PM Modi addressing India's indigenous nuke "Boomer" INS Arihant's crew

November 5 marks a Red Letter day in the annals of India’s nuclear weapons history. The first Indian nuclear submarine INS Arihant carried out, what experts called a “deterrence patrol”, completing in the process the country’s nuclear triad, two decades after the national nuclear doctrine was unveiled. A triad implies, in simple terms, that India now has nuclear fire power at land, air and sea. In doing so, it has joined a select group at the top, which includes the world’s military superpowers - US, China, UK, France and Russia. Included in this air-water-land triad are fighter jet Mirage 2000 and Agni ballistic missiles. The purpose of this three-branched nuclear capability is to significantly reduce the possibility of an enemy destroying India’s nuclear forces in a first strike attack. That this belongs to the classical theory of deterrence is unarguable. 

The principle thesis of creating a nuclear triad is to spread the assortment of weapons across various platforms, making military forces more likely to survive an attack and respond to the first strike with significant success. If in the process, it constitutes mutually assured destruction (MAD) then that is part of the deterrence. For India, which publicly proclaims its nuclear weapons as that of “no first use” and “minimum credible deterrence”, it means that the country will not use nuclear weapons unless they are attacked first. With a nuclear triad in place, it fulfils her underlying assumptions, as experts believe that New Delhi’s second strike capability is in place. With the triad, it is merely a confirmation of its long-held “no first use” policy. 

Under Modi, the country’s nuclear weapons program, already in a state of preparedness for several decades, has gone up several notches. A statement issued by the government said that “the construction of the submarine was part of a highly classified advance technology vessel project directly under the PMO.” INS Arihant was launched in 2009 and sea trials started in 2014. India has always possessed land-based ballistic missiles and aircraft. The Prithvi and the Agni series included between them ranges from 150 km to 3,500 km. But it is the induction of Agni 5, launched for the sixth time in June this year, that has given India the cutting edge. Based as a deterrent primarily against China, it targets Beijing and Shanghai, in fact all of the Peoples Republic.

While India has said - rather guardedly - that Agni 5 missiles have the capability of reaching anywhere between 4,500 km to 5,000 km, China’s leading newspaper Global Times quoted Du Wenlong, a researcher at China’s PLA Academy of Military Sciences, as claiming that the missile had a range of around 8,000 km. Of particular interest here are the reactions of India’s nuclear-armed neighbours. While China, as is true to its wont, is unlikely to say anything, Pakistan, which normally reacts as quickly as the missile goes up, has not issued a statement officially. One thing is clear though: the arms race in this region continues unabated.