements of the system, such as the launch vehicle — could be in danger of direct targeting. Ahmed specifically pointed to the Fatah-1, Pakistan’s 150-kilometer-range guided round for the Chinese A-100 multiple launch rocket system, as a weapon that could jeopardize the S-400. The Fatah-1 round was successfully tested in August 2021.

Additionally, suppression or even destruction of the S-400 could be aided by effective electronic warfare measures — a capability Pakistan demonstrated when its Air Force successfully launched retaliatory strikes into Indian-held territory during a flare-up in February 2019.

Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, or SPD, develops and protects all aspects of the country’s nuclear deterrent, and it’s likely the organization will be charged with determining the threat posed by the S-400 and how to respond.

Defense News tried to contact the SPD via the Army’s Inter Services Public Relations media branch, but received no response.

However, Ahmed pointed to improvements Pakistan is making to its existing arsenal to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent.

“Pakistan’s missile tests over the past several years appear to demonstrate enhanced accuracy and penetration capability in view of India’s growing investment in missile defenses. It has also introduced the [multiple independent reentry vehicle]-capable Ababeel ballistic missile system, designed to defeat any dedicated Indian anti-missile system,” he said. “While the S-400 remains a highly capable air defense system at best, its utility against missiles has yet to be proven in real-time conditions.”

Nevertheless, the S-400 does pose a considerable threat to Pakistan’s conventional deterrent.

“Suppression or destruction of enemy air defense (SEAD/DEAD) will likely have taken greater priority for the Pakistani Air Force in response to the S-400 acquisition,” Barrie said. “Options include acquiring more capable anti-radiation missiles, improved electronic countermeasures and aircraft self-protection.”

Outsmarting the system

Pakistan potentially has something in development that could be used against the S-400.

A stealthy combat drone design, the ZF1 was specifically created to attack heavily defended targets. It was promoted at Pakistan’s biennial arms exhibition IDEAS in 2018 by the UAS Global, whose CEO Rafay Shaik told Defense News at the time the aircraft would make its first flight soon.

The concept is not new to South Asia. India has its own stealthy UCAV program, the Ghatak, run by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Despite requests for information on the state of the program sent to UAS Global, there has been no news regarding its development since early 2019, and it’s unclear if ZF1 work is even ongoing.

Pakistan might also benefit from military exercises “with friendly countries that operate the S-400, such as China and Turkey, who may at least indirectly help identify its strengths and weaknesses for exploring opportunities to suppress and defeat Indian S-400 systems,” Ahmed said.

A Russian Antonov military cargo plane, carrying the S-400, is unloaded after landing at a Turkish military base on July 12, 2019. (Stringer/AFP via Getty Images) 

For its part, China has “multiple options” available for Pakistan, according to Richard Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Alexandria, Virginia.

“It is very likely that, to the degree that China has aided North Korea’s new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) missile warhead, it has or will similarly assist a Pakistani HGV, or simply sell the DF-17,” he said, referring to a medium-range missile system equipped with an HGV. “Or Beijing now has the option of allowing North Korea to sell its HGV to Pakistan.”

China could also help Pakistan redress the balance with a similar air defense system, Fisher added, and its ability to do so “can be expected soon.”

“In contrast to China’s flagrant abuse of the intellectual property of [Russia’s] Sukhoi Corporation, S-300 and S-400 maker Almaz-Antey in the 1990s agreed to sell China the means to make their own fourth-generation SAMs [surface-to-air missiles] along with sales of their SAMs,” he explained.

Fisher noted that Pakistan’s recently acquired Chinese-made HQ-9B missile — which reportedly has a 240-kilometer range and is locally referred to as the HQ-9/P — is based on Almaz-Antey technology. He said this transfer of advanced Russian technology enabled China to develop the initial land-based HQ-9 and ship-based HHQ-9 systems, which have a range of 125 kilometers and entered service in the mid-2000s.

HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launchers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 2015. Pakistan acquired a variant of the weapon in 2021. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images) 

These Chinese systems are quite advanced, Fisher added. “Like later variants of the S-300 family acquired by China, the HQ-9 featured a hard-to-jam phased array guidance and tracking radar, and its missile uses an active radar for terminal guidance.”

