"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019

India Seen Unlikely to Join NSG Soon

Daniel Horner

In spite of a U.S. pledge of support for Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), New Delhi is not likely to enter the group anytime soon, sources said last month.

President Barack Obama made the commitment of support in a Nov. 8 joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during Obama’s visit to India.

Part of the reason for the long timeline for Indian entry is that the NSG, which now has 46 members, makes decisions by consensus, the sources said. But they also cited the multistage process that would be required before India was eligible, as well as the commitment by the United States and other NSG countries to reach agreement on a long-standing issue—the revision of the group’s export guidelines on transfers of certain nuclear technology—before they took up the question of Indian membership.

India would be the first member of the NSG that is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). A key criterion for membership in the group is that the country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty.

Until two years ago, India was not eligible to receive exports from NSG members because it is a non-NPT state and does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections. But in response to a U.S.-led initiative, the group agreed to lift that requirement for India in return for certain nonproliferation “commitments and actions.” (See ACT, October 2008.) The United States created a similar exception from its nuclear export law. U.S. officials emphasized that the decision was only for India.

In a Nov. 29 interview, a Department of State official said the United States does not see the new initiative as a “repeat” of the 2008 decision. Rather than creating a unique exception for India, the initiative signals an effort to begin discussions on “evolving” the membership criteria of the NSG and other export control regimes so that non-NPT countries can become eligible, she said.

Israel and Pakistan also have never been NPT parties and maintain unsafeguarded nuclear programs.

According to the joint statement, the United States “intends to support” Indian membership in those regimes “in a phased manner, and to consult with regime members to encourage the evolution of regime membership criteria, consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes, as the Government of India takes steps towards the full adoption of the regimes’ export control requirements to reflect its prospective membership, with both processes moving forward together.”

That would mean that the NSG would have to agree on the revised membership criteria and then determine whether India met those criteria, the State Department official said.

Before the easing of the NSG export restrictions in 2008, India stated its unilateral adherence to the group’s guidelines. The official declined to comment on whether India’s export controls currently meet NSG guidelines, but said that, as an NSG adherent, India is expected to “keep current” with the guidelines as they change.

Critics have said that because India already has made a commitment to meet the NSG’s export standards, which are nonbinding, the new initiative requires nothing from New Delhi in return for the benefits of NSG membership, chiefly, recognition as a responsible nuclear state and the ability to have a say in the group’s decisions.

The official countered that there is a benefit to the nonproliferation regime in having India participate in the discussion and the exchanges of information that take place within the NSG. Membership may give India “more of a stake” in the regime, she said.

One Initiative at a Time

Two officials from NSG member countries said the group is not planning to take up the question of Indian membership until the NSG works out a revision of guidelines on exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. The NSG has been wrestling with that issue since 2004.

In a Nov. 22 interview, a U.S. official said that the U.S. priority in the NSG is “100 percent” on revamping the guidelines on sensitive nuclear exports. The United States is not “contemplating discussion at this time” on Indian membership, he said.

The U.S. government is hoping the NSG will reach consensus on the guidelines revision this year, he said.

The NSG’s Consultative Group met in Vienna Nov. 10-11, but “we are where we were before the meeting” on guidelines for sensitive exports, the official said.

A European diplomat said in a Nov. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today that “the Chair [New Zealand] is working away on this with the countries most concerned, but it appears likely at present that this issue will have to come back to Plenary.” The change in the guidelines would have to take place at a plenary meeting, which the NSG typically holds once a year. The next plenary is scheduled for June in the Dutch town of Noordwijk. Changing the guidelines before then would require a special plenary to be convened.

In late 2008, the NSG produced a “clean text” and appeared to be close to reaching agreement (see ACT, December 2008), but efforts have stalled since then. In recent months, several observers have cited Turkey as the principal obstacle.

The U.S. official said there have been changes made in the text “to accommodate a number of concerns, not just Turkey[’s].”

In October, Gary Samore, the White House arms control coordinator, indicated that the United States would consider dropping the six-year-old effort to revise the guidelines if it did not bear fruit soon. (See ACT, November 2010.) But in the interview, the U.S. official said Samore’s comments were not inconsistent with the ongoing U.S. effort. Samore’s point was that “our patience isn’t going to last forever,” he said.

Cynical Interpretation

Some observers, noting the hurdles to Indian membership and the time frame that would be required, have questioned whether the United States actually intends to pursue the effort vigorously. They suggested that the Obama administration might have made the announcement to give a near-term boost to U.S.-Indian relations.

One House staffer, who called the initiative “terrible” for nonproliferation, said Nov. 16 that he is “hoping it was pure cynicism,” that is, that the administration was promising something that it “know[s] would never happen.”

The State Department official said, “People will believe what they want to believe,” but emphasized, “I certainly see this as doable.”


In spite of a U.S. pledge of support for Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), New Delhi is not likely to enter the group anytime soon, sources said last month.

Obama Easing Export Controls on India

Eric Auner

The United States is pursuing several initiatives to loosen export controls and multilateral technology restrictions on India, U.S. officials announced during President Barack Obama’s Nov. 6-9 trip to India.

At a Nov. 8 joint press conference with Obama in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the shift in U.S. policy toward fewer restrictions on India, calling it a “manifestation of the growing trust and confidence” between the two countries. The United States and India have agreed to cooperate further in “space, civil nuclear, defense, and other high-end sectors,” he said.

The Obama administration also announced its support for a permanent Indian seat on the UN Security Council, a longtime foreign policy goal for India.

Greater Indian participation in multilateral export control regimes was a priority for both sides during the trip. The United States “intends to support India’s full membership” in four international regimes that control the spread of sensitive technology, according to a White House document summarizing the U.S.-Indian partnership on export controls and nonproliferation.

Most significant among these is the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which sets rules on the transfer of technologies that potentially could be used for a nuclear weapons program. In 2008, India obtained a waiver from the NSG that allowed it to conduct nuclear commerce with NSG members. India has not signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and it does not place all of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, requirements under the NSG’s nonbinding guidelines for nuclear commerce with the group’s members. (See ACT, October 2008.)

The other export control groups are the Missile Technology Control Regime, which sets export guidelines intended to restrict missile proliferation; the Australia Group, which aims to restrict the spread of chemical and biological weapons; and the Wassenaar Arrangement, which seeks to control the export of conventional weapons and dual-use goods. The groups have a range of criteria for membership. For example, the “Basic Documents” of the Wassenaar Arrangement require, among other things, that a state “adhere” to the NPT.

