Civil and Weapons Facility Separation
Indian weapons program has been intertwined with the nuclear power program to minimize cost as well to leverage on each other, including beating US/NSG ban on export of dual use material.
The Chief of Defence Staff should be selected and appointed on basis of merit and should be the point of contact for passing on the strike authorization to the strike force command. It is also necessary to ensure that the services operate in a joint manner.
“India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement” now acknowledges the Indian weapons program, yet unlike the privileges enjoyed by other nuclear weapons states, it proscribes continued NSG enforcement of global ban on export of dual use material/equipment to Indian classified program consisting of not just weapons programs but also R&D of Thorium based three stage fuel cycle for power generation. The continued embargo will thus impose high cost on weapons program as well as thorium based electric power generation.
As per the separation plan, most of the facilities will go to the civilian side, yet the facilities in the classified weapons side are fast approaching end of life, thus requiring even more investments. Lacking the investment of about US$ 30 billion over the next five years, it is clear that the nuclear weapons program will be crippled. The above cost is for:
- 7-10 research reactors (150 MW modified and scaled up R-5/Dhruv design)
- 3-4 heavy water plants15
- 2-3 re-processing plants physically removed from the safeguarded sites
- 2-3 fuel fabrication plants
- Scientific facilities — hot cells, plutonium foundries, libraries, etc.
- Duplication and upgradation of scientific skills built on knowledge over 40 years
- Laser Ignition ICF Facility including two independent design and review teams
- Fast Breeder Reactor test facility
- Physics collaboration programs in universities
It is essential to integrate the services and the Ministry of Defence. The Defence Secretary should be in charge of administration and budgetary process, etc. In other words, a purely administrative and policy making capacity has to be envisioned. The Chief of Defence Staff should be selected and appointed on basis of merit and should be the point of contact for passing on the strike authorization to the strike force command. It is also necessary to ensure that the services operate in a joint manner.
India should have the capability to destroy 20 long range, 30 medium and 50 regional targets. These are based on ensuring enough destruction capability to deter any aggressive behaviour from any quarters.
In the Northern and Eastern sectors, theater commands combining Army and Air Force units should be setup. The theater commander can be from Army or Air Force. The headquarters need not be in the same location. This way there would be dispersion of command assets. In the Southwest and Southern sectors there could be tri-service theater commands led by competent officers from any of the services. As a start, a joint theater warfare/command school should be setup in the National Defence College, by combining the existing elements from the different service establishments, which are now scattered all over in isolation.
Intelligence agencies have to be tasked to provide assessments of strategic targets and the political situation obtaining in the adversary county. There has to be thorough co-ordination between civil and military intelligence agencies.
Survivable Force Deployment
The strike force assets have to be deployed in a manner it ensures survivability after a first strike. It is possible to designate some formations as strike units. This would surely invite retaliation on them. A better posture would be to provide NBC training to all delivery formations and have the units attached as needed by the strike command in a matrix approach. In this approach the units are tasked to perform their conventional role — however under extraordinary circumstances, the unit can be put under the strategic forces commander.
Pakistani nuclear weapons and posture is a proxy extension of China. As noted by senior Indian strategists that India-Pakistan nuclear scenario is not a two-sum game, meaning that in case of Pakistani first-strike the nuclear exchange will not be limited between India and Pakistan. A first-strike by Pakistan can only happen at Chinas behest
The object is to raise the cost of first strike for all aggressors. By having all combat aircraft trained for this mission, but assigned only as needed it would require the aggressor to dedicate a large amount of his assets to first strike. If one takes into account the various military formation facilities, command and control centers, and commercial centers it would require a large number of incoming pay loads which would rule out everyone except the most determined challenger. In other words, in order to maximize the survivability have a large number of facilities where the credible deterrent could be located. When the submarine platform is inducted, the emphasis will shift accordingly.
There is a false debate about the ‘need to deploy the deterrent’ in a de-alerted status — separate the payload from launch vehicles. This is possible only when all NWS (Nuclear Weapon States) go to such a status. As India has threats from a neighbour, which cannot give a NFU pledge, it is not possible to take this step. It would be de-stabilizing and invites an aggressor to launch a first strike hoping for international intervention to prevent retaliation. Some weapons have to be assembled and be in a state of readiness.
