Tag Archives: SRBMs

India must Upgrade its China Strategy from Dissuasion to Deterrence

It is in India’s interest to focus its diplomatic efforts to expedite the delineation of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Indo-Tibetan border and urge China to resolve the territorial and boundary dispute in an early time frame. In conventional weapons and present force levels, the Indian Army has adequate combat capability to defend the border, but not sufficient to deter war as it lacks a potent offensive operations capability. The gap between India and China in overall military potential, particularly the gap in strategic weapons, is increasing rapidly in China’s favour. China is also actively engaged in upgrading the military infrastructure in Tibet in substantive terms. The all-weather railway line to Lhasa, being extended further to Shigatse and later to Kathmandu, will enable China to build up rapidly for a future conflict. New roads and military airfields have also been built. Military camps are coming up closer to the border. China has inducted a large number of SRBMs into Tibet and can rapidly induct another 500 to 600 SRBMs for a future conflict by moving them from the coastline opposite Taiwan. With improvements in military infrastructure, China’s capability of building up and sustaining forces in Tibet has gone up to 30 to 35 divisions. The PLA’s rapid reaction divisions can also significantly enhance its combat potential over a short period of time. As China’s military power in Tibet grows further, it will be even less inclined to accept Indian perceptions of the LAC and the boundary.

Another factor of concern to India is the emplacement of Chinese nuclear-tipped missiles in Tibet, reportedly first brought to the Tibetan plateau in 1971. While these missiles may have been targeted against the Soviet Union till recently, the present Russia-China rapprochement would make such targeting illogical. The mere presence of Chinese nuclear-tipped missiles in Tibet poses a direct and most serious threat to India as these missiles (DF-2, DF-3, DF-4 and, possibly, DF-5) are capable of reaching all Indian cities. Beijing has been very effective in hiding details of the number of missiles actually deployed and India is only now acquiring the technological means to track and pinpoint the exact locations of these missiles or any others in the Lanzhou-Chengdu region and at the Datong and Kunming missile bases which may have the potential to reach and target Indian cities. This shortcoming needs to be overcome as early as possible through an Indian military intelligence satellite and by humint means.

India, therefore, needs to build up adequate military capabilities to deter the threat from China. In the short-term, the requirement is to ensure that there are no violations of the LAC through effective border management while maintaining a robust dissuasive conventional posture. India must step up its diplomatic efforts to seek early resolution of the territorial dispute, particularly the immediate delineation of the LAC physically on ground and map. Efforts to develop military infrastructure in the border areas for the speedy induction of forces need to be stepped up. India must maintain a strong capability to defend island territories in the Bay of Bengal and to safeguard national interests in the Exclusive Economic Zone. Diplomatic efforts to increase India’s influence in the CARs, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh and with the ASEAN countries should be pursued vigorously.

The long-term requirement is to match China’s strategic challenge in the region and develop a viable military deterrence capability against the use of nuclear and missile weapons systems. Threats posed by nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles cannot be countered by the deployment of land forces and conventional air power alone. Nuclear weapons are best deterred by nuclear weapons and, as a logical corollary, only missiles can deter missiles. Hence, India must develop, test and operationally induct the Agni-III, Agni-IV and Agni-V IRBMs and raise two mountain Strike Corps so as to be able to upgrade its present strategic posture of ‘dissuasion’ to one of credible ‘deterrence’ against China.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrine is Destabilising

Pakistan’s recent announcement that it has successfully tested the nuclear-tipped Hatf-9 (Nasr) short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) with a range of 65 km has caused serious concern in India as SRBMs are inherently destabilising. The announcement has come at a time when a move to eliminate SRBMs from the nuclear arsenals of South Asia had begun to gather momentum.

Unlike India’s nuclear weapons and missile development programme that was completely indigenous, Pakistan received considerable external help and, in turn, has itself been a proliferator. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons – warheads and delivery systems – are India-centric and have been acquired with Chinese and North Korean help. While India follows a “credible minimum deterrence” doctrine and has declared a “no first use” policy, Pakistan follows a “first use” nuclear doctrine and seeks to India that it has a low nuclear threshold.India’s nuclear weapons are political weapons whose sole purpose is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons against India.Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are its first line of defence and it aims to use them to negateIndia’s conventional military superiority.

Pakistan has been testing its ballistic and nuclear-capable cruise missiles at the rate of one every two months on average. It is apparently engaged in improving the accuracy of its North Korean origin No Dong and Taepo Dong missiles and of the Chinese missiles M-9 and M-11.