India’s nuclear-armed neighbor China is not a member of any of these groups except the NSG. Pakistan, India’s other nuclear-armed neighbor, is not a member of any.

The United States does not by itself have the authority to give India membership in any of these groups. All four make decisions about new members by consensus, and India and its supporters will have to convince current members that Indian laws and practices are consistent with each group’s guidelines.

Membership in these bodies would allow India to play a role in setting the trade rules for various sensitive technologies. Given that these bodies operate by consensus, India also would have the ability to block rule changes or the admission of additional members.

“Entity List” Trimmed

During the Nov. 8 joint press conference, Obama also announced his administration’s intention to remove a number of Indian organizations from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List. U.S. companies must obtain a special license to trade certain goods with organizations on the entity list. The final decision to remove an organization is made by the End-User Review Committee, which is composed of representatives from several government agencies.

Several organizations involved with India’s nuclear, space, and missile programs were placed on the entity list following India’s 1998 nuclear tests. Most have been removed from the list already, but several organizations remain.

The entities newly slated for removal are four subsidiaries of the Indian Space Research Organization, which is responsible for India’s civilian space program, including satellite launches; Bharat Dynamics Ltd., which is involved in the development and manufacture of India’s missile systems, including the Agni series of ballistic missiles; and four subsidiaries of the Defence Research and Development Organization, which is the main government agency responsible for developing weapons systems such as the Arjun main battle tank and is involved with India’s general military acquisitions process.

After the removal of these organizations from the entity list, trade with them in sensitive technologies will continue to be subject to normal U.S. export licensing procedures. Furthermore, three Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) entities remain on the list, and there has been no announcement about removing them. These include the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, one of India’s most important facilities for nuclear research and development. The DAE is primarily responsible for India’s nuclear energy industry and nuclear weapons arsenal.

In a Nov. 8 address to both houses of the Indian parliament, Obama said these changes would ensure that Indian companies seeking American technology “are treated the same as our very closest allies and partners.”

Increased Defense Cooperation

Obama and Singh released a joint Nov. 8 statement that discussed the “transformation” in bilateral defense cooperation and indicated “resolve” to promote “trade and cooperation in defense equipment and technology.” The Obama administration has promoted defense sales to India as a way to foster closer diplomatic ties between the two countries and create jobs in the United States.

An October Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on the U.S.-Indian relationship said India is “potentially spending $100 billion over the next decade” on its military. U.S. access to the Indian defense market has been complicated by U.S. export controls and an Indian requirement that a certain percentage of each defense purchase be physically manufactured in India.

India does want a closer defense relationship with the United States, but it has to make commercial sense for U.S. companies,” Sunil Dasgupta, co-author of a recent book on Indian military modernization, said in a Nov. 16 interview. In addition, Indian armed forces will need assurances that U.S. companies will be “reliable suppliers,” he said.

Several commercial deals between U.S. companies and the Indian government were discussed on the margins of Obama’s visit, according to a White House document explaining several recent U.S. sales to India in the context of efforts to increase U.S. exports. Boeing and the Indian air force “have reached preliminary agreement” on the sale of 10 C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft, a transaction valued at approximately $4.1 billion, the document said. If “training, equipment, spare parts, and other support” are included, the deal may be worth as much as $5.8 billion, according to the CRS report.

General Electric has been selected to supply 107 light combat aircraft engines, a sale valued at approximately $822 million, according to the White House document.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing are among the international arms manufacturers competing to sell 126 multirole aircraft to India worth approximately $11 billion, according to the CRS report. If either of the two U.S. companies won the competition, it would mark the first time India had chosen a U.S. firm to supply combat aircraft.

In a Nov. 5 speech in Washington, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said U.S.-Indian defense cooperation should go further. “[T]here is no reason why we cannot work to facilitate India’s development of advanced defense capabilities,” including nuclear submarines and missile defense architecture, he said.


The United States is pursuing several initiatives to loosen export controls and multilateral technology restrictions on India, U.S. officials announced during President Barack Obama’s Nov. 6-9 trip to India.

At a Nov. 8 joint press conference with Obama in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the shift in U.S. policy toward fewer restrictions on India, calling it a “manifestation of the growing trust and confidence” between the two countries. The United States and India have agreed to cooperate further in “space, civil nuclear, defense, and other high-end sectors,” he said.


John McCain: U.S. Should "Facilitate" Indian Missile Defense, Nuclear Subs

By Eric Auner About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see John McCain speak about the future of U.S.-India relations. Most of it was boilerplate material about oldest democracy/largest democracy and the need for stability in Asia. All of that's good, but he made a few points that merit a response. McCain had this to say: [T]here is no reason why we cannot work to facilitate India's deployment of advanced defense capabilities, such as nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, missile defense architecture, as well as India's inclusion in the development of the Joint Strike Fighter. It is one...

Obama's Message to India: Proliferation Violations Don't Have Consequences

By Daryl G. Kimball Today in Mumbai, President Barack Obama told U.S.-Indian business leaders that he would seek India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)--the nuclear technology control organization established in 1975 in response to India's first nuclear weapon test blast, which used plutonium produced with nuclear technology from Canada and the United States. According the official NSG Web site , India's 1974 test explosion "demonstrated that peaceful nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused." U.S. support for Indian membership in the NSG undermines...

Perkovich: Movement on Indian Nuclear Liability Issue Likely

By Eric Auner There is continuing uncertainty surrounding India's nuclear liability bill , and the extent to which it will discourage foreign, privately-owned suppliers from participating in the country's civil nuclear sector. As the bill is currently written, nuclear suppliers (in addition to the operator of a nuclear facility) may be liable in the case of an accident. This is inconsistent with international standards, such as the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which channel liability exclusively to the operator (in this case the government-owned Nuclear...

Will No-Test Condition Sink India-Japan Nuclear Deal?

By Eric Auner As I reported in September, India and Japan have been discussing a potential civil nuclear deal. As a major supporter of the nonproliferation regime, Japan has suggested that it will attach a condition whereby cooperation would cease in the event of a future Indian test. As Global Security Newswire reports, India is unenthusiastic about such a condition: India has spurned suggested language in a nuclear trade agreement with Japan that would freeze the deal should the South Asian state carry out another atomic test blast, Kyodo News reported today (see GSN, Aug. 23). "I hear...

India Passes Nuclear Liability Bill

Eric Auner

The Indian parliament has approved a bill that sets up a mechanism to compensate victims and defines who is liable, and to what extent, in the case of a nuclear accident. The bill makes nuclear supplier firms, in addition to the nuclear facility operator, potentially liable for such an accident.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill passed the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, Aug. 30 amid intense debate.

