by Shiban Khaibri

Arihant , Indian nuclear submarine made a unique history on Nov 5 this year by giving a nuclear shield to the country by completing its first deterrence patrol marking the integration of India’s nuclear triad. In common man’s parlance , a nuclear triad is a three sided military force structure which consists of land launched nuclear missiles, strategic aircraft loaded with nuclear bombs and missiles and nuclear missile armed submarines. This triad was the top military strategy of both the super powers , the US and the erstwhile Soviet Union during cold war days and remains even now a horrifying deterrent force against any “first strike” as also a force to enable surviving the first strike from an enemy. The name – Arihant or “Arihanta” is made of two words – “Ari” meaning the enemy and “Hanta” means destruction or the end and the ultimate destruction of the enemy. Arihant, the 6000 ton vessel was commissioned in August 2016 after extensive sea trials and is the first ballistic missile submarine to have been built by a country other than the one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Yes, it was built at the Ship Building Centre in the country’s port city of Vishakapatnam. The Prime Minister rightly called it as the “harbinger of fearlessness” for the country.

While watching the narration by the Prime Minister about the “historical event” on TV screens on Nov 5 which was coincidentally the auspicious day of Dhantres, it virtually appeared to this writer that India as one family had “got it” for the countrymen on the day when traditionally we in India, shop to get new things especially made of some metal like gold, silver , steel etc and the moments of pride and enviable achievement turned emotional. What if those emotional feelings could have turned cathartic by only physically kissing in patriotic reverence the submarine had it been possible . Not to be taken in the lighter vein this, looking to constant blackmailing and threats of nuclear “strength” by our belligerent neighbour which is monkeyed about bragging in respect of nuclear threat so much so that it appears that it has a hang up and deep jones for this malaise of possessing nukes . The feat has called their bluff. The change of guard recently taken place in that country has belied all expectations and hopes of some changes for the betterment or refinement in the policy of sponsoring of terror and animosity towards this country. Instead, apprehensions are generated about terror outfits having their writ large to go to any extent to manage any misadventure of dangerous consequences vis-a-vis their nuke arsenal.

The question as to why is this nuclear triad so important and critical for India’s defence capabilities is pertinent as we have a clearly declared policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons . It makes its second strike capability much more credible. Apart from both Pakistan and China having largely ambitious nuclear weapons policies, China’s hegemonic and growing presence in the region of Indian Ocean has become a growing cause of concern for the Indian security establishment over the last couple of years. Arihant being an SSBN submarine or nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine and with its successful deterrence patrol , it can now be deployed for routine deterrent patrols with nuclear tipped ballistic missiles. This SSBN has the most advanced technology which gives it the manoeuvrability to hide underwater for months together without being detected and thus is the most effective and deadly platform for a retaliatory nuclear strike.

We are compelled by circumstances and diabolical designs constantly nursed against our country to give top priority to update our defence capabilities and even may have to review our policy of “no first strike” doctrine. Why should we wait for the first strike only to retaliate even if with more intensity? A country which has given to the entire world the immortal message of peace, co-existence and tolerance has been the worst victim of series of foreign invasions and has witnessed mayhem, spilling of blood , invasion of our rich cultural and traditional civilisation for centuries together while this country has never ever invaded any country , subjugated or influenced forcibly adopt Indian religo-cultural traits even at times when there were mightiest empires with unprecedented power, wealth and resources in India. Having got independence in 1947 that also after paying a huge price of and for the partition, we had to face invasions of 1947, 1962, 1965, 1971, 1999 and a proxy war of terrorism for the last over three decades. We can hardly afford to remain complacent and taken off the guard.

That India has now the capabilities and wherewithal to fire nuclear weapons from land, air and sea or the long desired nuclear triad is a strong “warning to the enemies of the country and peace” that they should not resort to any adventurism against India. The Prime Minister, on the historic occasion asserted that India was a peace loving country and did not instigate anyone , it did not , at the same time, spare those who needled it – may be seen both in the contemporary threats , the lurking one as also in the historical perspective. When our surroundings have number of nuclear weapons and the evil intentions having openly been expressed by a former state head of our belligerent neighbour that they had not made nukes for fun sake or for “illumination” on religious festivals but had to be used against “our enemy”, concerns in this regard must be appreciated and as a ready response to any sort of mischief, India’s preparedness in the form of ensuring of full completion of triad is sensitively most important.

In the present era of commerce and competitive race among the countries but with in-elasticity about sharing high profile defence technology to counter, pre-empt or strike back any nuclear attack especially by missiles, the US is showing reluctance in this regard knowing fully that in the South East Asia region, Indian defence superiority over Pakistan was paramount for more reasons than one and if not superiority over China, at least matching technology and military hardware of compatibility with it was necessary, but that country continues very often to shrug its shoulders. If not in absolute terms, it wants India to limit its ties with Russia which include less of advanced technology know-how and perhaps limited commerce too with that country. As regards sharing modern and need based technology for our defence preparedness, Russia has always been in the forefront and sans any inhibitions. It is not only the completion of nuclear triad that is critical to our defence system looking to the lurking threats but developing ballistic missile defence system is equally important. The deal of S-400 ABM with Russia too must have given a jolt not only to our sworn adversaries but also to some extent to the US.

S-400 is an anti aircraft missile system which can destroy aircraft , cruise and ballistic missile including the ground objectives . Russia and India recently signed an agreement whereby Russia will be supplying its S-400 defence system to India and the deliveries shall start from the year 2020. We are to receive ten battalions of this system and one battalion means eight launchers, 112 missiles and the associated command radar and support vehicles. With this sale, Pakistan is rattled and shaken, believing that the deal was going to affect the “strategic power balance” in the region. However, the test of India’s successful diplomacy and maintaining relations with other countries especially the US and Russia are primarily keeping our interests and safeguards ahead of any considerations. We are a fast growing economy of the world and every country wants to invest in and trade with India. Why not in sharing more advanced and sophisticated technology related to defence?