Foreign Policy & the Political class
The task of the diplomats is now even more challenging. They have to behave maturely as representatives of a nuclear weapon state. It is even more important to mend fences with the neighbors. More emphasis has to be placed on trade and economic diplomacy. The formation of South Asia Preferential Trade agreement (SAPTA), South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation(BIMSTEC) and Indian Ocean Region (IOR) are steps in integrating the economies to reduce tensions and disgruntlement. The economic disparities are what fuel illegal immigration. It is essential for the foreign policy establishment to identify key issues that affect India and its place in the world and act accordingly.
It is important to develop civil defence measures to mitigate an unfortunate first strike.
At the same time the need is to divest the GOI of loss making public sector enterprises and free up the economy of debilitating laws and procedures which hamper economic growth. It means carrying the economic reforms forward and reduce subsidies. The message has to be sold to the Indian public to ensure consensus and continuity.
The political elite elected to the Parliament and attached to the MEA, MOD, HM, committees, need to undergo training from National Defense College in higher command aspects of strategic affairs. This way they would understand the dynamics of the issues they are elected to handle. Some of the budget already allocated to them, to spend in their constituencies, should be used to hire staff to help them in their work. It is important to develop civil defence measures to mitigate an unfortunate first strike. Around potential targets, it is important to develop satellite townships, medical facilities to treat radiation and burn damages, stockpile antibiotics and iodine, improve fire fighting techniques and equipment. Institutions like the National Police Academy, Administration College, etc. should conduct regular courses in dealing with this calamity.
Payload credibility aspects have been addressed in the POK-2 round of tests conducted in May 1999. Nuclear Stewardship Program and National Ignition Test Facilities are critical to sustain credible deterrence.
Proven Indian nuclear warheads have small yield to weight ratio, thus delivery system consisting of Shourya, Agni-2 and Agni-3 are regional in nature. The old 200Kt FBF is heavy yet persuasive to skeptical challenger but results in shorter missile range. Agni-3 can carry three high yield warheads similar to Agni-2. India is likely to field Agni-3SL with a combination of FBF and TN to hedge the risk of untested TN warhead. India will require fewer missiles and warheads once Nuclear Stewardship Program is operational to make TN warhead credible. TN warhead will make Agni-3 a full range ICBM.
For India, the nuclear stockpile number has to be formulated taking into account various factors. Some of the issues are — threat perceptions, the nature, location, and political disposition of the challengers — democrats need less deterrence while autocrats need more, the survivability of the force, and international geopolitics play great role. Indian adoption of theater missile defences to reduce the number of incoming payloads from regional challengers would help the minimal aspect, as the force would become more survivable. It would become very complicated to examine all these factors. A possible approach is to envision the security situation in terms of low, medium, and high risk.
Let us examine the low risk situation. In this scenario, there is the 1999 level of political situation, i.e. US and NATO primary security alliance, declining Russia, ascending but reforming China and Pakistan under representative rule.
India should have the capability to destroy 20 long range, 30 medium and 50 regional targets. These are based on ensuring enough destruction capability to deter any aggressive behaviour from any quarters. If only modest numbers are available, it would mean a reverse kamikaze situation — a negligible, minuscule retaliatory strike on a challenger who has delivered excessive destruction to the Indian State in a first strike. As the Indian deterrent program is based on minimal testing and low yield devices (< 45kt),16 it would require three times the numbers to assure destruction. These numbers could come down with further delivery vehicle tests to prove reliability and accuracy; again if credible stewardship program is established, new payload details are revealed and accepted by the challengers, the numbers could go down.
Add to this another hundred to ensure survival of first strike. This number could go down, if a global or bilateral ‘no first use’ agreement is reached with the NWS states. Another would be if a mutual de-targeting agreement were signed with principal NWS. A NWS declaration about not expanding their doctrine to non-nuclear threats would not be of much use to India in this case as she does not intend to use such threats
Add to this about a hundred for pipeline process — weapons at lab, under replenishment, in logistic cycle, unavailable due to any reason etc. This number is not subject to any trimming or reduction.
India is not part of any global security arrangement and has to rely on itself. The numbers suggested reflect this. If it were to be accommodated in international forums and mutual threat reduction mechanisms, then participation in reduction regimes can be considered.
Medium Risk situation
An unrepresentative military government in Pakistan, which is in an alliance with a totalitarian, un-reforming China would represent a medium risk security scenario. They could encourage insurgencies in border-states, and hold out prospects of simultaneously threatening India.
This situation would require additional delivery vehicles and weapons, which can be used in a regional context. Examples are additional lower yield weapons for battlefield use, and higher yield weapons for counter-value targets in China.
