By testing the INS Arihant, India could be fishing in troubled waters
With the successful patrolling of the INS Arihant, a domestically-built submarine which was tried and tested for a month, India’s nuclear triad is now complete.
The several trials conducted -- to test the submarine's full machinery, it's launching circuit and endurance capacity -- have elevated the confidence of the Indian Navy and alarmed the strategic competitors of India.
India's ruling elite celebrated the completion of the trial with great fanfare. In comments made on November 5, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Today is historic because it marks the completion of the successful establishment of the nuclear triad. India’s nuclear triad will be an important pillar of global peace and stability."
He added that the "accomplishment will always be remembered in our history", as Indians are jubilant by "joining the exclusive nuclear-propelled, nuclear-armed submarine club of countries such as Russia, the US, China, France and the UK".
The deployment of the INS Arihant adds to India’s defence capabilities. It already boasts a three-pronged military force which consists of land-based launchers, submarines, and airplanes capable of delivering nuclear bombs and missiles -- mechanisms which are imperative for a credible nuclear deterrence.
The intitiative to build the INS Arihant adds to that list by providing the Indian Navy with a fully-functional, underwater ballistic missile delivery platform, which arms India with a secure, second-strike nuclear capability.
The submarine was under development for three decades and was launched into the waters of the shipbuilding center in Visakhapatnam in December 2014. Two years later, it was declared fit for operations in February 2016.
The timing of the INS Arihant’s launch is very critical. PM Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intelligently uses military buildup and a blatant act of belligerence against Pakistan to muster electoral support. Perhaps, the INS Arihant will be used to gain more traction ahead of the forthcoming five-state polls, followed by the general elections in the country.
The submarine's deterrence patrol provides a relief to BJP supporters who faced a setback caused by the unearthing of a $8.6 billion corruption deal involving 36 Rafale fighter jets.
The timing of the INS Arihant’s launch is very critical. PM Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intelligently uses military buildup and a blatant act of belligerence against Pakistan to muster electoral support.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
The fact that PM Modi's name featured in the list of those involved jolted the BJP government. The opposition parties were up in arms and demanded his resignation, with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeting: “The PM personally negotiated & changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande (former President of France), we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani. The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonored the blood of our soldiers.”
Therefore, the purchase of the S-400 SAM defense system from Russia, and the successful trial of the INS Arihant are smart moves on part of the Modi government to pacify the opposition.
Armed with four K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missiles -- with a range of 3,500 kms or with 12 K-15 missiles with a range of 750 kms -- the INS Arihant can target regional adversaries such as China.
And while Beijing ignores the threat, Islamabad is expressing serious concern.
With the deployment of the submarine, the Indian Navy can strike Pakistan's cities from anywhere in the ocean and can sneak closer to the coast of Pakistan and fire ballistic missiles deep into its territory. It's no surprise then that Pakistan termed the INS Arihant's trial as threat to regional peace and stability, with Foreign Office Spokesperson, Dr Mohammad Faisal saying: “The development marks the first actual deployment of ready-to-fire nuclear warheads in South Asia which is a matter of concern not only for the Indian Ocean littoral states but also for the international community at large.”
India’s vertical nuclear proliferation necessitates Pakistan to take countermeasures. Pakistan, on it's part, has already developed the Babur-III submarine cruise missile which has a range of 450 kms and the ability to deliver a variety of payloads, including nuclear warheads.
On March 29, the Pakistan Navy fired the Babur-III from a submerged platform off Pakistan’s coast in the Arabian Sea and had said at the time that the weapon "incorporates state-of-the-art technologies, including underwater controlled propulsion and advanced guidance and navigation features, duly augmented by global navigation, terrain and scene matching systems.” After the successful completion of the test, Pakistan announced that it had attained "credible second strike capabilities".
The unbridled nuclear arms race is neither in the interest of India nor Pakistan. With the continuous modernization of their nuclear arsenals and institutionalization of the nuclear triads, the insecurity of both states steadily multiplies, even as it compromises the regional strategic stability. Therefore, Islamabad is in favor of exercising restraint.
New Delhi, however, seems confidence that the nuclear and conventional arms race is in its advantage due to its growing economy. Therefore, instead of containing its nuclear and missile buildup, the Modi government has been investing heavily in the development and procurement of military hardware.
– Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is an Islamabad-based analyst and professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University. E-mail: [email protected]