Though Pakistan’€™s nuclear warheads are based on a Chinese design that uses highly enriched uranium as the fissionable core, it is known to be gradually switching over to Plutonium 239 for future nuclear warheads. Dr. Peter Lavoy has written, “According to public estimates of Pakistan’s fissile material stockpile at the end of 2006, Islamabad probably had amassed between 30 and85 kilogramsof weapon-grade plutonium from its Khushab research reactor and between 1300 and1700 kilogrammes of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the Kahuta gas centrifuge facility. The Khushab reactor can probably produce between 10 and15 kilogrammes  of plutonium per year. Kahuta may be able to produce100 kilogrammes of HEU each year. Assuming that Pakistani scientists require 5 to 7 kilogrammes of plutonium to make one warhead, and 20 to 25 kilogrammes of HEU to produce a bomb, then Pakistan would have accumulated enough fissile material to be able to manufacture between 70 and 115 nuclear weapons by the end of2006.”

Estimates of Pakistan’s nuclear warheads stockpile vary according to the source. However, Pakistan is generally credited with the capability of having stockpiled 60 to 80 nuclear warheads and is moving rapidly towards triple-digit figures. Unlike India, Pakistan is making efforts to acquire tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. It has also been reported that Pakistan is working towards miniaturizing its nuclear warheads for use on the Babur cruise missile.

Pakistan’s nuclear command and control is firmly in the army hands. Its National Command Authority has an Employment Control Committee and a Development Control Committee. Most of the posts are held by senior members of the armed forces. Staff support for day to day functioning is provided by the Strategic Plans Division (SPD). The strategic missile forces are placed under the Army Strategic Command. While on paper the President is Chairman of the NCA and the Prime Minister is Vice Chairman, the NCA was constituted during the Musharraf regime and it is most unlikely that the army will ever hand over control of nuclear weapons to the civilian leadership. 

Capacity Building for Future Conflict

In view of India’s unresolved territorial disputes with China and Pakistan in the mountainous Himalayan region, there is a very high probability that the next major land conflict on the Indian sub-continent will again break out in the mountains and, in order to avoid the possibility of escalation to nuclear exchanges, the conflict will in all probability remain confined to mountainous terrain.

A strategic defensive posture runs the risk of losing some territory to the adversary if capabilities do not exist to be able to launch a deep ingress to stabilise the situation. India’s must upgrade its military strategy of dissuasion against China to that of genuine conventional and nuclear deterrence that can come only from the ability to take the fight deep into the adversary’s territory through the launching of major offensive operations. To achieve this objective, it is necessary to raise and position one mountain Strike Corps each in Jammu and Kashmir for offensive operations against China and Pakistan and in the northeast for operations against China. In addition, other defensive corps must be given limited capability to launch offensive operations with integral resources.

Manoeuvre is extremely limited in the mountains due to the restrictions imposed by the terrain. In the plains too India’s Strike Corps cannot execute deep manoeuvres due to the risk of Pakistan’s nuclear red lines being threatened early during a campaign. As firepower is the other side of the coin, it is necessary to substantially upgrade capabilities of the armed forces to inflict punishment and indeed achieve victory through the orchestration of overwhelming firepower, or else India will have to be content with a strategic stalemate.

These capabilities include conventionally-armed SRBMs to attack high value targets in depth. Air-to-ground and helicopter-to-ground attack capabilities need to be modernised, particularly those enabling deep ground penetration and accurate night strikes. In fact, the Indian Air Force should aim to dominate the air space and ground strikes must paralyse the adversary’s ability to conduct cohesive ground operations. Artillery rockets, guns and mortars must also be modernised. Lighter and more mobile equipment is required so that these can be rapidly moved and deployed in neighbouring sectors.

India’s holdings of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) continue to be low. In recent conflicts like the war in Iraq in 2003 and the ongoing Afghan conflict, PGMs have formed almost 80 per cent of the total ammunition used. Indian PGM holdings must go up progressively to at least 20 to 30 per cent in order to achieve high levels of operational efficiencies. India’s defence planners must recognise that it is firepower asymmetries that will help to achieve military decisions and ultimately break the adversary’s will to fight.

Capabilities for heliborne assault, vertical envelopment and amphibious operations are inadequate for both conventional conflict and dealing effectively with contingencies that might arise while discharging India’s emerging regional responsibilities. Two rapid reaction-cum-air assault divisions (with an amphibious brigade each) need to be raised by the end of the 13th Defence Plan, i.e. by 2017-22. The expenditure on these divisions will be highly capital intensive and will be subject to the defence budget being gradually raised to first 2.5 per cent and then 3.0 per cent of India’s GDP.

C4I2SR capabilities are still rudimentary in nature and must be substantially modernised to exploit the synergies that can be achieved by a network centric force. A seamless intelligence-cum-targeting network must be established to fully synergise the strike capabilities of air and ground forces in real time. A good early warning network will enable the army to reduce the number of troops that are permanently deployed for border management and will add to the reserves available for offensive operations. Infrastructural developments along the northern borders have failed to keep pace with the army’s ability to fight forward and must be speeded up.