The bill seeks to enable the entry of private firms into the Indian civil nuclear market. Private nuclear firms typically require a legal cap on liability in order to insure themselves against accidents in a given country, and India previously lacked a regime that assigned legal liability. Government-owned firms, such as those in France and Russia, are covered by their respective governments and are not as dependent on a liability cap. U.S. nuclear suppliers are privately owned.

The U.S.-India Business Council in Washington released a statement Aug. 30, saying India should not channel liability to suppliers. “The absence of an effective, CSC [Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage]-compliant liability regime could preclude involvement by the private sector…and stymie India’s multi-year effort to develop civil nuclear power” the council said.

In 2005, President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced an approach to easing U.S. and international nuclear trade restrictions on India, which is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and conducted nuclear test explosions in 1974 and 1998. In return for access to the global nuclear market, India agreed to place some of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the U.S. Congress approved the plan in 2008. (See ACT, October 2008.)

A critical part of the new approach to India was a nuclear cooperation agreement, signed in 2007, with the United States. In the United States, critics said the agreement and the new policy as a whole undermined the nonproliferation regime and U.S. law by providing benefits to an NPT nonsignatory without requiring sufficient nonproliferation and disarmament measures in return. Advocates said the pact would bring India into the nonproliferation “mainstream,” improve U.S.-Indian relations, and spur trade between the two countries, in part by giving U.S. firms access to the potentially lucrative Indian nuclear market.

Article 17(b) of the liability bill states that the operator of an Indian nuclear facility has a “right of recourse” from the “supplier of the material, equipment or services” in the event of a “nuclear incident” resulting from the supplier’s “willful act or gross negligence.” The government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) currently is the only operator of nuclear power plants in India.

The Congress Party-led coalition government had attempted to change the supplier liability language so the right of recourse would only apply if there was “intent to cause nuclear damage” on the part of the supplier, but opposition complaints led to the removal of that language. International conventions governing nuclear liability, including the CSC, channel liability exclusively to the operator.

The Indian government is not party to any of those conventions. In a 2008 letter to U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said New Delhi intended to “adhere to” the CSC prior to commencing nuclear trade with the United States.

The liability bill also intends to “ensure clarity of liability and the requirement to pay compensation” to those who suffer physical or economic harm “caused by or arising out of a nuclear incident,” according to the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” attached to the text of the bill. In the event of such an incident, compensation is to be awarded by a specially appointed commissioner or by a central government commission in special cases. Article 46 clarifies that additional “proceeding[s]” may be brought against the operator of a nuclear facility under existing Indian law. This article potentially exposes the NPCIL to additional liability, and it is unclear how it would affect foreign suppliers.

There was a heated parliamentary debate on the legislation, including accusations that the bill was intended to shield U.S. corporations at the expense of Indian interests. The debate was influenced by the recent sentencing in India of eight Union Carbide executives who were involved with the 1984 Bhopal industrial accident in which 15,000 people were killed. The sentences were widely seen as lenient, and they drew political attention to U.S. companies involved in potentially hazardous activities in India.

In Aug. 25 remarks before the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, Singh argued that the bill “completes [India’s] journey to end nuclear apartheid, which the world had imposed on India.” The United States and others placed sanctions on India’s nuclear program following the county’s 1974 nuclear test. Singh referred to claims that the bill promoted U.S. interests as being “far from being the truth.”

Indian Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee insisted that the bill is “India-centric” in an interview with India’s Frontline magazine. He also downplayed the possibility that the inclusion of Article 17(b) would discourage foreign suppliers. “I hope I will be able to convince [foreign suppliers] that this will not cause any difficulty” in conducting nuclear commerce with India, he said.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been critical of the bill, with senior BJP member Jaswant Singh accusing the government of “hustling” the bill through parliament. The BJP initially complained that the bill was too lenient toward suppliers and that the liability cap for operators was too low. However, after the government made several changes to the bill, including a tripling of operator liability, the BJP supported the legislation. In a press release on the party’s Web site, senior BJP leaders accused the government of initially attempting to pass a “suppliers immunity law,” but expressed “satisfaction” with the changes.


The Indian parliament has approved a bill that sets up a mechanism to compensate victims and defines who is liable, and to what extent, in the case of a nuclear accident. The bill makes nuclear supplier firms, in addition to the nuclear facility operator, potentially liable for such an accident.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill passed the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, Aug. 30 amid intense debate.

India, Japan Discuss Terms of Nuclear Trade

Eric Auner and Daniel Salisbury

India is pursuing a civil nuclear trade deal with Japan, which has said that cooperation depends on India not conducting any further nuclear test explosions.

On Aug. 21, India and Japan concluded the latest round of their strategic dialogue, which included discussions of civil nuclear cooperation. At a joint press conference with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that day in New Delhi, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said that, in the event of a future Indian nuclear test, “Japan will have no option but to state that we shall suspend our cooperation.”

India also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada, and discussed nuclear cooperation with a high-profile British delegation.

India, which tested nuclear devices in 1974 and 1998, was barred from engaging in nuclear trade with Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) members until 2008. NSG guidelines ban nuclear trade with countries that are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and that do not place all their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. India remains outside the NPT, but it obtained an NSG waiver in 2008 that allows it to conduct nuclear trade with the group’s members. (See ACT, October 2008.) India has placed some of its nuclear power reactors under safeguards.

Since the NSG decision, India has entered into nuclear cooperation agreements of various forms with a number of countries, including France, Russia, and the United States.

India and Japan formed a working group on nuclear energy in late April and engaged in two days of negotiations on the subject in late June. Talks on civil nuclear cooperation are taking place in the context of the “2+2” dialogue, which involves the foreign and defense ministers of both countries discussing a wide spectrum of economic and security issues

In addition to indicating that an Indian nuclear test would result in the suspension of a nuclear agreement, Okada urged India to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and make progress toward negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty.

Many Japanese nonproliferation advocates have opposed nuclear cooperation with India. The mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, released a statement criticizing nuclear negotiations with India. “This means that a nation that has suffered atomic bombings itself is now severely weakening the NPT regime, which is beyond intolerable” he said Aug. 9 during a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

A Japanese condition suspending nuclear cooperation in the event of an Indian test would be similar to a section of the 2006 Hyde Act, which amended U.S. law to allow nuclear trade with India. The Hyde Act opened the door to the U.S.-Indian cooperation agreement; that accord, signed in 2007 and approved by Congress in 2008, does not itself contain a requirement that India forswear future nuclear tests. The Indian government has traditionally defended its right to conduct future nuclear tests although it currently is observing a moratorium.

