Friday, November 30, 2007

Of Nukes and Mutually Assured Destruction
Yesterday, I was watching an interview with General (Retd) Shanker Roy Choudhary who was India's Army chief from 1994 to 1997. The General spoke about India's nuclear policy which was one of second strike as opposed to Pakistan's first strike and with an India focus. Well, that may sound like an effective strategy for deterrence. The General's comments were well balanced and he made no malapropos statements. But words, no matter how civilized or ominous they sound cannot substitute for proper planning.
I pass in front of the Schenectady Masonic Temple every day on my way to office. The building houses a fall out shelter, one of the several hundreds in this country. Built during the days of the cold war, such shelters would act as asylums for ordinary folks to escape from nukes and the ensuing radiation. National Geographic channel once ran a documentary on how adults and kids were taught to duck and cover in offices and schools during the cold war days when the threat of a nuclear war loomed large. The military spent millions of dollars building nuclear bunkers and also made plans to save the leadership in case of any such eventualities.
Now coming back to my earlier point - If India truly wishes to abandon the ability to strike first, it should prepare to survive the enemy's first strike. If they attack the metros and other large cities, the casualties could easily run into several millions and then comes the deaths due to radiation. Attacking major cities and vital installations has the potential to break the country's communication backbone. So the General's answers made me think..

1) Why have I never heard of any shelters being built in the major cities in India ?

2) Why is the population not taught survival strategies (At least in the major cities) ?

3 ) What if the attack is massive and it destroys our nuclear assets there by hampering our ability to launch a retaliatory attack from India ?

4) Shouldn't India have bought/built nuclear submarines capable of launching ICBMs (wonder where we are on the much vaunted "Surya") and have them scattered across the globe ? All I have heard about is a protracted tug of war for leasing the "Akula" from Russia. During the cold war, the Russians and the Americans built nuclear submarines which guaranteed them the ability to strike back.

5) Shouldn't we think of building some kind of missile defence system ? President Bush's invitation was readily shot down by our mandarins .

Well, I hope that the Indian leadership who ought to be far more intelligent, knowledgable and smarter than me, has answers to all these questions.

And above all, I hope and pray that a nuclear war always confines itself to literature and imagination. May it never happen in real life. Peace to All ! :-)


At 10:26 PM, Blogger Mahesh Vijayamohanan said...

i dont know much about this subject.. but i remember having asked this question to my dad when i was a kid..may be a little older kid.. if the pakis might nuke india.. and his answer as always convinced me.. that nuke is a deterrent.. if pakis nuke india they might get a city, max a state but then they wouldnt be able to take the response.. so the nuke would always be a deterrent... to avoid another war in the subcontinet.. :-)

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Sarath said...

That is exactly the point I was trying to make. We have to ensure that we always maintain the second strike capability. Only then shall nuke become a true deterrent. Imagine a case where they take out all our major state capitals, Let us further assume that they have enough intelligence to take out our strategic assets thereby crippling our ability to strike back from land or air. It is then that nuclear submarines come in handy. If we have a few nuclear subs prowl the oceans, we can always be sure of our ability to strike back. It would be extremely difficult for an enemy to track and destroy the submarines along with our land based assets.


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