NEW DELHI: Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor may have opened a fresh discussion on India’s nuclear posture and preparedness with his recent remarks that if reports of Pakistan’s expanded arsenal are correct, then New Delhi may well have to reconsider its strategic stance.
The Army chief’s latest remarks with regard to a report by Federation of American Scientists which said the Pakistani arsenal could be as large as 70-90 warheads — he had earlier said if true this went beyond deterrence — has further spurred the debate in the strategic community.
Kapoor’s implied suggestion that India could have to revisit its no-first use policy in case the strength of Pakistan’s nuclear was close to what had been claimed, will challenge a long held position. The need to think afresh is also linked to Pakistan deliberately blurring its red lines to maintain a nebulous doctrine.
Security expert Brahma Chellaney feels that there is need to review India’s “deterrence posture” while another analyst Bharat Karnad says no-first-use is not a substantive declaration. But they agree there is a need to plug gaps in India’s posture with regard to both Pakistan and China.
A number of eminent scientists in the past few weeks have made a case for India strengthening its nuclear capabilities and Kapoor’s remark that ‘‘India shall take a look at its stance’’ has added to the growing perception that the Indian nuclear arsenal needs refurbishing, if not the need to carry out more tests, to maintain its nuclear programme’s cutting edge.
The FAS claim is further buttressed by a report of the US Congressional Research Services, an independent bipartisan research wing of Congress, which has now said that Pakistan is not just making ‘‘qualitative and quantitative’’ improvement to its nuclear arsenal but has also added to the list of circumstances under which it would be willing to use them against India.
It said the number of warheads Pakistan had could be much more than the official figure of 60 and that this had been indicated to CRS by none other than the US government.