The longer-range HQ-9B is reported to have a dual semi-active radar homing/passive infrared seeker, while the HQ-9C, which is under development, will reportedly feature active guidance.

Citing the recent conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as the civil wars in Libya and Syria, Ahmed noted that “increasingly more potent and sophisticated” air defense systems are being “matched by systems and technologies designed to beat them, such as standoff weapons, anti-radiation missiles, electronic countermeasures, UCAVs and drone swarms, and low-flying cruise missiles.”

“The race for offense-defense dominance is therefore increasingly favoring the offense,” he said.

Dialogue before the First Nuclear War? Revelation 8

Return to dialogue to resolve issues, peaceniks urge Pakistan, India

January 16, 2022

NEW DELHI: Even as there looks no immediate headway towards deescalating tensions between South Asian nuclear neighbours, at least 50 politicians, former officials, and peace activists have come together urging Pakistan and India to attend to their differences and work for durable peace in the region.

Indian peace activist Om Prakash Shah is planning to release compilations of 50 articles in the form of a book — In Pursuit of Peace: Improving Indo-Pak Relations — in the Indian capital New Delhi over the weekend, requesting both countries to at least start talks to find solutions to their political issues.

The authors, who have contributed to the book include former Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, former Information Minister Javed Jabbar, former Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha and former Chief Minister of occupied Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah, among others.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency ahead of the release of the book, Shah said there was a general recognition on both sides to find a way to co-exist in a peaceful productive manner and to make sure that the differences do not spin out of control, especially given the developmental challenges faced by both countries.

“The main aim of this book is to deepen our mutual understanding of the different points of view in Pakistan and India and to speed up the process of dialogue, which I believe is an important tool for bridging the trust deficit between India and Pakistan,” said Shah, who is working on improving Pakistan-India relations for the last three decades.

He said the book has taken the stock of Indo-Pak relations as both countries are approaching the 75th anniversary of their independence in August 2022.

Relations between India and Pakistan plummeted to a new low after August 5, 2019, when India not only revoked the longstanding special status but also bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir, prompting Islamabad to downgrade its diplomatic ties.

Desirable to turn to dialogue

Pakistan has been maintaining the normalization of ties with New Delhi is linked to a review of the August 5 decision and ultimate resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Stating that India Pakistan relationship, “like any complicated multi-faceted relationship, has its ups and downs,” Shah said that it is important to maintain a focus on bridging the gaps between the two neighbours that share a long border.

“To bridge this inherited chasm, it is desirable to turn to dialogue, which is an important tool that is available to all of us. It is important that we do not leave the challenging task of establishing a climate of trust and confidence between India and Pakistan to our respective governments only,” he said.

Shah urged the civil society in both countries to take a lead in progressing the peace talks and to resolve our mutual differences, in addition to the efforts made by the two governments.

Asked about the central idea in the articles written by a divergent group of people across the borders, Shah said, all authors are committed to finding ways to improve India and Pakistan relations.

Cultural affinity

Mohammad Mukhtar Ansari, a former top official in the Indian government, who has also contributed to the book, said both countries should not be oblivious of emotional attachment between the divided families and cultural affinity among the people of both sides.

“The countries, which support cultural exchange programs across the regions and promote economic and business trade, do not engage themselves in war-like activities or maintain adversarial relations.

Both the countries must give a chance to its people to establish contacts at various levels, which will pave the way for establishing a friendly relationship with all the neighbouring countries,” he said.

He added that it is important that the protection of sociocultural identities is duly factored “in the dialogue process to respect and promote traditional bondage between the people living beyond the borders.”

India’s nuclear horn recently went up the sophistication curve

Photo: @Twitter
Photo: @Twitter

India’s nuclear arsenal recently went up the sophistication curve

In the final months of 2021, India conducted two major missile tests. The first was the Shaurya hypersonic weapon test, which was conducted in October. The second was the Agni-P missile test conducted on Christmas Eve. Both missile tests indicate that India is on course to fielding a more sophisticated nuclear arsenal with greater diversity of delivery systems. These developments have triggered a flurry of analyses ranging from satisfaction over improvements in the Indian arsenal’s level of readiness to dangerous prognostications about what these missile developments might mean for strategic stability, especially between India and Pakistan.