India and Canada signed their cooperation agreement at the end of the June Group of 20 summit in Toronto after bilateral meetings between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The agreement will allow Canadian firms to export nuclear material, equipment, and technology to India and will encourage cooperation in nuclear safety and waste management.

Canada has a long history of involvement with India’s nuclear program. It sold a CIRUS research reactor, as well as two CANDU power reactors, to India in the 1950s and 1960s. Spent fuel from the CIRUS reactor was later used to produce the fissile material for India’s 1974 nuclear test explosion. Canada cut off nuclear trade in the wake of the 1974 test, opening a long-lasting diplomatic rift between the two countries.

At a June 27 press conference, Singh sought to ease concerns that Canadian nuclear exports would be used for military purposes. “We have complete civilian control and there is no scope whatsoever for any nuclear material or equipment being supplied going for any unintended purpose,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “Nuclear material supplied to India will be fully safeguarded” under the terms of India’s agreement signed with the IAEA, he said. He added that India has a “fool-proof system of export controls.” Singh and Harper released a joint June 27 statement in which both expressed their commitment to “the ratification of the agreement and the completion of all remaining steps necessary to ensure its early implementation.”

When asked about the nonproliferation assurances received by the Canadian government and whether Canada would cease nuclear cooperation in the event of an Indian nuclear test, Laura Markle, a spokeswoman at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said in an e-mail exchange last month that any use of Canadian materials or technology beyond “peaceful, civilian and non-explosive purposes” would “provide cause for the immediate suspension, and eventual termination of nuclear cooperation.”

The United Kingdom has been seeking greater participation in the Indian market as well. A high-profile British delegation, which included Prime Minister David Cameron, visited India in late July. While on the trip, Business Secretary Vince Cable said the countries already are cooperating on “a certain amount of modest research,” but want to move to “a higher level.” British companies “potentially could do a large amount of [nuclear] business in India,” he said. In February, India and the United Kingdom signed a Joint Declaration on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, in which the two governments expressed the desire “to promote extensive co-operation in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”


India is pursuing a civil nuclear trade deal with Japan, which has said that cooperation depends on India not conducting any further nuclear test explosions.

Nuclear Arms Control and India: A Relationship Explored

Manpreet Sethi

India has spent the 12 years since its 1998 nuclear tests operationalizing “credible minimum deterrence.” This process has involved steps such as building a warhead stockpile, establishing robust command and control, and developing, testing, and deploying reliable delivery vehicles of requisite ranges. Amid this flurry of activity, nuclear arms control has hardly been on the minds of India’s policymakers.

Although this situation is not really surprising—no nuclear-weapon state at a similar stage of its nuclear life has behaved any differently—it is now time for a reassessment. By pursuing nuclear arms control, India could help itself and its nuclear-armed neighbors to increase nuclear stability while rationalizing its arms buildup. In so doing, India could clearly establish itself as a responsible state with nuclear weapons.

India, which has two nuclear-armed neighbors with whom it does not enjoy the best of relations, needs to explore nuclear arms control as a tool for stabilizing its nuclear relationships and enhancing strategic security. Nuclear arms control can be seen as a nuclear confidence-building measure. Although some rightly argue that confidence is an essential prerequisite for arms control, the idea offered here is that arms control agreements are more precise and specific than generic confidence-building measures and can be negotiated by two or more sides for particular objectives that all participants believe would increase the stability of their relationship. Hence, the chance of their success may be more than that of broad-based, general confidence-building measures.

However antagonistic or hostile its relationship may be with the adversary—in fact, the greater the hostility, the more it is necessary—India must explore and undertake steps that hold the promise of establishing strategic stability to enhance national security. This is easier said than done for at least three reasons.

•  The unfulfilled promises of nuclear confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan. Nuclear confidence-building measures were crafted soon after the nuclear tests by both nations in 1998. The bilateral memorandum of understanding signed in Lahore in early 1999 was very forward looking,[1] but the identified steps could never be taken because, within months of the memorandum, Pakistan had sent its army regulars dressed as mujahideen to seize Indian territory in Kargil. Confidence building since has been disrupted several times by acts of terrorism planned in Pakistan, often with the knowledge and support of government agencies such as the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

•  China’s nonacceptance of India as a state with nuclear weapons and hence its refusal to enter into any nuclear negotiations; and

•  India’s traditional aversion to arms control measures because it has perceived these as ineffective at best and discriminatory at worst, owing to the manner in which these measures have been crafted and enforced, especially in their multilateral forms. India often found itself a target or victim of nonproliferation treaties and export control and technology denial regimes. Given this experience, it is not surprising that the country has a largely negative perception of nuclear arms control and views it with skepticism and suspicion.

For these reasons, an attempt to identify areas of nuclear arms control that India can negotiate with its nuclear-armed neighbors cannot be expected to take off immediately or bear fruit quickly. Yet, because of the benefits that nuclear arms control could offer to India’s nuclear security, the relationship is worth exploring. Just as nuclear arms control has been used by the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States to rationalize their nuclear weapons stockpiles and deployments and to establish strategic stability in a balance of terror, so must India use it for bilateral and regional security.[2]

Until fortuitous circumstances bring about universal nuclear disarmament, it is certain that nuclear weapons will stay in India’s neighborhood. It is also fairly obvious that China, India, and Pakistan will steadily move toward their concept of credible deterrence through strategic modernization to acquire a mix of offensive and defensive capabilities depending on their threat perceptions. Every such step by one country will inevitably elicit a response from the other, as is normal in the game of nuclear deterrence. Consequently, as arsenals grow, capabilities increase, and infrastructures expand, so will the existential risks of unplanned or inadvertent escalation due to unintended use or a miscalculation. Such events could be triggered by improper judgment by the leadership at higher or lower levels or by the governments being involuntarily sucked into an offense-defense spiral. Some of these risks can be mitigated through national measures taken individually, but some must be handled in a reciprocal fashion. Coordinated nuclear arms control is one way of dealing with the situation.

For this to happen, India, as well as China and Pakistan, must recognize the need, rationale, and mechanics of nuclear arms control in bilateral and multilateral dimensions. This article makes the case from an Indian perspective for New Delhi to engage proactively in nuclear arms control to derive six specific benefits.