High risk situation
An aggressive Western alliance, alone or in consort with the medium risk scenario is one situation, which comes to mind. Another is a change of politics in Russia, which exhibits tendencies inimical to Indian interests. The point is, any grouping which has large numbers of nukes available to them and has inimical disposition has to be considered.
Most Indian spent fuel rod inventory from power reactors is not under IAEA safeguard. Analysis of Indian fuel mining and actual consumption indicate that India has large quantity of lightly irradiated spent fuel from which at least 2,400 Kg19 weapon grade plutonium can be reprocessed, which will be enough for about 600 nukes
Nuclear escalation with Pakistan can’t be considered in isolation. Pakistani nuclear weapons and posture is a proxy extension of China. As noted by senior Indian strategists that India-Pakistan nuclear scenario is not a two-sum game, meaning that in case of Pakistani first-strike the nuclear exchange will not be limited between India and Pakistan. A first-strike by Pakistan can only happen at China’s behest,17 thus an Indian retaliatory second strike will be simultaneously addressed to Pakistan and China that unfolds into a wider and destabilizing scenario.
A nuclear retaliatory attack on China will involve Chinese taking down other challengers that will drag USA in the expanded nuclear exchange, with growing global destabilization. This could prompt global nuclear powers to destroy Indian nuclear capability by a collective first strike before India escalates and launch a second strike.18 India could thus be inviting a debilitating global strike even before it manages to launch a second strike. Thus Indian counterstrike has to be large dispersed force that can handle simultaneous threats from all directions and be unusually robust against simultaneous first strike by multiple nations.
These would require more high yield payloads and long range delivery vehicles on survivable platforms. It would require MIRV development and fielding ATV and Agni-3 class systems. The challenge to Indian diplomacy and the political class is to prevent the emergence of this situation. The main limitation to handle this situation is access to fissile material and the strength of the economy. Low cost technology initiatives to maintain this option are regular PSLV launches of multiple satellites, production facilities for advanced fusion materials, a robust command and control system, and ballistic missile nuclear submarines.
Fissile Material Stockpile and Impact of Fmco
A multi-disciplinary task force to evaluate the potential impacts of proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off (FMCO) treaty has to be formed. Such a task force will consider the multitude of factors that impinge on this decision taking current and future requirements and provide policy inputs. Factors to consider are — the availability of natural uranium from Indian mines, the feasibility of running the eight reactors on the non-civilian sector, the separation of reprocessing plant(s), the future international security milieu, threat assessments, and the capabilities of our adversaries, current and future.
It is imperative that India overtly reprocesses all spent fuel and recover 12,000 Kg Plutonium without delay.
Most Indian spent fuel rod inventory from power reactors is not under IAEA safeguard. Analysis of Indian fuel mining and actual consumption indicate that India has large quantity of lightly irradiated spent fuel from which at least 2,400 Kg19 weapon grade plutonium can be reprocessed, which will be enough for about 600 nukes (mix of FBF and TN types). POK-II test involved some Indian nuclear warheads that also use reactor-grade Plutonium (Rg-Pu), thus Rg-Pu also need be stockpiled for weapons program apart from bulk of its use designated to initially start the Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR) and Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) (all of them are on military side of the separation plan). It is imperative that India overtly reprocesses all spent fuel and recover 12,000 Kg Plutonium without delay. There are clear indications that US is now rallying momentum to ratify FMCO amongst G8 nations and then to coerce all other nations to accede to it. India must not be again caught pants-down.
India has enunciated a nuclear doctrine, which needs further elaboration in certain areas. Some of these are explored and suggestions are made keeping the stated policy in mind. Parallel activity to protect the doctrine is also examined. As India completes the elections and emerges into the 21 century as a full fledged self confident member willing to bear the responsibilities that come with Pokhran-2 and international treaties, it is hoped some of the concepts spelt out here are found useful.
Sources & References
- Nuclear Weapons & Indian Security, A Realist Foundation of Strategy — Bharat Karnad, Mcmillan India
- What Next? Way To A Credible Deterrent, D Ramana Bharat-Rakshak Monitor Volume 2(3) November-December 1999. http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE2-3/ramana.html
- INDIAN NUCLEAR DOCTRINE : A DISCUSSION. AIR MARSHAL B.D.JAYAL Bharat-Rakshak Monitor Volume 2(3) November-December 1999. http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE2-3/jayal.html and
- Indian Defence Review Vol.14 (3) 1999. Lancer Publishers.