Let us begin with what Shaurya and Agni-P imply for the state of readiness of India’s arsenal. These two missiles highlight the importance of expanding the repertoire of our nuclear-capable missile forces. India also tested a hypersonic weapon that is estimated to travel at a speed of Mach 5 and designed to dodge missile defences. Hypersonic weapons such as Shaurya are likely to be highly effective in taking out enemy early radars, static military installations such as airbases and command and control (C&C) facilities, although Shaurya may require a few additional tests to establish the credibility of its operational capabilities.

The Agni-P missile is believed to be capable of delivering multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) or multiple warheads against a single target. This creates an opportunity for India to strengthen nuclear deterrence through ambiguity. Several analysts have inferred that Agni-P and Shaurya together represent a shift in India’s no-first-use policy. However, officially there is no evidence to suggest a change; India’s declaratory doctrine has remained steadfastly committed to no-first-use even as the country’s operational posture in the form of higher readiness levels undergoes a shift. The latter part is increasingly manifesting itself in the form of the ‘canisterization’ of India’s missiles, not only for longer range missiles such as intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), but also for the Agni-P, which is a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM).

Canistering missiles enables more rapid deployment, as warheads could already be mated with missiles and placed in climate-controlled tubes, preventing damage, for launch on short notice. Further, canisterized missile capabilities give India counter-force strike options, especially against Pakistan, according to some analysts who fear an intensification of strategic instability emerging from India’s missile progress.

Thus, because of India’s putative MIRV-based and canisterized ballistic missile forces, one school of thought holds that India could launch a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan’s nuclear facilities in the heat of a crisis. This view conveniently overlooks the fact that Pakistan has a larger nuclear arsenal than India’s and Rawalpindi’s refusal to adopt a no-first-use policy, despite past entreaties to do so. Pakistan also pursues an asymmetric escalation posture that involves the development and deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, but most critically early use of atomic weapons in a conflict with India, leaving us exposed to stand-off missile attacks. Moreover, it is misleading to argue that India’s canisterized and MIRV capabilities sow “strategic instability” when it is more the result of Pakistan’s pursuit of an offensive posture that involves the tactical use of nuclear weapons against a potential Indian conventional attack.

Indeed, the Pakistani presumption that the tactical and strategic use of atomic weapons can be kept separate is the primary source of instability. New Delhi has generally rejected the notion that decoupling the tactical and strategic use of atomic weapons is possible or sustainable because there can be no real distinction between counter-value and counter-force strikes involving such weapons, at least against Pakistan. Also, India’s pursuit of higher readiness levels in the form of Agni-P and Shaurya is only par for the course in that it is a justifiable insurance against a risk-prone adversary such as Pakistan. Although India has a stated no-first-use policy, combining it with a higher degree of operational readiness of its nuclear tipped-missile forces is also about pursuing nuclear deterrence, though through ambiguity, as it sows uncertainty and induces caution in India’s two nuclear adversaries, China and Pakistan. If anything, it complicates the first strike options of Beijing and Rawalpindi.

Beyond Pakistan, the advances in India’s missile capabilities are geared to deterring the People’s Republic of China. The latter has significantly superior capabilities than India. Beijing has deployed its Dong-Feng (DF)-26 IRBMs in the Xinjiang region of Western China. India’s Shaurya hypersonic weapon is equally a response China’s DF-17 Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV) with a range of 1,800-2,500km, which Beijing is believed to have been fielding since at least 2019. Notwithstanding the caveat that New Delhi has generally rejected distinctions between counter-value and counter-force targets and tactical and strategic capabilities, Indian counter-force strike options are more plausible against China than Pakistan simply because a large number of the former’s land-based nuclear forces are more distant from population centres. Pakistan is acutely vulnerable to strategic interdiction due to its narrow geography as opposed to the geographic and strategic depth China enjoys. In any case, Beijing’s’s submarine-based nuclear capabilities give it a near invulnerable second-strike capacity, making India’s counter-force strikes against Chinese nuclear targets difficult. Thus, India’s hypersonic and canisterized Agni SRBM and IRBM capabilities are equally about preserving strategic deterrence and enhancing regional strategic stability.

Harsh V. Pant & Kartik Bommakanti are, respectively, professor of international relations, King’s College London and a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!