16 April 2015

Fewer nuclear warheads? Why India shouldn’t worry

Fewer nuclear warheads? Why India shouldn’t worry

Having more warheads than your opponent does not necessarily translate to greater security.

Should India be worried that it has fewer nuclear warheads than neighbours Pakistan and China, a subject of recent discussion?

India has boosted its nuclear triad – nuclear-armed strike aircraft, land-based inter-continental ballistic missiles and sea-based submarine-launched ballistic missiles – and now has a strong nuclear deterrence capability vis-a-vis its nuclear-armed neighbours.

“Such [a triad] essentially increases the deterrence potential of the state’s nuclear forces,” write Group Captain Ajay Lele (retd.) and Parveen Bhardwaj of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, a New Delhi think-tank.

Given that a nuclear warhead with a yield of 1 megaton can destroy almost 210 sq km, roughly three times the size of south Mumbai, it is largely inconsequential if Pakistan has 10 more warheads than India or China has 140 more, as data released by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a US advocacy that tracks global nuclear arsenals, reveals.

Pakistan has also been recognised as having the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal, which, according to this New York Times editorial, is turning South Asia into a “troubled region with growing nuclear risks”.

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