- Indian Long Range Strategic Missiles — Indian Defense Review Oct-Dec 2006 Vol 21(4), by Arun Vishwakarma.
- Raj Chengappa, Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s Quest to be a Nuclear Power (New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers India, 2000, ISBN 81-7223-332-0).
- Defence Research & Development Organization (www.drdo.com)
- Department of Atomic Energy http://www.dae.gov.in/
- Indian’s Emerging Nuclear Posture, Ashley J Tellis, Oxford ISBN 0195659058.
- Impact of Indo-US Agreement on Indian Strategic Weapon program, Arun Sharma, 02-May-2006, India Research Foundation.
- http://www.indiaresearch.org/Indo-US Strategic Deal.pdf
- Nuclear Threat Initiative (www.nti.org)
- Nuclear Weapon Archive, ‘India’s Nuclear Weapons Program: Present Capabilities’ http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/India/IndiaArsenal.html
- The nuclear “doctrine“1 maintains that India “will not be the first to initiate a nuclear first strike, but will respond with massive punitive retaliation to inflict unacceptable damage.
- Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_ and_weapons_of_mass_destruction
- The 1,000 Kg class IRS bus is used on IRS Earth Observation satellites apart from Kalpana-METSAT and Chandrayan-1. The PSLV is capable of launching 1000 Kg payload to Geo-synchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and PSLV-XL used for Chandrayan-1 mission capable of launching about 1,350 Kg to GSO. GSLV-I can launch upto 2,500 Kg to GTO.
- ISRO’s RISAT will be the first satellite that will prove the key SAR technology for this purpose.
- The FBF primary stage of the 1998 Shakti-1 test.
- Total mass including mass of RV.
- DRDO scientists appreciated for successful launch of Agni-3, Indian Express, Friday April 13 2007 “Union Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju has said “the strategic payload of the missile is between 100 kg to 250 kg, and it is a two-stage solid fuel combustion system type missile.”
- http://www.newindpress.com/news.asp?ID= IEA20070413023541
- The 1998 Shakti series of nuclear test in 1998 at Pokhran unambiguously demonstrated Indian mastery of Fusion Boosted Fission weapons. The Thermonuclear experiment (Shakti-I) based credible warhead requires confirmatory/proof test or a credible Laser Ignition Facilities. While awaiting proof test Indian posture will likely field the TN warhead in compliment with missiles with FBF warheads.
- Author’s estimate
- ICF: Inertial confinement fusion. http://en. wikipedia .org/wiki/Inertial_confinement_ fusion. A technique of using high energy laser to compress and reproduce interaction of matter in high pressure high pressure régime. This is very unlike magnetic fusion (tokomak) design
- Similar to two independent teams in USA viz. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
- The new Chinese warheads have a 150-300 kT yield, because of extensive ICF/LIF tests and simulations done at the classified laser site at Shanghai. These simulations have validated existing Chinese test data and data stolen from the US, providing them new designs. The ICF facility is integral to China’s Second Artillery strategy, and has scientific personnel formally attached to the Second Artillery holding military ranks.
- The difference between new schemes and traditional Thermo-nuclear devices is that while the latter is a piston driven shock with a thermal precursor, the former is a radiation driven shock. Everybody is doing these experiments, including the Chinese who have a fine laser facility in Shanghai. These are the first steps to achieving the Holy Grail – The Fission-less Trigger.
- assuming 1-2 are always in operation, and the rest are down for maintenance
- As newer higher yield designs are awaiting confirmatory test.
- The May Mystery, Times Of India, 7 Jan 2009, K Subrahmanyam http://timesofindia.indiatimes .com/Editorial/TOP_ARTICLE__The_May_ Mystery/articleshow/3943372.cms
- Interlinked multi-cornered nuclear weapons backed players each vying for global domination. Prisoner’s dilemma, and pre-emptive strike against India.
- Impact of Indo-US Agreement on Indian Strategic Weapon program, Arun Sharma, 02-May-2006, India Research Foundation.
- http://www.indiaresearch.org/Indo-USS trategicDeal.pdf “ “Indian PHWR reactors that are outside IAEA safeguard when operated for efficient power generation would have cumulatively required just 5,842 tonnes. India is estimated to have mined about 9,200 tonnes of natural-uranium, indicating that about 55%II of the fuel and 8% of its reactor capacity was used in low fuel burn mode, generally associated with operating the reactors in mode optimized to generate weapon grade Plutonium. This corresponds to about 2,400Kg weapon grade Plutonium enough for 800 strategic nuclear weapon.”