•  At the bilateral level, it would enable India to nudge the strategic stability architecture into a form that suits it best. Bilateral initiatives with China and Pakistan could enhance deterrence stability. If agreements could be formalized as treaties, they would carry the weight of law, making it easier to invoke international action in case of violations.

•  It would enhance security by moderating and limiting a conflict by constraining or proscribing certain classes of weapons or capabilities.

•  It would minimize existential dangers that normally accompany nuclear weapons by facilitating communication and fostering an understanding of each other’s nuclear strategies.

•  Multilateral nuclear arms control, such as through the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), could be an effective tool for constraining capabilities of the adversaries.

•  It would help to avoid the nation being drawn into an arms race.[3]

•  Finally, for a country that has recently been granted an unprecedented exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to participate in international nuclear commerce despite not being a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and without placing its nuclear program under full-scope safeguards, it would offer India a means of demonstrating responsible behavior to earn greater international respect and cooperation.[4]

The first section of the article defines the general purpose of nuclear arms control and highlights some of the principles that should guide the process, based on the experience of the Soviet Union and the United States during their long years of ideological confrontation. The second section emphasizes the role that the military must play in this exercise. (Arms control has traditionally been considered a preserve of the foreign policy establishment in India.) The last section offers some thoughts for bilateral nuclear arms control with China and Pakistan.

Purpose and Principles

After the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and once the two superpowers had accepted the inevitability of having to live with the other’s nuclear arsenal, the focus shifted to undertaking serious negotiations to stabilize the nuclear stalemate. Arms control emerged out of this understanding as each country sought to target and limit the other’s capability while safeguarding its own through bilateral arms control agreements.

Seen from an Indian perspective, nuclear arms control must meet two primary objectives: establish strategic stability by constraining or proscribing the development of those weapons and systems that increase temptation for pre-emption due to the adversary’s acquisition of a unilateral advantage, and prevent an arms race by fostering better understanding of offense-defense linkages.

In contrast to the U.S.-Soviet history, substantial reductions in nuclear arsenals to ensure parity would not be an important objective of Indian nuclear arms control. Rather, given that ambiguity about numbers of warheads and delivery systems is considered essential for deterrence, a treaty devised for verified reductions right at the beginning would end up putting a stop to the process. Instead, the aim of nuclear arms control initiated by India should be to rein in development of weapon capabilities that could upset strategic stability, while accepting those that would enhance it. For instance, development and deployment of capabilities that enable counterforce targeting destabilize the nuclear equation by tempting pre-emption.[5] Yet, development of survivability measures is conducive to deterrence stability because it promises assured retaliation. The certainty of being able to inflict punishment even after suffering a nuclear attack liberates countries from the pressure of having to use their nuclear weapons early for fear of losing them to a first strike. This obviously improves stability and lowers chances of deterrence breakdown.

The defining parameters of a country’s nuclear arms control policy can be derived best from the national nuclear doctrine, which performs the task of outlining the force characteristics for credible deterrence by establishing the role of nuclear weapons in the national security strategy. For instance, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine and strategy is premised on projecting a low nuclear threshold to deter the superior conventional military capability of India. Therefore, it is natural that Islamabad should seek to develop suitable nuclear war-fighting options that project the possibility of being able to conduct a counterforce first strike and then deter India’s nuclear retaliation by threatening a countervalue second strike. In following this approach, Pakistan subscribes to the argument that “a first strike that left only the option of a general attack on cities might be the functional equivalent of a disarming first strike because such a retaliation would be deterred by the prospect of the far greater costs that would ensue.”[6]

To counter this strategy, India’s objective should be to establish nuclear stability by reducing Pakistan’s temptation for nuclear pre-emption. Such a move would be in Pakistan’s interest as well because no rational decision-maker in Pakistan can believe that its first nuclear strike on India could be disarming, decapitating, or demoralizing enough to go without an Indian retaliation. Any Indian response, whether countervalue in keeping with the country’s nuclear doctrine of massive retaliation or a mix of counterforce and countervalue, would seriously degrade Pakistan as a functioning society and polity. Therefore, it is equally in Pakistan’s interest to adopt measures that increase deterrence stability.

This could be achieved by arriving at a nuclear arms control arrangement that consists either of mutual renunciation of first-strike weapons, such as use of low-yield nuclear weapons in a counterforce mode, or encouragement of measures that enhance the retaliatory capability of both countries. India’s nuclear doctrine, in fact, with its emphasis on not using nuclear weapons first, mandates the creation of a survivable nuclear capability. For instance, the triad, especially submarine-based deterrence, is being developed in this context, as are missile defenses. Misperceptions among the neighbors abound, however, making the task of nuclear arms control very daunting. That is precisely the challenge; it is obvious that disagreements and mistrust will threaten negotiations between rival countries. Such obstacles should not deter the exercise.

Rather, for nuclear arms control to overcome such obstacles and be meaningful and sustainable, negotiations must be conducted on the principles of equity of benefits, flexibility of approach, domestic acceptability of end results, and verifiability of agreed measures. They must be rooted in a general belief that an arms control agreement would lead to greater security of the parties involved. Unless all sides see these benefits for themselves, the negotiations cannot produce any worthwhile results and in fact are likely to be counterproductive, by placing greater strain on the bilateral relationship because one side could perceive itself as the loser in the process.

Furthermore, in nuclear arms control, it would be useful to start with a general national security objective in mind (such as achieving crisis stability or arms race stability) instead of a particular outcome on which public positions have already been pronounced. For instance, the general goal of deterrence and arms race stability could be achieved by placing mutually acceptable limits on ballistic missile defense deployment. Negotiations should aim for this general national security objective instead of prejudging or announcing the number of sites that would be acceptable to one or the other side. As has been said, “When negotiators bargain over positions, they tend to lock themselves into those positions.… As more attention is paid to positions, less attention is devoted to meeting the underlying concerns of the parties.… Agreement becomes less likely.”[7] Such an approach tends to make modification during negotiations appear as a concession to the adversary, even if it may actually be a rational step that can be accommodated in pursuit of the larger goal. The perceived concession then can be hijacked by domestic politics, especially in a democracy. That can lead to a stiffening of the adversary’s negotiating posture, making progress difficult.

