The Arms Control Association, a US-based national non-partisan-membership organisation, has revealed in its latest report that India’s nuclear policy is aimed at China, and not Pakistan.
The co-authors of the report, titled ‘The Threat Assessment Brief for Asia’, have made the revelation after closely monitoring nuclear policies of three Asian powers. According to Greg Thielmann and David Logan of the Princeton University, India considers China as its main rival in the region, while Pakistan considers India as its main enemy and China considers the US as a major threat. The co-authors have said that the three Asian powers have also taken necessary steps to safeguard their territories from their ‘enemies’.
They mentioned in the report that Pakistan is well prepared for a possible war with India, as Islamabad has even more nuclear warheads than New Delhi. While India has 118 warheads, Pakistan has 130 and China has 180. Interestingly, Pakistan’s longest range missile ‘Shaheen-3’ has a limited range of 2,750km that is good enough to hit important Indian targets.
Meanwhile, Thielmann and Logan expressed serious concern over the nature of arms race in Asia, saying: “While Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is designed to counter India’s conventional and nuclear forces, New Delhi measures its own nuclear weapons programme against that of China. Beijing, in turn, judges the adequacy of its nuclear arsenal against the threat it perceives from the US’ strategic offensive and defensive capabilities. And in its efforts to mitigate the ballistic missile threat from North Korea, the US and its allies in the region are expanding their strategic and theatre missile defence capabilities.”
At the same time, they opined that if China tries to improve its arsenal in relation to the US and develop ‘full spectrum’ deterrence, then it will have an effect on India and Pakistan. Thielmann and Logan tried to explain the nature of modern arms race from a different angle, although they admitted that it would be difficult to get a complete picture from the number of warheads possessed by three-four countries. For example, China has around 25 DF-31A ballistic missiles with a range of 11,000+km that can easily hit targets in the US. On the other hand, India has an undisclosed number of ‘Agni-5’ missiles with a 5,200km range that can hit significant Chinese targets.
Analysing the nature of nuclear rivalry in Asia, the two authors said that the “technical realities and doctrinal inclinations” would keep India an “inherently second strike system” against China and Pakistan. “Moreover, tight control over India’s operational nuclear force by civilians and the oversized role of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) over new nuclear weapons development imply that military necessity is unlikely to be the principal driver of nuclear weapons policy,” they stressed.
As per the report, India plans to sign the ‘Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation’ in order to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Thielmann and Logan have welcomed India’s decision, saying that both India and Pakistan should join the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and convert their unilateral moratoria on nuclear testing into a legally binding agreement (as proposed by Pakistan a couple of days ago).