Can India’s weak nuclear deterrent prevent a Chinese misadventure in the years to come?
The culmination of the Russian-Ukrainian war is the latter’s lack of nuclear protection. As a result, it’s a one-sided war. It is only a matter of time before Ukraine capitulates. However, in a Sino-Indian conflagration, both states are nuclear weapon states (NWS) and would therefore have different rules of the game, even if India’s nuclear deterrent is thin and asymmetric.
Additionally, the Indo-Pacific arena is tied to multiple institutionalized security ties, including “AUKUS” and “QUAD”. The United States recently said it would remain focused on the Indo-Pacific despite the Ukraine crisis. They claim they have the ability to engage deeply in two theaters simultaneously.
Nevertheless, the Indo-Pacific strategy needs to be operationalized. Unlike the war in Ukraine where they just witness and see the destruction of a nation-state without moving an inch.
But in the Indo-Pacific theater, America will have to move beyond its self-help attitude if it is to retain its leadership. Yes, they may not help India with troops, but what they need to do is come up with a more robust and dynamic Indo-Pacific strategy than before. To reduce pressure on the LAC, military strategy dictates the need to create counter-pressure on eastern mainland China. They must create the elements of marines in ground invasion scenarios in conjunction with Japan, Australia and other like-minded small states to hammer the tail of the raging serpent and plan to attack the eastern flank of the China or any other flank, while China is fully engaged in battles. with India. Because, if China can make India acquiesce, the way opens according to their plan to reach the Americas and the EU.
As the war in Ukraine rages on and as expected, the motion failed in the UN Security Council after Russia vetoed it. But surprisingly, China instead of standing with Russia decided to abstain and show its dissociation with the Russian offensive. India also abstained in the vote. So far, therefore, China has shown itself in a better light by asking for de-escalation and peace. Russia has already been subjected to the toughest sanctions ever imposed by the West. Most Western nations and of course the United States showed their dejection towards the Indian position. Obviously, this implies that in the event of an attack on India tomorrow, very little help should be expected from the outside world. Beyond that, India is by no means a member of NATO and its strategic partnership is limited to sharing many security ties which are not sufficient for ground induction. Thus, India was isolated even from the West after India took a stand in favor of Russia. The only country that will support India is probably Russia. But Russia would then be weakened and would succumb to Chinese pressure. Let’s not forget that all our neighbors are already under the direct control of China, especially concerned about the new developments in Nepal and Sri Lanka. India thus finds itself isolated from South Asia as well as from the West to this day. So tomorrow’s conflict must be India’s unique battle. Can we see this as shaping the battlefield by the potential aggressor? Can we be smart this time and read between the lines? Can’t the world see this game through? It is a clear case of a potential superpower orchestrating events to shape the battle zone (Indo-Pacific, Taiwan and Indian Himalayas).
First and foremost, India needs to improve the procedures for operationalizing strategic nuclear deterrence, and needs detailed analyzes by the NSAB in conjunction with the CDS and the three chiefs present. Frankly, this aspect, if handled correctly, will send the right message to the potential adversary. It can allow crisis management through a more consensual approach by integrating the global strategy with nuclear thresholds on the ground.
India should not hesitate to conduct an “operationalization exercise” of nuclear assets. This aspect is in fact a very serious problem and requires the very intervention of the PMO. India’s nuclear strategy needs to be reviewed in light of blatant Chinese threats. The dragon can be tamed by proper nuclear management as their aspirations are of a superpower unlike that of India which only wants peace and wants to defend every inch of its territory. These exercises must clearly convey a message that shows the will and the political will to use the “N” button, if its territory is affected. Basically, it’s a “Psy or mind game”. China can then continue to analyze its losses. This nuclear ambiguity factor created by India, therefore, cannot be ignored by them, and will ipso facto create the necessary deterrence to prevent China from meddling with India. Undoubtedly, India should convey its will to defend every inch of territory even at the cost of a war of annihilation. If China wants war, prepare for its losses, which should outweigh the cost-benefit analyses. China is a budding superpower and would therefore avoid getting involved in a regional war. It is India’s trump card. The world will have no choice but to take many active steps to ensure disengagement between India and China before a nuclear war begins. Remember that nuclear weapons cannot be put away and forgotten. They need to be posted and displayed.
Strengthening conventional combat capability in turn will make nuclear deterrence ever more credible. India will need to recreate more central army reserves to be able to respond better. India will also need to build a better counter riposte punch in the form of more consolidated strike brigades supported by attack heptrs and integrated with para-SF (this is in addition to the 17 Strike Corps already raised) The concept is to keep more offensive options, so as not to lose the trans LAC initiative. Don’t let the attacker sit in peace and you allow a passive reaction from the Indian troops. A repeat of the “South Pangong Tso” offensive by India was just a showcase. It can be practiced to be done in a wider arc to keep the enemy guessing. There is an urgent need to double down on the current strength of the Tibetan Pinjas, who are waiting to flex their muscles on the Premier League, their rival for many decades. Their parachuting capabilities give a new dimension to the enemy rear trying to build operations. The very logistics of the attacker can be disrupted by this meager and nasty force. Additional one-time funding from India’s vast resources will be created to raise elite strike forces and equip them with state-of-the-art weapon systems. The whole preparation must be limited in time but not beyond two years. India’s nuclear deterrent has survived so far despite the tense standoff between India and China over the past six months. The massive mobilization of the PLA has created an unprecedented security scenario for the first time after the 1962 war. This means that the existing nuclear doctrine has served its purpose. However, a review of existing doctrine will indicate that with the rapidly changing security dynamics in this region and new emerging technologies, there is a need to upgrade existing doctrine and accelerate its “development and structuring of forces”, which give an intrinsic stability. This can negate the risk of deterrence hanging by a thin thread.
This raises some questions about India’s current nuclear posture, which correlates to its existing doctrine. Is there room for consideration of the power of “nuclear deterrence” in our national security strategy to offset conventional asymmetry with adversary-style drawing thresholds to support war fighting etc.? Is it necessary to change the policy of “No First Use” (NFU) in the face of a stronger adversary? Is the current operational doctrine sufficient to deal with collusive twin threats in a volatile security environment? Do newer technologies require a more proactive and “launch on warning” category of doctrine? Because India’s current nuclear doctrine is more unidirectional and seems ambiguous in addressing dual threats. A national mission is missing. This poses a strategic dilemma. The ibid doctrine does not state the contingencies exactly. The doctrine is silent on aspects of warfare. This, therefore, sequentially affects the construction of future nuclear capabilities. The operationalization of the nuclear arsenal, the type of targeting, the command and control and the flexible response capability, are all derivatives of the correct nuclear mission. This mission then dictates the preparation and application of Nuclear Forces for National Security Objectives. There are four options for the application of nuclear energy. First, national policy and doctrine for “NFU” or “first use”. The second is the decision to engage counter-value targets or counter-strength targets; Third, the need for a flexible and immediate response or only the pre-planned targeting of the countervalue (political bomb). Yet another aspect, which deserves to be clarified, is the question of thresholds, which are linked to land military operations and thus become force multipliers for the military mission.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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