It tremendously helps nuclear arms control if there is a general consensus on the need for and on the broad objective of the process, on one’s own side as well as the other party’s.[8] The case of the recent Indian-U.S. engagement on civilian nuclear cooperation was not strictly an exercise in nuclear arms control, but it provides some pointers in this direction. For instance, the basic objective of India throughout the many rounds of negotiations was to protect its nuclear weapons program while negotiating the terms of cooperation for the civilian nuclear sector. With that objective, the Indian negotiators were allowed to maneuver around the terms of cooperation. Yet, another significant factor that propelled the negotiations toward success was India’s apparent and steadfast political will. This is critical to getting the negotiations started, sustaining them through the rough ride, and ensuring that they are honored on completion. Nuclear arms control negotiations will have to be conducted in a similar way, with a broad objective such as deterrence stability rather than a narrow approach focused on arms reduction and with political will soundly supporting the objective and the process.

Given that nuclear arms control is conducted between countries where the trust deficit is high, arriving at some mechanisms and procedures for verification is critical. The agreement must achieve a fine balance, by being meaningful but not overly intrusive. National technical means or overhead satellites, where available, offer an option of verification from afar because they help a country unilaterally verify an agreement through imagery and detection equipment based in space or air or on land or water. Other possible verification provisions include data exchanges, notifications, and on-site inspections. These could collectively enhance mutual confidence and help deter violations. Meanwhile, mechanisms that help discuss violations or treaty implementation, such as the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), also are helpful.

In the context of China, India, and Pakistan, verification is likely to be a difficult part of negotiations. On the one hand, there is a dire need for verification in order to establish a level of trust and credibility; on the other hand, the acceptance of the terms, scope, and means of verification is problematic precisely because of the trust deficit. For instance, the acceptability of short-notice on-site inspections or even data exchanges is doubtful given that opacity and ambiguity are seen as essential for deterrence. Meanwhile, the inadequacy and asymmetry of national technical means is also a handicap. In the context of the CTBT, China, India, and Pakistan had opposed the use of such measures as being “selective and discriminatory.”[9] Since then, however, at least China and India have developed advanced national space programs. Satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles already enable a capability for national technical means in the hands of both nations, although Pakistan remains devoid of any such capability. Therefore, the issue of verification will pose a significant challenge to nuclear arms control. Realization of this fact will help avoid a potential stumbling block in future talks.

Role of the Military

Three decades ago, Colin Gray lamented that arms control and defense planning “proceed down largely autonomous roads” in the United States.[10] Things are not very different in India today. In fact, the military in India has hardly any role or even the understanding of the fact that it must play a role in nuclear arms control. This is largely considered the domain of the Ministry of External Affairs because it is seen as a foreign policy issue. The notion that arms control with adversaries can make a substantial contribution to national defense by providing increased security at lower and less dangerous levels is largely ignored in India.

This is a big mistake; there is a clear linkage between arms control and national security strategy, and the military is a stakeholder in this relationship. Translating arms control objectives into effective negotiating positions calls for an understanding of force planning so that arms control positions can logically support national security objectives. In fact, the very purpose of arms control must emanate from adequate knowledge of force effectiveness. Because targeting is the key to evaluating nuclear arsenal requirements and the military must be able to fulfill its targeting obligations at all times, arms control must be able to support this responsibility. Hence, the military input is absolutely critical for arms control to achieve the objective of establishing strategic stability.

Naturally then, in the context of India, input from the Strategic Forces Command would be essential for India’s conceptualization of its objectives on specific nuclear arms control measures. Specialists from the military and foreign policy establishment must navigate tricky negotiations together. In the case of the Soviet Union and the United States, the exercise was conducted by “career” arms control specialists meeting in semipermanent sessions to consistently present their side’s positions, explore possible compromises, recommend solutions, and draft treaty language. As arsenals and capabilities grew, it was hardly surprising that every negotiation took longer to conclude. It took three years for the first treaty under the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I) to be negotiated, seven years for SALT II, and eight years for START. Indeed, arms control requires rigorous, serious, committed and thorough work.[11] Professionals backed by political will, but removed from politics, can best achieve this.

Potential Areas of Arms Control

As noted earlier, nuclear deterrence, in the Indian understanding, depends not as much on a comparison of numbers of nuclear warheads with the adversary as on what is needed to inflict unacceptable damage on the adversary. Therefore, India’s objectives from nuclear arms control should be to establish a set of mutually accepted operational guiding principles that allows both sides to increase deterrence stability, and to constrain the capabilities or classes of weapons and weapons systems whose existence or development has the potential to create strategic imbalance and the possibility of misperception among decision-makers.

The article suggests four areas of possible nuclear arms control that India could offer to China and Pakistan. At this moment, one cannot be optimistic about how these would be received in Beijing or Islamabad or even New Delhi for the reasons mentioned at the beginning of this article. Nevertheless, it is in India’s interest to make the offer and persist with it. Hopefully, over a period of time and without having to go through a tense episode such as the Cuban missile crisis, all sides will see the benefits of nuclear arms control.

An ABM Treaty of sorts. Missile defense changes the nuclear equation between nations by adding a denial dimension to nuclear deterrence, which may otherwise be based only on deterrence by punishment.[12] A country secure under its missile defense may be tempted toward nuclear pre-emption based on the belief that, having taken out most of the enemy’s nuclear arsenal in a first strike, it could intercept the remaining weapons. This would be perceived as destabilizing by the adversary and would lead to the development of countermeasures, such as increasing the numbers of missiles to saturate missile defense, equipping the missiles with penetration aids, lofting or depressing missile trajectories, or bypassing defenses with cruise missiles or bombers. There are counter-countermeasures to these countermeasures, but the cost of entering this offense-defense spiral must not be overlooked.

For this reason, it may be useful to arrive at some understanding on ballistic missile defense within the larger rubric of nuclear arms control. This could be achieved through an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of sorts between India and Pakistan or India and China or even among the three of them. No such example of a triangular nuclear arms control regime has ever existed, so new ground will have to be broken and fresh ideas explored. An ABM agreement in the region would allow both sides to build and deploy some ballistic missile defense capability while keeping them mutually vulnerable to deterrence by punishment. Such an ABM treaty would significantly lower the chances of an arms race between offense and defense.

