Indian Sea-Based Nuclear Developments: Impacts on Strategic Stability of South Asia
It is among one of the basic assumptions in the field of nuclear strategy that naval nuclear deterrent assets can stabilize the deterrence equation by generating an assured second-strike capability. As India has successfully tested its nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), INS Arihant, thereby progressing towards an operational sea-based nuclear deterrent, this paper will critically evaluate the fundamental assumption of nuclear strategy about the possible role of submarine-based nuclear deterrent assets in establishing strategic stability. The paper explores and analyses the Indian sea-based nuclear developments and critical dimensions of maritime and nuclear security of South Asia. It examines the pragmatic conditions and environment under which this assumption worked during the Cold War and will evaluate that whether the extension of the same reason is possible for South Asia regarding sea-based nuclear deterrence. By analysing the Indo-China and Indo-Pakistan equations separately, this paper analyses the impacts of Indian SSBNs and INS Arihant on both equations. Principally, after achieving sea-based nuclear deterrent assets, India ideally would halt the development and advancement of conventional or nuclear capabilities as it will have attained more security vis-a-vis China, however, the evidence suggests otherwise. Indian SSBNs are not able to counter truly the concerns about China. This has a great potential to generate an arms race (either conventional or nuclear) in the maritime domain of Pakistan and China thereby causing crisis instability. The research conducted during this paper determines that the realities of South Asia like geography, bureaucracy and operationalising mechanism do not necessarily accommodate the logics underpinned during Cold War era. Finally, this paper concludes that the fundamental assumption of nuclear strategy about sea-based deterrence failed that SSBNs always stabilize the deterrence relationships.