The benefits of this would be immense because the three countries already are engaged in the development or deployment of ballistic missile defenses or countermeasures. China has been developing both for several years now in order to protect its deterrent against U.S. missile defenses. India also entered the ballistic missile defense realm, as is evident from the four successful interceptions carried out from 2007 to 2010.[13] This capability is being built in response to the threats from Pakistan, especially an unauthorized missile launch, and China. Meanwhile, Pakistan is discomfited by these developments and is crafting its own strategy of countermeasures,[14] in spite of warnings from some Pakistani analysts against being drawn into an arms race with India. These analysts have suggested instead “hardened and mobile basing, countermeasures, and a small numerical preponderance in relation to Indian defence capability.”[15]

The problem for every nation facing the prospect of a ballistic missile defense system is in assessing how “small” a preponderance could suffice. Although the side deploying the system perceives a clear benefit of “existential defense” because the adversary can never be sure that it would not work, the side against the system perceives a clear degradation of its deterrent and hence the need for an offensive buildup. Yet, if all sides are to escape the ravages of the offense-defense spiral, then an understanding on the limits of ballistic missile defense must be evolved through frank and fair negotiations. Ballistic missile defense could be integrated into the nuclear strategy as a more stabilizing element by allowing a mutually agreed limited deployment of those elements of the nuclear arsenal that promise assured retaliation (for instance, the command and control structures or storage sites for delivery vehicles).

Controls on MIRVed missiles. Another candidate for nuclear arms control is a proscription on multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), the technology that allows one missile to carry multiple warheads. China is believed to have the technology for MIRVing but is not known to have deployed it yet. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan can certainly be expected to be moving up the development trajectory of missile technologies.

Once all three countries have MIRVed their missiles, strategic stability would decline because MIRVing creates a temptation for pre-emption. Together with the greater accuracy of these missiles, multiple warheads make them essentially first-strike weapons. For the attacking state, MIRVing provides the promise of being able to carry out a disarming counterforce strike. Meanwhile, missiles with many warheads also become attractive targets for the adversary too, creating an urgency to strike the MIRVed missiles before they are launched. Therefore, the use-or-lose dilemma is heightened because nations feel compelled to keep their missiles on launch-on-warning alert levels. In a crisis, either country with MIRVed technology might be tempted to launch first in the hope of gaining a war-winning advantage.

An agreement whereby all sides agree not to MIRV their missiles would contribute to fostering crisis stability because, in such a situation, anticipated military advantage would not provide an incentive for pre-emption during crisis. Single-warhead missiles would present much less tempting targets as pre-emption would require more warheads to be expended than could be destroyed. It would be far more worthwhile for China, India, and Pakistan to arrive at a mutual understanding on this technology rather than following the dangerous path taken by the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War only to arrive at the realization, articulated in the U.S. 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report, that the de-MIRVing of missiles is a step toward strategic stability.[16]

CTBT. The CTBT proscribes the testing of nuclear explosive devices. It has the twin objectives of preventing new countries from gaining a nuclear weapons capability and restraining countries with existing nuclear arsenals from developing more sophisticated designs. This multilateral medium for nuclear arms control can be used by India to freeze the weapons designs of its adversaries at the existing level.

Opinion is divided within India on whether it should subscribe to the treaty even after the United States and China have ratified it. In deciding whether to join the CTBT, policymakers in New Delhi should keep in mind that India’s nuclear tests to date, although limited in number, have established the reliability of India’s arsenal in terms of yield. More tests would be desirable to obtain better yield-to-weight ratios or weapons of the megaton variety, but they are certainly not essential for building credible deterrence. This is true for Pakistan too. Given the densities of population in China, India, and Pakistan and a knowledge of targeting that would allow nuclear weapons to cause more damage than they did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,[17] the existing types of weapons suffice to cause unacceptable damage. Also, deterrence is only partially derived from the warhead and its yield. A large part of its credibility depends on other factors such as the range, reliability, the ability of delivery mechanisms to penetrate defenses, and the survivability of the command and control.

Therefore, if the role of nuclear weapons is deterrence alone, the CTBT can be safely used as a measure of nuclear arms control to proscribe the development of more sophisticated thermonuclear designs or halt modernization of arsenals. China, India, and Pakistan would have little to lose in terms of their strategic capability; each has a nuclear deterrent that, even if frozen at the current capability, is viable enough.

FMCT. An FMCT would stop member states from future production of fissile material for weapons. China is believed to have stopped production of its fissile material although this has never been officially corroborated or denied. India publicly stands committed to supporting the early conclusion of the treaty, which has been stalled in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) by Pakistan’s insistence on inclusion of existing stocks within the purview of the treaty, a provision that none of the other states with nuclear weapons support. Therefore, the chances of an FMCT materializing quickly in the near future seem remote.

The FMCT could be used effectively as an arms control tool by India for capping Pakistan’s stockpile accumulation, which is likely to proceed at a frenetic pace in order to bridge the asymmetry with India. Recent Pakistani attempts to block negotiations in the CD are an indication that it sees its stockpile as less than adequate. It is obviously trying to buy time so that new plutonium-production reactors, currently under construction at Khushab, can quickly be made operational and have a few years of service before an FMCT comes into the picture. If India has determined that it does not need an open-ended stockpile to establish credible deterrence against its adversaries, it would actually be in India’s interest to stoke movement toward early conclusion of an FMCT.

Given that President Barack Obama is keen on attempts at stopping fissile material production and securing the available stockpiles worldwide, Indian support for an FMCT would help it not only gain international goodwill but also the strategic benefit of nuclear arms control through a multilateral route. It is unlikely that Pakistan would agree to a quick conclusion of an FMCT, but given the dangers of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism that coincide in that country, it is in the interest of India, the United States, and other states to put pressure on Islamabad to concede on this. The greater the amount of nuclear material in the country, the greater are the security challenges.


By its very nature, nuclear arms control requires negotiations with an adversary. In fact, the more adversarial the relationship, the greater the need for arms control to establish deterrence stability. The greater the hostility, however, the more difficult it is to engage meaningfully to arrive at constructive results.

In order to resolve this catch-22 situation, political statesmanship is needed to look beyond momentary benefits in favor of long-term interests. In fact, there is a deep linkage between interstate relations and arms control. Progress in one area could lead to breakthroughs in the other. In case of the Soviet Union and the United States, joint pursuit of major arms control agreements, especially at times when there were few other areas of positive interaction, helped develop patterns of cooperation and provided incentives for more constructive behavior in other aspects of the relationship. Long periods of interaction between the two produced insights into each other’s strategic thinking, as well as a shared understanding of key concepts and dangers.

Yet, for nuclear arms control negotiations even to begin and eventually to succeed, they must be anchored in a basic belief that the process would contribute significantly to the security of all sides. Therefore, it has to be accepted as more than a zero-sum game. It is imperative that India engage in discussions on a range of strategic topics with China and Pakistan, either bilaterally or trilaterally, so that adoption of certain concrete measures can alleviate concerns and suspicions, clarify policies and practices, and build mutual confidence. Mutual agreements (bilateral or trilateral) on developing and deploying only a limited form of missile defense and on MIRVed missiles are two such measures that have been highlighted in this article.

Nuclear arms control should be expected to be a long, drawn-out process that will have to continue as long as nuclear weapons exist. Clarity on how to proceed, confidence in the benefits of the process, and expertise in handling the difficult negotiations will emerge slowly. Mutual trust and sincerity only can be built over time. Results will be slow, if they come at all. Given that this mechanism offers a relatively inexpensive way of assuring national security through preservation of strategic stability, it needs to be given the chance it deserves, especially by a responsible nuclear power such as India.


Manpreet Sethi heads the Project on Nuclear Security at the Centre for Air Power Studies in New Delhi. She is author of Nuclear Strategy: India’s March Towards Credible Deterrence (2009), co-author of Nuclear Deterrence and Diplomacy (2004), and editor of Towards a Nuclear Weapons Free World (2009) and Global Nuclear Challenges (2009).



1. The Lahore declaration was signed on February 21, 1999, by the prime ministers of both countries. The accompanying memorandum of understanding included confidence-building measures such as an agreement to exchange information on nuclear doctrines and security concepts, numbers of warheads and missiles, advance notification on missile tests, and prompt notification of any accidental, unauthorized, or unexplained nuclear incident. It also recommended a review of existing confidence-building measures and establishment of emergency hotlines for better communication.

2. The U.S.-Soviet history of nuclear arms control is perhaps more relevant to India’s relations with Pakistan than to its relations with China. India and Pakistan see each other as nuclear equals, as the Soviet Union and the United States did. As noted above, China does not recognize India’s nuclear weapons program.

3. One cannot deny that arms control cannot stop an arms race completely. Yet, as one observer commented in reference to the experience of the two superpowers during the Cold War, “[T]he arms race would have developed still more feverishly and the world would have been less stable and less secure.” David B. Rivkin Jr., “The Soviet Approach to Nuclear Arms Control,” Survival, Vol. 29, No. 6 (November-December 1987), p. 488.

4. Although some would be dismissive of this last benefit of nuclear arms control, it is incorrect to undermine its importance at a time when perception of legitimacy in the international arena is an important ingredient for expansion of a country’s influence and power, especially of the soft variety. Smart foreign policy must cash in on every opportunity that increases the legitimacy of India’s nuclear status.

5. When a country feels confident of being able to hit its adversary’s nuclear warhead and delivery vehicle storage sites in a disarming first strike in order to degrade the retaliatory capability of the adversary, the temptation for first nuclear use is assumed to be higher.

6. Walter Slocombe, “Strategic Stability in a Restructured World,” Survival, Vol. 32, No. 4 (July-August 1990), pp. 299-312.

7. Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981), p. 5.

8. For instance, in 1983, during the negotiations on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), a leading U.S. arms control expert, said that the key question had become “whether we can get beyond negotiating among ourselves so that we can begin to negotiate with the Soviet Union.” Ibid., p. 81.

9. See Sha Zukang, Statement to the Conference on Disarmament, CD/PV.743, August 1, 1996, www.nti.org/db/china/engdocs/sha0896.htm.

10. Colin Gray, Strategic Studies: A Critical Assessment (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982), p. 156.

11. START, for instance, contained many detailed definitions that elaborated the restrictions not only on the permitted number of nuclear warheads but also the locations and movement of delivery vehicles. It mandated extensive data exchanges between the two sides. Counting rules were painstakingly evolved, keeping the objective of ease of verification in view. For additional information, see Amy F. Woolf, “Strategic Arms Control After START: Issues and Options,” CRS Report for Congress, R40084, January 13, 2010, pp. 4-6.

12. “Deterrence by punishment” is a theoretical construct of nuclear strategy attributed to Bernard Brodie. Explained simply, it underpins deterrence on the premise that “if you attack me, I’ll punish you.” On the other hand, “deterrence by denial” was extrapolated by W.L. Borden to loosely mean that “if you attack me, I’ll hit back and deny you victory.” Therefore, although the former concept seeks to avert nuclear use by threatening punishment for the act, the latter imposes deterrence by implying the ability to win a nuclear exchange and thereby deny victory to the adversary.

13. India has conducted four successful interceptions to exhibit its capability in the exoatmosphere and endoatmosphere. According to V.K. Saraswat, the chief controller of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the organization was “developing a robust anti-missile defence system that will have high speed interceptions for engaging ballistic missiles in the 5,000 km class and above.” Animesh Roul, “India: Missile Defence Dreams,” ISN Security Watch, March 28, 2008, http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?id=52022&lng=en.

14. It appears to matter little to Pakistan that one reason for New Delhi to acquire missile defense capabilities is based on the need to ensure survivability of critical components of the nuclear arsenal, such as its command and control centers—the National Command Post (NCP) and the Alternate NCP or other elements of retaliatory capability. In this context, India’s limited missile defense should enhance nuclear deterrence and logically be less disconcerting for the adversary. Despite the missile defense, a no-first-use commitment reduces the likelihood of nuclear pre-emption, which is a primary concern when countries with a first-use doctrine, such as the United States, deploy missile defense systems.

15. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, “India’s Endorsement of the U.S. BMD: Challenges for Regional Stability,” Islamabad Policy Research Institute Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Summer 2001), pp. 28-43.

16. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, pp. ix, 23-25, www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report.pdf.

17. Even the low yields of 15 to 20 kilotons that were used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were so destructive in nature that they have scarred the human mind enough to restrain such inhuman action since. These yields came from nuclear weapons that were dropped from a height that was less than optimum (or the damage to Hiroshima would have been far greater) and on a target not well chosen (Nagasaki’s topography saved it from much greater destruction).



India has spent the 12 years since its 1998 nuclear tests operationalizing “credible minimum deterrence.” This process has involved steps such as building a warhead stockpile, establishing robust command and control, and developing, testing, and deploying reliable delivery vehicles of requisite ranges. Amid this flurry of activity, nuclear arms control has hardly been on the minds of India’s policymakers.

India Developing Laser-based Missile Defense

By Eric Auner Global Security Newswire reports that the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) wants to protect itself from incoming missiles using a "directed energy" system. "Lasers are weapons of the future. We can, for instance, use laser beams to shoot down an enemy missile in its boost or terminal phase," the Times of India quoted Anil Kumar Maini, who heads the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization's Laser Science and Technology Center, as saying. One device under development would fire a 25-kilowatt laser at a ballistic missile to destroy the weapon...


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